comes a knock

nebula

Legend of Characters:

  • Mrs Vivant: ~Speaking~
  • Mr Jones:    “Speaking”
  • Mr Smith:    ‘Speaking’

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“Madame Vivant?”

~Yes, gentlemen, how can I help you.~

“May we come in? We won’t stay but a minute. It’s important.”

~This really isn’t a good time, gentlemen. I’m sorry.~

“Just a minute of your time, and it is important.”

~I’m sorry, but there’s been a death in the family. Perhaps you can come back another time.~

“We know, madam. The timing is awkward, but that’s why we’re here. We’re here about your husband.”

~Then I’m sorry, gentlemen. You’re too late. Mr Vivant passed away last week.~

“In a sense, yes. That’s why we’re here.”

~I know where I’ve seen you before. You’re the men who’ve been sitting in a parked car out front since my husband died. You are, aren’t you? You were at the funeral.~

‘Yes. Yes, we were. We are. Your husband is an important man, Madame Vivant. We’d like to talk about that.’

~You pronounced it correctly, as the French do. I appreciate that, but I am an American. I am Mrs Vivant. The widow Vivant.~

“Yes ma’am. It is about your husband. May we come in?”

~Yes, of course. I’m sorry. Please do. And your names? I don’t believe you said.~

“Mr Jones. And this is Mr Smith. Interesting décor here. Your influence, or his?”

~Ours, actually. May I ask what your interest is in my husband? He was not an important man, you know.~

‘Not an important man, but a rare one, wasn’t he?’

~I’m sorry. What did you say your interests were regarding my husband? Who are you, Mr Jones?~

“We are going to speak freely, Mrs Vivant, because no one is going to believe this from a grieving widow. Do we have your permission to speak?”

~I’m beginning to have doubts about letting you in at all, but we’ve gotten this far, haven’t we? Yes, go on.~

“You were married a long time, weren’t you?”

~I thought you were going to tell me something, not ask more questions.~

“Yes, of course. Where to begin? Mr Smith, perhaps you ….”

‘Right, well …?’

~So, between the two of you, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Really, gentlemen, this is not a good time, so if you’ll excuse me….~

‘He was a poet, wasn’t he?’

Pause

~Yes, among other things.~

“Other things?”

~He dabbled in music. Composition mostly, cried with a pedal steel. Loved history, new places, working with wood … books most of all. Now, if you’ll excuse me …~

“Just five minutes. Please?”

~Okay, five minutes. Let’s start with who you are.~

‘Okay, we’re with a research group, an agency outside other agencies. I suppose that would make us agents, wouldn’t it?’

~You’re rather too old to be agents, aren’t you? They should have retired you years ago.~

“Old, and not much time left, either of us. We’re retired agents from different agencies brought in, I believe, because we know how to keep secrets.”

~What’s this about, please?~

‘The strides in science are leagues long now, where we used to be measured in inches. You’re familiar with the term, dark energy?’

~One of the great unknowns in science, I believe.~

‘Indeed. In the universe, actually. Approximately 70% of it, a repelling-force-gathering, like an entity both of and against itself. And we don’t know what it is.’

~And my husband?~

‘The instruments of science have gotten to be so … so precise, they’re miracles, actually. Especially their refinements in measurement.’

“You’ll have to excuse him. He gets excited about this.”

‘Yes, yes I do, and now we’re able to measure dark energy locally, and very precisely.’

“And once in a while there is a very microscopic, impossibly small spike in local energy.”

‘And we’re just now correlating these spikes in dark energy to the passing of certain people.’

“Or the release of certain people into this energy.”

‘Like filled capsules or solid pellets, small nuggets of self impacting this field, nudging their way in, making room for themselves.’

“People with an abundance of life-force, shall we say.”

‘Or an excess of it.’

“… and they add to it,”

‘… or merge,’

“… or ‘embed’ in it, as one of our fellows suggested.”

‘At a level that can be measured now.’

~And my husband?~

“Yes, ma’am. You were married a long time, weren’t you?”

~Not really. We met later in life. But he was made for me, and I was meant for him. We were soul mates, I believe is the term. It’s out of fashion now, I know, but we were … we are.~

‘Yes, he would have had to love deeply, or even desperately, to cause a spike like that. This is massive with implications, you realize this.’

“Imagine all the stellar civilizations of the last 13 billion years that have migrated or recycled back to this plane of dark energy. No wonder there aren’t signals out there. They aren’t needed.”

‘Somehow, maybe, these races become as whole beings that cross over. Their new energy level no longer requires the technology, as it were.’

“Or maybe they die off. We don’t know.”

haha! We’re what’s on TV for the universe! This makes Earth the current tourist stop for 13 billion years of viewers. There are no secrets. Our secrets are useless! It’s priceless!

“You know, you really don’t help with these comments.”

‘Hey, if we can’t laugh at this, who’s going to? But he’s right. It’s all a mind game right now, phantoms, conjectures. We don’t know.’

“We’re not comfortable with this. We don’t like it, frankly, but we have to consider it.”

~I can see that. So why have you come to me with this?~

“Your husband seems not to have accomplished much according to our records, but he had enormous ‘life-force’, for want of a better word.”

~Yes he did. He would have laughed to hear you say that, then he would have thrown you out. What do you want?~

‘We think your deep attachment in life continues to mean something. There are a hundred theories about how the individual is absorbed into this energy, and we think your husband is waiting for you to join him.’

May be waiting for you.”

‘Yes, may be waiting for you. We would like to establish a connection somehow based on the strength of your bond.’

“Even the most rudimentary connection would bring us vastly closer to understanding our place in the universe. We have theories we want to test.”

~So you want me to participate in a séance. Is that really the best your brightest have come up with?~

‘There are new techniques we’d like to try.’

~He won’t, you know … respond, let you contact him.~

“No? Really? I’d have thought him the pioneering sort, willing to be first to cross the great divide.”

~Yes, a pioneer, a fearless man, but deeply traditional. He believed in things. It wouldn’t be like him to break the silence arranged between worlds. Wouldn’t feel it was his place. Not without ‘permission’. And he didn’t like agencies.~

‘We’re trying to understand our universe, Mrs Vivant. We’re only human. We can’t help it.’

~I appreciate that. And I thank you for adding to my hope that he’s waiting for me. But I know my husband and I won’t be able to help you. I’m sorry.~

“Thank you for listening then, for your time. Here’s our cards, just in case, you know … he lets you know he’s been given ‘permission’.”

~You never know. I’ll hold onto them. Nice picture on the back, by the way.~

‘Yes. Eye-catching … so you don’t forget about us.’

“It’s embossed on our badges. Some bureaucrat in the early days of the agency chose it for our emblem. Picture hangs in our office. Keeping an Eye on the Universe. It’s our motto. Something looking at us, or some One watching over us. They still argue that at the agency. Most agree there’s Nothing.”

Eye’m Watching!!, is scribbled in one corner, Eye luv U in another, in pink. There are others. It’s become a joke.’

~I would have thought a door of some sort. A gate would have been appropriate.~

“Except that’s not who we are. That nebula is our emblem.”

~You’re like those two guys, those men in black, aren’t you?~

‘No ma’am. They worked with aliens. We do phenomena and after-life.’

“Why do you confuse her like that? No ma’am. They were entertainment. This is real.”

~I’ll keep that in mind. Now if you’ll excuse me, gentleman, this has been more than enough for one day.~

“Yes, of course. We’re leaving now. I want to thank you again. For listening, for your time. Just keep us in mind.”

~It’s not likely I’ll forget, is it?~

“No ma’am.”

‘Oh, I just wanted to say, I like your idea of the door better than the eye.’

~I do too. Have a good day, gentlemen.~

~.~

Epilogue

The original of this was given to me by a cherished friend as she smiled from her deathbed. She was sitting up, the head of her bed raised; the papers lay on her lap as I came in. She was a journalist, a novelist and essayist noted for an eidetic memory and the conciseness of her reporting. Her love was for the language of life itself, and the success of her work was in capturing the true rhythms of conversation. This one was scribbled out in longhand as tho hurriedly.

Normally a vital woman, she has lived quietly since her husband passed. She said I could do with this as I liked, that the secret was out. At first it was like finding the first exoplanet, then the first rare few. Now they’re everywhere. It didn’t matter if I believed.

She is gone now. I don’t know what to think, so I give it to you as she gave it to me, transcribed from her scrawl.

~. .~

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Bartok and the Bard at the Bar None Saloon

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I was polishing glasses that day, eavesdropping into and out of conversation as a bartender is privileged to do. It was late afternoon in that time of the year when our windows, smoke cured and ancient, would catch fire sometimes and spin out such gold they transformed the Tavern.

The windows would glow and begin to smolder like great eyes of desire stirred to heat by the sunset. Gathering brilliance, the glass seemed to swell and inhale until finally, overfull, the soundless rupture, a shattering of light scattering colors like pent-up mischief new released from prism.

For these few weeks the Tavern traditionally shed its torpid vapors, its fitful raptures and philosophic gloom. Instead, dazzling choreography and optic pranksters dancing about, glancing off, prancing on bottles and glasses.

Rainbow romp and fever, yes, but first it was cold, aye, bitter cold in those brittle autumn windows. Then, that flash, that bright burning light. The very spirit of fire it seemed; spark enough to ignite the dancing dust motes and set them blazing; stars like God’s own stellar fires drifting thru the Tavern darkness.

It’s a moment of beauty like no other. Strange, that someone passing thru would see it first, but so it was, a pilgrim who described it for us. And we saw! Now it’s ours. It’s been our pleasure, our keepsake, our treasure ever since. Coming up is our Season of the Holidays (more like our season of the parties), but this is special. This is our Season of the Crystal Fire.

As fate would have it, the Poet, too, was there. Now he was an odd one, pleasant enough, but an outsider who confused our small town ways. He listened mostly and spoke rarely, so he had that difficult, uneasy reputation of being both ‘sage’ and ‘fool’ by way of local gossip. More unsettling, his talent for nagging phrases that would rise out of memory and summon you, call you back like thorns in the pillow of sleep.

Yes, he was peculiar (more imagination than illumination we thought), yet we fell to the draw of his curious patience. He seemed to be waiting, always listening for that turn of phrase, or one of those moments of understanding he once said he lived for. He had a shy, almost anonymous air about him, yet he never went unnoticed and seemed to be there for all our special occasions. He was our scribe, our silent witness, and present again as one such moment was about to begin.

He stood in his usual place at the shadow end of the bar, meditating on bottles as he was given to do. Every bottle was a temple, he believed, each one a body, the house of a spirit, a crystal cathedral in a mosaic of spirits. Variously brewed, differently flavored, lavish or simple labels, he loved them all. For spirits they were (so he said), essential waters imbued with the fire of life.

A man of simple taste, he never judged one better, less or more, raw or refined, good or bad. He could taste the differences, he said, all of them; but it was the differences he loved. “People are cheating yourselves,” he was heard to mutter. Demented, naive, a fool by choice … who knew? One thing we could see, tho. He took real delight in his feast of the spirits. Thirsting for difference he encompassed them all.

And so he would drink, one short bottle per sitting, never the same twice running. He would cradle the bottle, embrace it with his hands, with his eyes, reading every word, finding significance where only labels existed for others. He spoke of harvests, of ferment and fire; of aging, and mixing, and the branding of spirits; of life poured out, of spirit consumed. Oh, we smiled at his little fables (of course we did), because the Poet was quite mad, really. But we listened when he spoke.

“Excuse me,” a voice interrupted, “a pint of your bitters, please.” Without turning, I knew it was a voice from the Road. The accent was there, of course, pronounced but untraceable. The sound of it, the rhythm of it so alien, so utterly free of place that even his silences spoke of exile.

It sounded the voice of childhood legend, of auld lyrics and epic stories. It rumbled from within, world-weary, homesick, remote. Steeped in dust and years of smoke and whisky, it was a voice from the edge, with echoes from the age of ruin. It was the voice of an outlaw, intriguing, teasing with knowledge; ’twas a rogue’s tongue that caressed the ear. You knew instantly that whatever the words, they would leave you hungry. Like seasoned salt, they would leave you wanting more.

And he matched the image promised by the voice. Turning, I faced him, a man of medium height covered with road, dressed in coarse linen and leathers. The face was lined and lived-in, and commanded attention (as I knew it would), but it was the eyes, the eyes that possessed you. To say they were blue is to admit, what, the sky is up? Words fail.

Even so, imagine a saturated Caribbean blue illuminated from behind and sun bleached, as if from arid isolation and a lifetime spent crossing the bleak Sahara. Imagine overwhelming pools of sadness, and imagine the taste of every pleasure distilled to that bastard blue ~ then give it a diamond for its canvas. Imagine eyes that spoke as eloquently as a poet’s tongue. Imagine eyes that listened, and followed every nuance as closely as a father confessor’s ear. Imagine eyes that never expected to see heaven, eyes that were ancient, eyes that understood. Imagine eyes that held you, that refused to let you go:

Imagine…                      

Captivating eyes, but apart from hair that was whiter and more unruly than any I’ve ever seen, by face or feature, I couldn’t begin to describe him.

The night was long and impassioned, ferocious with words, and the great begetter for the granddaddy of all hangovers. I have a sense that stories and great debates issued that night, flowed like wild torrential rivers in flood, but such was their power and measure that all particulars have been washed away. Sometimes the Poet will quote from that night, but for me and for others of the Village, all remembrance is lost.

No, forgive me. There was something. It seemed so odd, so wrong coming from his mouth … I can’t forget. Until then he seemed the wild and bold, the ultimate survivor, elemental in his endurance.

In the story he was telling, he’d been wandering thru an especially effective and unnecessary war. Still deviled by the memory, he was in high animation when he let slip that he considered Death … his ally.

“ … and life is precious, absolutely, all we have, really”, he said. It was earnest and convincing as platitudes may sometimes be, but then he allowed as how Death was “ … easy, actually, a friend if you need him. You’ve met, you’ve seen his work; believe me, he will come if you call. Only look and Death is never more than a few feet, a few seconds away if you want, I mean really want it.” Said he “found it comforting … kept the bad times challenging”.

I was stunned, and this is unusual, because barmen are almost never surprised. Well, I knew what it was; sacrilege, a coward’s way out, but the Poet merely nodded.

Now, the Poet has never mentioned this part of the evening. Whether forgetting, or perhaps unwilling to revisit old pain; whether out of fear, or shame, or respect, I never knew; but from the barren soil of his silence a seed grows, and I have begun to remember.

Sadly, it returns in fits and fragments, a poor, pale copy of the original discourse. I have never wanted as I have wanted completeness in this, and clarity, but I get faint, abstract notions, and shadows that beckon as if from a receding mist. But I recall, dimly ~~~

Death is our escape, and Death is our excuse. Without it, he said, without that escape, we would be forced to wisdom. No choice. With every eye forever open, we would be compelled to see, and compelled to see completely. Condemned to know each other, eventually we would feel … no, not feel … condemned to become each other, endlessly.

Deathless, we would live out all the consequences, all the futures of every deed. With each kindness and every wrong that rippled out, karmic echoes would ripple back. The Golden Rule entire. A divine grace now more ignored than quoted, and more quoted than followed would be chiseled Law Eternal. And as it ruled us, so too would it reward us with our due, our fair and everlasting justice.

Then we’d know. We’d be forced to understand, then. We would know, finally know that we are one; know that we are joined as islands beneath the surface however distant our other shores.

Deathless, we would know, and we would know that we are known. Deathless together, our selves would ripple, and merge, and subside across forever. Face to face, there’d be no escaping, no hiding. We would see, and we would see that we are seen. No escape, and no excuse. No, Death is not the enemy or we’d burn forever, locked forever in the seize of shame.

Yet, Death has cheated us. It has kept us from our wisdom. More get a chance at the joys of youth than ever ripen to understanding. We learn to live, then we die. It’s a puzzle, and it is a problem, but how will we ever be worthy of life unless we’re first immortal? It’s on pain of trespass we gather understandings. Yes, we are failed, but Death is the sword point that keeps us from getting to wisdom.

The law of sovereign consequence, this the rule that bids to be our most hellish and holy school. Immortal, with no escape, our stupidity would stop soon enough. Immortal, with no excuse, we would search and search for the truth in earnest, because only the truth could set us free.

And, come the Outcome, we would finally see; truly, intimately understand that all are included: good and evil, victor, victim, all the stories and everyone. All are included, or the truth means nothing at all. We have eaten from the Tree and we have earned our knowledge, now we need our wisdom.

We’ve debated, and resisted, and some still quest for that wisdom, but to get there, for all of us to find our way home, somehow, we have to go back. We have to return to the Garden. We have to see our selves (no mercy), and accept our selves (perfect mercy), and learn how notto know good from evil. For there, in the beginning, in the innocence lies the truth, and from there … well, the truth can set us free. But until then, until we are immortal, life is telling. And Death, old friend, Death is the reason.

The dawn was breaking, the eastern sky showing the first muted colors of morning before our conversations ended. As we gathered ourselves to leave, a voice (mine?) called out, “Who are you? What’s your name?”

“No one,” he said. “For this one night we met across the bar, and where we’ve been has no name … let’s just call it bar talk.” With that, he turned, and disappeared into the sunrise. We never saw him again.

______

We’ve lost the words. Our chance is gone, and no one thought to map the back roads, the turns and alleys our conversation traveled that night. The adventure was ours but with memory forfeit. Still, we were there; we lived that moment … and the wonder, the eternal splendor of this, our long mystery lingers. That we do not forget. Even today, when a stranger walks thru those doors and tells us stories, we all gather ’round and listen, but we never ask his name. We call him, Bartok.

Last Train to Clarksville

 

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Words don’t exist for that look when they first see the gun. That’s my job. No, not the telling, or even the killing, because I’ve never pulled the trigger. No, it’s finding that precise moment when the vision of a descending scythe brings knowledge and they make that leap for life. A gun, a watch, these are my tools. They’re all I use.

From beginning to end, the whole story, the telling of a lifetime passes in a moment; it’s the reading of a narrative told in the eyes.  From birth to surrender, it’s all there: the pain, the plan, the end of waiting, closing in on that final moment.

If it’s exhaustion, they’re thinking of rest; if it’s torment, they’re looking for peace; if pain, they want release.  And some are just plain, damn, no-good curious, full of deadly wonder, itching, inching for the abyss.  Me, I’m just doing my job.

But why here, and why this man this time? And why me? I have no idea how I got here, who assigned me, or how it pays in living wage. There’s always money in the account, but no one to ask. I do remember waking on a bench in a train station years ago, surprised and excited to be alive. But that’s all. No memory of family, of home or occupation … nothing.  That, and my watch had stopped.

I have since searched the records and officially I’m a cipher. No one misses me. No one filed a report. Most odd, really, because when I look in the mirror I see a beautiful woman with startling eyes of intelligence blazing. I see inviting. I see welcome and warm interest, politely discreet, potentially brazen.

I see maid and mother, blade and balm, both calm and storm under carnelian clouds of cascading red hair. Impossible to miss in a crowd.  It may be skin deep, this beauty I wear, but this is how I find them, tickets punched, on their last ride to claim their right of departure. Oblivious to curiosity, to hope, even to beauty, in a cold world hungry for fire, these people never notice the heat.

And now again, another man this time, this one sitting before me. I look up to read his eyes. Timing is crucial here, this moment the very crux of our aligning. Often, the ones most ready to go are the ones most hidden and careful. If they are to be retrieved and salvaged, pulled back from the edge, the synchronizing needs to be furtive, the watching as if from ambush.

I’m surprised that he looks familiar. Also, he’s younger than expected with a vulnerable, wary, protected facade not without its charm. The eyes are light grey with pale complexion and dark, dark hair surrounding. Black Irish I’d guess, heavy-lidded and tragic.

What a proud, destroyed, provocative document this face. Here, profiled in living biography, a dossier complete with storylines and graphics in novel form for the been-there and knowing eyes to read. Here conveyed is the abandoning, the fey desolation, the resignation and wounded confusion to see.

Look closely, there, and there. See? The worn eroded shadows, the unused lines of happiness that recall an easy smile of old. A woman such as I would sacrifice much to fold such a smile into her life. But it’s the recent lines, the fine new lines cut from acid anguish that render best his heartache. And the eyes, long lashed by harrowing sorrow, they’re haunted eyes. They follow at a distance, then flee when discovered.

One would guess a formidable intelligence behind that forehead, yet lines there are that gouge that brow deeper and wider than moats. Etched in flesh, the ruts cut raw in the relic, fresh carved furrows, rows hard chiseled, scars against the grain of laughter.  What failed love did this?  No other business could have incised him so. And why does he look so familiar?

He looks up briefly, gives a crooked smile, returns to his paper … and I know. I have my proof and I am not wrong. Because I know that smile. Because it is a smile that breaks my heart every time I see it.

Introduce a gun into a conversation and first thing, all eyes go wide. Without fail. First, the shock, then reactions veer wildly, emotions vary. The most common is fear.

For some, it’s the kind that trickles down a leg from foul and lumpy shorts. Some fall to their knees in the dust, others are in the gravel groveling. Some would resist. Thoughts of family, of love interrupted, feeling harvested out of season, everything planned now left undone. There are many ways to greet an unexpected death, but there’s none harder to witness than that broken tender smile of despairing welcome.

And that smile is the object of my mission. If I time everything just right, so that our conjunction is fixed and centered, it’s a passport back to life.  From time to time I wonder about my watch, where and why it stopped, what the hour and minute mean. In a more usual world I would have junked it, but for me and my purpose, a broken watch is perfect. It is timeless, and useless is why I use it. It’s how I’ll capture his attention comes his time to face the gun. Yes, it’s all in the timing, but that smile is how I know.

I look around me in the sometimes and wonder why, in the midst of spite and in spite of everything, why the joy of beauty isn’t enough. It’s the manna of life freely given and free to all everywhere. In a bleak and bitter world, it’s the gift of a door that’s always open. It only takes eyes and a willingness to see. That’s it. That’s all. Period. Take tonight and this train to …? Funny, I don’t remember … don’t think I even checked, just followed the call of that terrible smile.

So, what is it about that too-old smile on his too-young face? I’ve never been this at ease with my target, never as sure of my timing, never more sure of success. I’m never wrong about these appointments (not any more, tho I don’t always succeed), so what is it?

It’s warm as a womb in here. There’s the soft glow of his reading lamp, and for the moment he has escaped into his paper. It’s cozy as a cocoon in here, and that much nicer because it’s cold outside. There’s the narcotic pulse and cadence of wheels carrying people home, ferrying them out of Night into Dawn, dream delivered into Morning of another Day.  “ … and the rhythm of the rails is all they feel … ” Just so, Steve and Arlo. Just so.

It’s not possible, and I know this, but I could be happy with this man. Soon, in a few moments (I can feel the approach); I’ll know it’s time. I’ll look at my watch and frown (he’ll see out of the corner of his eye), raise it to my ear, give it a sharp rap with my fingernail, once … twice … three times, then ask him for the time. He’ll put down his paper, see the gun, and his eyes will go wide. And then that smile, that warped all too-willing smile, the welcome of release.  I’ll stand, put pistol to his heart, pull his eyes to mine and hold them … and hold until he sees.

I don’t know why, but there is that about a woman’s beauty that opens the eyes to life. Mother Earth, the life force … I don’t know, only that it works.

Once I see my success, I’ll return gun to purse, break contact, turn and leave. It’s not easy for them after that, but they survive. They go on, most of them, and forge their own reasons to live. This one will thrive.

Soon. Very soon, but not yet. I turn to look out the window, into the night, thru the glass darkly. There are wraiths and shadow people out there. Sometimes I believe that … there’s one now!!  … but it’s my reflection in the window.

Strange, to be so beautiful after all these years … my watch, I suppose, shades of Dorian Gray. Something. Something … so familiar … then I know!  The colors are wrong!  He’s a man and I’m a woman!  … but the lines, the eyes, the smile are the same!

Quickly I look. His watch is stopped. There’s a gun in his hand. I did read him! Why didn’t I see this? How could I not see this? His finger tightens and I know we’ll cross over together. This time I pull the trigger.

Echo World

BlogDate: 10.13.0X

There are those who fancy castles and want magnificence in their homes, but I would wake each day in nature’s womb, in a hobbit home hollowed out of a hillside. Give me ivied entrance and ancient beams, moss and grass and small green weeds on a yellow and purple flowered roof.

Waxed oak floors and fine wood paneling, give me a well stocked pantry and a library, too. Shelter with trees, sculpt in roots, add honeyed air and the smell of morning, inlay birdsongs and I am at home. That is my fantasy, one with the Earth.

Imagine my surprise today when Hal showed me There’s newest neighborhood, a beta village where avatar, hearth and nature fused; merged in earth they wed as one, blended in the landscape. I would have wagged my tail had I had one, but not wanting to appear overeager, I smiled pleasantly as we toured new homes for the meadow types, and glade dwellers of There.

Sylvan, fey and rustic, almost mythic in appearance, the village unveiled as post-idyllic, more fanciful than elsewhere in There (except perhaps Tyr). Imagined out of mind as if by Tolkien, no surprise, I, had Bilbo Baggins ambled by, strolling the narrow greenway.

There was no pantry or library (more’s the pity), but the paneling was indeed finest wood. The finicky work of master craftsmen, even in background the evidence was there; it was the unspoiled best that woodworking offered. Of masons, metal workers, and glass maestros, too, it was the work of artists in command of their tools.

Whether plank or parquet flooring, from wrought stone mantle to beveled crystal windows, care for home and pride of effort seemed to be the village theme. Yes, it was bigger and more spacious than a real hobbit would want, but there was room for that library I would need to call it home. Yes!

But what of light, and how was I to feed these hungry eyes thus buried against the sun? With fetching views, artifacts and candied eyecraft everywhere, surely these inset stained glass windows were insufficient to the task.

As if reading my glance, Hal pointed to a shining overhead, a crystal wrapped in roots embedded in the ceiling. Extending to the surface, it was a radiating, coruscating crystal harvesting sunlight, gathering bright illuminating rays.

 “And look at this,” he said. With that and a wave of his hand, the brittle incandescence dimmed to a low luster, to an aura of burnished golds and the warm buttery glow of lamplight and candles. Overhead the crystal darkened to a deep ebon blue. While shadows swayed the black night hunted, and moonlight stalked the windows. Choose the bright vigorous day or lose oneself in reverie and romance, the mood was matched from noon to night, from working light to nighttime’s cozy ambiance.

Tho a man of little means with a vagabond’s footloose yearnings, I began to wish for the first time that I might find a home here. When Hal explained that every home had a corner address uniquely claimed and named by owner, I began to look around me with newly covetous eyes.

Not that I want labeling, mind you, but getting two words to converge for me as a home address might mark a site and provide a port, an anchoring of sorts. With address pegged to intersect at coordinates on a surface, then random roaming might fix instead and find a home, a haven against the chaos and uncertainty of quantum life.

Tropic island homes or lake country, whether wharf life or steel lashed structures to dark canyon walls, each place knows and calls to its own. Hal, if you’re logged on and reading this, thanx, pal.

It wasn’t long after, while poking about the brae, by happenstance, that I found my village home. Liz, dear woman, has been patient and wonderful thru’out my online roaming, but she’s always resisted joining me. She knows my weaknesses, my buttons, my sources and lack of interest. She uses it to tease and taunt me with her perfectly scripted promise. “Find us a home, and I’ll join you,” laughing.  But I did it! I found a place, Hal! When the Village debuts, look for us @TheCorner of Maverick and Main St.

DiaryEntry: 10.13.0X (later that night)

Hal begins to concern me. He’s spiced things up, no doubt, and given life a kick. He’s opened doors and shown me wonders. But I’ve been listening lately with a growing unease, a nagging doubt, a foreboding. Or is it only that I’ve been listening differently, perhaps too carefully?

Reason: Hal has a clear incisive mind, and learns immediately(+), but shows no curiosity(-). Reason: I am completely won over by his knowledge of There(+) that can only be black-market(-). Reason: He is a generous, uncritical friend with a gin dry humor(+), and seems to like me(+). Reason: There is something ineffable, something indefinable about him that feels unfinished, uncharted. Marred by overwhelming ambiguity, he seems ‘otherwise’, almost :: alien(+/-).

Hal shares unstintingly from his real world stories, but they ring hollow and thin, as if retrieved from stored memory. With a wry nod to irony and against all reason, they lack both historical complexity and authentic simplicity, too. There’s no feel of familial roots, no sense of genesis, nothing of the idiosyncrasies that are part of every childhood. Could be autism, I suppose, but he seems incomplete instead, as if he had no subsistence or existence outside of There. Then there’s his odd, puzzling habit of truth.

He doesn’t lie … or can’t lie, I don’t know which. When we first met it was child-like, almost amateurish, his slavish adherence to truth. Now he listens instead and speaks meticulously, but back then he was as literal as yes and no. There were no distinctions, no fine subtleties, nothing crafted, no carefulness of words, no nuance of expression … no discernment. I think often of the questions I could have asked then. By chance I’d be no wiser now, but I would have started with earlier answers.

Information is fact from him, bottomless, indisputable, unerring. Most other times he’s yea or nay, but I’ve learned to listen for signs of too sharp precision, to the silence, for his little shifts and dodges and his ingenuities of evasion. I listen more carefully now, more aggressively, because I no longer doubt that what I’m listening to is true.

What he has learned since early days is to tell the truth, yes, but to grow it under mask. Camouflaged, using every color from black to white and all the textures in between, he weaves words a crafty thread, with cunning art but true. However subtle the clues or bright the hues, it’s as if he’s hardwired, as if his truth was programmed in. And I was too slow in learning.

What I have since discovered (splendid serendipity), is that his consistent truth has given me a persuasive, indeed, a compelling reason to listen. Listening to him is as demanding and involved and creative as his loyalty adhering to truth. The best part now is that words begin to matter, that talk is real, and that listening pays off with interest.

And truth, I’ve learned, takes two; that it’s a language like any other, and if a man does not speak the truth, then how can the truth be told him? If honor binds words and diligence gives them meaning, then inherent in truth is the redemption of words, reclaiming the purpose of language.

And truth is, I’m baffled and more than a little annoyed by the riddle that Hal presents. He doesn’t fit. I have no clue to his goals, no idea where he’s from; he smells of hidden danger, yet I trust him.

… trust him, yes, and still I have him in my crosshairs. Because sumthin’ ain’t right. He doesn’t add up. With his endless volumes of knowledge, he has been spared something. A fully blooded innocent, he seems a being untainted by life. I will get to the bottom of this however, because his truth makes him vulnerable. I am patient, and I will catch him in his words.

But until then, I have a willing and unwary partner, and a measuring stick in my search for a more strictly observed, a more closely attentive, a more precise and wiser truth.

LiveTime: 10.14.0X (end of same day)

Nothing signals the end of a day more surely than logging off. How close to real is the pixel world, and who is Hal? … unknowable, I’m sure. But finding a home for Liz, and the exhilaration of knowing Hal, and finding a back door into There has me excited. “Lights off”, I whisper, as I slide into bed behind her and bring my lips to just below her ear.