Blank Space IX

 

< Blank Space >

 

the future may bear the key to temporal travel

unlocking a room walled with Consequences

yet

if the door can be opened

then the room can be rebuilt

using material derived from Consequential walls

as there are no others at hand

for preventing temporal travel from Consequentially altering the Past

prevents any prevention of Consequentially altering the Past

What’s Next

I’d like to start off by thanking everyone who followed my Closer to God series. I hope you enjoyed reading it because I really enjoyed writing it. To date, it is certainly the largest project I have undertaken (and actually completed). Hopefully, any inconsistencies or sloppiness did not detract from the story. I was writing it episodically, so I was also discovering the story as we went. My plan now is to smooth the story out and make it into one whole piece as opposed to the five seperate episodes. I’m going to attempt to get it published and maybe one day we’ll be able to read it in print!

As for what’s next, I have something a bit different planned. In my last semester of school I compiled a long poem for my final portfolio. The poem is entitled Blank Space and it was my attempt to explore the many forms and ideas I’d encountered over the semester. I have not written a ton of poetry, so I’m sure it is a bit rough around the edges. The poem itself is made up of a couple dozen parts, some of which relate to each other. The overall theme of the poem is paradoxes which I decided to use because I see poetry as a kind of paradoxical form of writing. Basically, language is supposed to make communication easier and it often seems like poetry goes out of its way to make the communication of its ideas harder. If everything goes according to schedule there will be one part of the poem uploaded every day for the next two weeks or so.

Besides struggling to get the form of each poem to appear correctly on the page I will not be doing much else but copying and pasting each section from my manuscript. So, I plan on starting my next project asap! This way, once the poem is finished I will have a head start on my next story which means it will not take me as long to post each episode and the story should come across alot smoother.

Again, thank you very much to everyone who read Closer to God and happy writing!

 

Closer to God: Episode Five

The Library

Clarke shadowed his guide, and both of them descended the stone steps to the semi-circular stage the Men of the Earth had occupied during the ceremony. When they reached the floor, they began to follow the ringed walkaway to the far side of the crater and Clarke returned his gaze to the viscous surface of the lava. Though the molten liquid was not overtaking the path, its heat was pushing the threshold unhindered. Clarke flattened the right side of his body against the smooth interior wall of the crater in an effort to avoid the pulsing waves of scalding air, for each rush that breezed across his face felt as if it was melting a layer of skin with each pass. Finally, the pair of them reached a tunnel on the far side of the ceremonial space. Before they entered, Clarke looked back towards the red and black blood of the earth and knew that, a few moments after they left the chamber, the pool of lava would begin to drain.

The walls of this second tunnel were streaked with the same black scars and speckled with the same golden flakes as the first, however, its architecture was different. Numerous tunnels intersected with theirs but for a long while, they took none of them. At one intersection the guide halted and Clarke did the same. Another Terra Homines appeared from another tunnel and the tribesman that was leading Clarke handed the other Clarke’s satchel. The other carried the bag away in the same fashion his fellow tribe member had, like an expensive dinner tray. Clarke’s guide then continued onward, taking a right turn into an indistinct tunnel.

Clarke imagined that the series of tunnels he was passing through extended well beyond the exterior of the Northern Sentinel’s walls and so he assumed he was now underground, so close to Libris he was under the island’s skin. Their footsteps were the only sounds that echoed the corridor and the air grew colder and the golden specks grew darker with light from neither the lava nor the sun to illuminate them. Just before absolute darkness overcame them, the tunnel ended. After his eyes adjusted to the absence of light, Clarke saw, shadowed within the wall in front of his guide, a wooden door. The tribesman knocked on it -one-one-two-three-five- and the portal opened.

There was no-one standing directly behind the door and the knob thumped against the wall behind it. All that appeared was a small hallway with a soft, flickering glow lining its passage. Clarke’s guide led him down the hall and into a larger room. The room was lined with book shelves that stretched to the ceiling. Each shelf overflowed, burst, was about to erupt, with manuscripts, editions, maps, journals, leather bound, and loose writings of all kinds. Where the top of the book shelves ended the ceiling did not flatten, but curved above the room.

Clarke’s eyes were drawn to the fire place. There was no fire there, yet still light emanated from the hearth in front of which were two chairs, one of them comfortably fitting a human form.

The tribesman stepped forward and a figure slowly rose from its seat and turned to greet him. The figure was the man from the mouth of the volcano, the one who had at once been uninvolved with and the center of the Terra Homine ceremony. The man beckoned the tribesman forward and seemed to whisper into his ear. Clarke’s guide left the room, the wooden door announcing his departure with a thump.

Closer to the hearth the room smelled of incense and a light haze filled the space. The man looked at Clarke with dull, green eyes that Clarke could meet for only seconds at a time. The man was of average height and average build, shorter and smaller than Clarke was. The man was bald, and dressed entirely in furs unlike the rest of the tribesman who wore only a thin layer of cloth like shorts.

As if to read his mind, but more likely having seen where Clarke’s gaze was directed, the man looked down at his own attire.

“Do you like them?”

Clarke was stuttered by the man’s speech. His mind, unaccustomed to interaction with the man, posed a question. How can he be speaking English? The other mind that had infiltrated his own answered, he can communicate with all of his followers, no matter the language.

“I am correct in assuming you speak English, no?”

Clarke nodded.

“Then respond, my friend. I’ve been waiting some time to hear the voice of another.”

“Ye-Yes, I like them… but…”

“But where did I acquire such furs? It is a question you will learn the answer to. The same applies to the question of how I am able to speak English, how I – we all – came to be on this island. In fact, you already know the answers, at least a part of you does. Soon enough they will be revealed to you, for now, please sit with me.”

The man motioned to the two chairs in front of the fire place. Obediently, Clarke sat. He saw there was no floor within the hearth, just a hole that descended down to a source of light.

“The glow comes from the lava,” the man said as if Clarke had asked.

The man took a seat and Clarke tried to re-orient his mind. If the tunnels were any indication they should be much father underground than the location of the ceremony.

“It’s confusing, I understand. The interior pathways are quite labyrinthine. We are actually on the same level as the platform on which the ceremony is performed. When it is underway, the lava rises to the brim of that hole as it does to the brim of dais.”

Clarke’s mouth was parched, the man produced a leather flask and gave it to him. It tasted of the water of the brook.

“I am glad you have arrived, Dr. Wilson. Not all do. Although you, no doubt, are struggling with everything you have been exposed to this evening. I promised the answers will come to you, and they will, but for now you may ask what you wish and I will answer.”

Clarke could find the questions but he could not pick from them. There were too many and although the man waited patiently, Clarke stayed silent.

“I understand you have many questions. I can guess at most of them so you do not have to ask, I will simply tell.

“My name is not important and, from this moment on, neither is yours. I came here some decades ago, I too was drawn here by the same force you were. Yet, when I arrived there was no tribe, there were only legends. But, as I’m sure you know, legends are often based on one or two facts. There may have been a native population here, once, but for all I know they leapt into the volcano centuries ago.”

The man’s voice was lulling Clarke into a meditative state, he could feel the foreign side of his mind slowly seeping through the neurons that were his own. Knowledge came with them and left in spite of them. He could picture the island, raw and uninhabited, and he could feel his attraction for it growing with each breath. His old life and his passion for the memories associated with it receded. The memories themselves receded.

“Here I found the source of the power that had been calling me. I fed off it and it kept me sustained in body and mind. When others started to arrive, like yourself, I showed them the way. How to draw forth the power from which I fed and how to feed on it themselves. Of course, as I was the first here, most of that essence came to me.”

Clarke felt a surge of jealousy and animosity towards this man who claimed he was the first but the matter spreading through his mind subsided such feelings and thoughts. This man was the first, and he understood the power of Libris. It belonged to him and he was generous to share it with his tribe.

“While I have stayed the same my tribe’s physical features have changed. This is a side effect of the temporary withdrawals they must go through. You see, for example, when our tribe numbers twelve members they can only withdraw the power of twelve people. Eventually, their tolerance grows resilient and the power of twelve is no longer enough. It is only when new members arrive, who do not require as much sustenance from Libris, that they are able to regain their true strength. That makes new members, like yourself, the most important to us.”

Clarke glowed when he heard that he was now the most important man on the island, which obscured from him the dubious facts of the story he’d just heard. He was simply happy, blissfully content, to be where he was.

The man abruptly stood and peered into the pit of the hearth.

“I believe that is enough for now, I can feel your connection with Libris growing as we speak. Soon, you will find you feel right at home. And soon, you will find the remaining answers you seek.”

The man turned and walked towards the door and the portal was opened by Clarkes guide from the other side. The man whispered into the tribesman’s ear.

Suddenly, Clarke spoke out, “When may I have my satchel back?”

“There is no need for memories or items of past lives here on Libris. All that matters is here, and now. You will see soon enough.”

And Clarke did see. Each night, he became a part of the ceremony held in the crater of the Northern Sentinel. Each night, he was ushered forward, ahead of the other tribesman, onto the edge of the platform. There he chanted and watched the lava rise and felt the heat, carrying with it power, wash over him. He was told he drew more power than any of the others, that he was the center of the ceremony. At first, the feeling of finally reaching and channeling the source of Libris that called to him for so long was euphoric. Even when the lava reached the very lip of the platform the heat was only ever a warm blanket draping the front of his body. But slowly it began to burn him. Each subsequent ceremony Clarke felt himself taking sequentially more steps back from the edge of the dais, until, one day, he too was in line with the rest of the Terra Homines. His skin flaked, his eyes became pained, and his throat was forever parched. He lost the ability to speak and was then given a tattoo across his palm. Depending on how he held his fingers and angled his hand the tattoo could express the simplest forms of communication, stop, follow, yes, no. He was finally one with Libris, a channeler of power from the island’s lowest vaults to the fur draped man. Clarke had reached his goal and he believed he was happy.

A Sighting

One of Clarke’s brethren held up her hand, “stop” imparted the symbol. Clarke stopped. The women then handed Clarke a yellowed, crumbling page of parchment upon which was drawn a rudimentary map. The map detailed the path of a trail he was to take and although he did not remember it, his destination was a place he’d already visited.

Clarke had not been outside of the volcano since the day he’d entered it. All he ever tasted of the sky came during the ceremonies but he could never seem to remember to look up at the stars. The smell of moist, burnt ash, and the color of blackish powder predominated his senses at all times. Until now, the man had told him he was not ready to leave the volcano as his true familiarity with the island stretched only as far as the complicated tunnels within the Northern Sentinel.

The tribesman left Clarke and returned down the tunnel. Clarke braced himself, closed his eyes, and emerged into the world. He opened his eyes and instantly shut them. He opened his rights eye and the sunlight was piercing and the smell of leaves, bark, and the ocean were overwhelming. His mind shook with the familiar sensations but maintained focus. He looked down at the map.

He followed the predestinated path, weaving in and out the jungle, walking parallel to the base of the volcano. He stepped into a clearing, onto a flat plateau, and he raised his eyes from the paper. There was the spring, surrounded by low walls, with water flowing forth the various pipes. He’d never found the source of this source of water but he noticed now that the pool was closed off from the ravine. Water no longer flowed down into the brook.

Again his mind was jarred, this time the tight hold slipping free for a second but regaining its grasp quickly. Clarke followed his instructions and walked to the opposite side of the pool where the ravine began. The wall here was not as sturdy or smooth as the rest. Slowly, Clarke set to work peeling layers off this piece of wall. His parchment said “the brook must flow again”.

When he was finished, the overflowing water from the edge of the ravine ran down the hill as it once had. Why they were doing this now Clarke did not realize until he looked out upon the oceanic landscape.

Sitting atop the waves was a fishing vessel. People, barely perceptible, stood on the deck, seemingly facing his direction. His mind slipped all at once and images of waves, lightning, thunder, and the thought of being stranded returned to him. A word hit his mind like a tidal wave. JOURNAL. Instinctively he turned over the page in his hand and saw written at the top, “Dear, Clarke”.

The brook flowed at his feet. The ravine walls grew higher, then lower. He climbed the side of an embankment. He passed a gnarled tree, he passed a black scarred and golden flekked stone, and he burst through a small clearing filled with flat rocks laid carefully about. He stood in the middle of a blackened spot of sand, broken up and charred wood crumbling beneath his feet. He waved out to the boat upon which Jasmine Croft stood.

The Sighting II

It had been two months since the disappearance of Clarke and his crew. At first, Jasmine believed they’d done the unthinkable and embarked onto Libris. However, after she tracked down, with the help of Emily, the fisherman Clarke had hired to take his crew to Lirbris she realized the captain was missing as well. Her local contacts told her there was only one possibility, ship wreck. Still, she had stayed on the mainland, occasionally hiring a vessel to bring her around Libris. As of yet, no sign of Clarke had ever appeared.

Now she stood upon the deck of yet another fisherman’s boat. That evening one of her contacts would be driving her to the small airport about three hours north. From there she would return home, empty handed. Not only had she learned nothing about Libris but she’d lost a tough but well respected colleague.

The boat swayed beneath her feet, and for the dozenth time she contemplated whether embarking onto the island was the right call. If Clarke was there, however doubtful, she may be his only hope. But to put the tribe that supposedly lived there at any further risk was unthinkable.

The captain would never take her that close any…

A man, clearly of the tribe, burst forth from the brush and sprinted onto the beach. His skin looked to be covered in dirt, mud, or ash and he wore only cloth shorts. He waved his hands at the boat. The captain of the boat recoiled almost instantly, and told Jasmine they must leave. She told him to wait, or he would not be paid.

The tribesman on the beach grew more and more excited, beginning to jump, picking up drift wood from the beach to throw towards the boat. Other tribesman exited the jungle and simply stood behind their compatriot. When he noticed their presence, the jumping man stopped.

One of the Men of the Earth held up his hand. Then he reached forward and placed his hand the jumping man’s shoulder. All of the tribesman returned to the forest without looking back.

Jasmine was breathless. The existence of the Terra Homines was confirmed. At least she would leave with that. Had the man been waving to her because he recognized her? Was he signaling them because he knew where Clarke was? None of these thoughts crossed her mind. For her, embarking on the island was now out of the question. Whatever had driven her to Libris, the foreign presence in her mind, was obliterated.

Closer to God: Episode Four

 

Ebony Labyrinth

 

Clarke’s hike to the Northern Sentinel followed the path he’d worn between his camp and the stream. Beneath the surface of the jungle’s canopy there was little light to use for guidance, so, for the first stretch of his journey, he relied solely on memory to lead the way. He could barely make out the trunks and branches around him and the mostly black slate of his vision served as a chalk-board upon which his imagination sketched nightmares. The periphery of his sight ignited with life as every shifting shadow took on the presence of some terrible beast. He lurched continually forward, dodging perceived assailants and trusting his line was straight and that it would deliver him to the stream.  When he finally bumped into the familiar form of the gnarled tree he stepped back to admire its grotesquely twisting limbs, feeling a slightly more than negligible sense of security knowing he’d returned to the spot and had therefore reestablished his link to the real world.

Skirting around the tree, dragging his hand across the ragged bark, he emerged into a world of blue light. He cursed himself for not thinking of it before. He could have followed the stream all the way up from the beach, using the same path he’d first found while running from the faces of the Men of the Earth. There were was no canopy above the ravine and the sky was open, its light falling down to bounce off the rolling water. It would certainly have been much easier to walk beside the brook as opposed to blindly wandering the ebony labyrinth of the jungle as he had just done.

When he’d first come across the stream, Clarke was certain it lead to a body of water near the true base of the volcano and now he would test that theory. The ravine itself was already slanted uphill and he predicted it would become substantially steeper as it neared the Northern Sentinel. He would use the brook, his compass, and the dull embers of the night sky to get himself as close to the volcano as possible. He could not see the mass of rock at that moment but he could see, and somehow smell, the smoke rising from its crater. It plumed in great pillows and stretched vertically into the dark above where it slowly dissipated amongst the stars. It was star dust heading home and it carried with it forces Clarke was only vaguely aware of.

Passed the deformed tree, he climbed down into the ravine and knelt next to the stream to fill his water bottles. He did not know how long it would take him to arrive at the volcano and he had no idea what he would find there. A ceremony? A sacrifice? Or a tribe of friendly, mud covered men? As was so often his tactic, he decided to avoid such anxiety inducing questions. He took out the letter that had survived the burning of his journal. He’d read a bit, then continue on his way.

 

Page One

 

Dear Clarke,

We need to meet. Now, today, before you go anywhere near that island.

I spoke with Emily, after she resigned from your team. She told me about the way you’ve been acting. Her description of your recent behavior was the last straw. Something is wrong with you, I can see that now. I wish I could’ve done so sooner.

I know we’ve had our competitive differences in the past and our jobs often take us to many of the same places, however, I have always viewed our professional relationship as one of friendly competition. Never a race to better each other. But with Libris it seems like that is what this has all become for you. A rush to slap your name on this place and claim it as yours.

Libris was my discovery and my research uncovered it. It’s not like that gives me ownership of the island or anything, you were more than welcome to become a part of this. In fact, when I first heard you’d taken an interest I was excited that we may actually work together on something for once. But you’ve crossed the line. Claiming you’d discovered this island, that you should be the first to arrive here. Neither of us are the first Clarke, and you and I both know you are lying.

If all that wasn’t enough to raise suspicions, what Emily told me certainly was. You cannot actually…

 

He’d read only the first page of the letter but Clarke’s mind was suddenly caught in a storm of flashing neurons. He’d been sitting, ignorantly, in the calm eye of the storm only to have the mass of weather overtake him once again. Hands shaking, he managed to fold the letter in half and slide it within the envelope which he slipped into his back pocket. He would’ve continued reading it was he not so overwhelmed by the contents. And the chanting voices, constantly thumping against the exterior of his skull like a migraine assaulting his head from without, made it hard for him to concentrate.

Conflicting feelings accompanied returning memories. Jasmine was right, it was her research that pointed him to Libris. Yet he’d done all he could to remove her, and everyone else from the equation. How could he have been so headstrong? So self-centered?

But no, she was wrong, he was the only one who deserved to step foot on Libris. He needed to be the first here. And now he was.

As if to leave his thoughts behind, Clarke started hiking again. The climb became steeper and the angled sides of the ravine erected themselves into sheer walls. Emily, he remembered Emily. A graduate student who he’d decided to bring along, Libris was to be her first field expedition. She’d left? Yes, she had left before they’d disembarked on the fishing boat. Clarke had conflicting memories of her as well. Her bright smile and excitement spreading contagiously to the rest of the team as well as himself. Her joy at the chance to accompany and assist them on such groundbreaking work. But the longer they’d sat and waited idly on the mainland the quicker her enthusiasm drained. She started looking at him not with a smile but with sadness and, was it fear? She’d not wanted to leave but his actions had forced her to. His preoccupation with the island and its inhabitants, his misguided plans for landing on these beaches, Emily was the only one on his team who’d managed to speak up. And she was right. No, she was wrong. She left because she was nervous and scared, didn’t think she could handle the work. All the better, with her and Jasmine surely half way across the Atlantic and the rest of his crew at the bottom of it there would be no one to stand between Libris and him.

Although the slope grew ever greater, forcing Clarke to start climbing on his hands and knees, the walls of the ravine were shrinking in height. The jungle to either side of him was noticeably thicker like the trees from below were also traversing the hill, pushing towards the volcano, and gathering to join the ceremony. The stream of water rushing past his feet had changed as well. It had more volume and more power, he was nearing the source.

He heaved himself forward a dozen more yards then let out a grunt as his hand, clawing for rocks above him, swiped air instead of dirt and he collapsed onto his stomach. The ground had leveled out and he was lying half over a ledge, beyond which was a circle of flat ground not unlike his base camp. He looked up for the first time since reading the letter and noticed he was nearly on the bare, ashen ground that was the true base of the volcano. There was a reflective surface that took up most of this miniature plateau, its glass like mirroring of the sky rippling with the sound of rushing water. It was a pool of sorts, sitting at the mouth of the now foot tall walls of the ravine. The water that overflowed from the top of the filled pool was rushing downhill, forming the stream Clarke had been drinking from. There were also curved walls circling around the unnatural pond so that the water could only escape in the direction of the brook. Set into the encompassing walls, apparently running from within the base of the volcano, were pipes from which the water flooded. A man made stream after all, and one that controlled his water supply.

It was not until Clarke bent to dip his hand into the pond that he saw the reflection of the yellow eyes. He jumped back and turned about to look at the tribesman standing behind him. But, there was no man behind him and water splashed from the pool as the eyes rose and burst forth from underneath the surface. A Man of the Earth emerged from within the water. His body was toned, his tanned skin the color of mud. Like no other color Clarke had seen on a man. The tribesman looked like he was covered in mud but was only covered in skin that seemed to be made of dried mud, or ash, or blood. This close to the yellow eyes Clarke could peer into them and he saw they were more golden then yellow. With flecks of red, green, and blue sprinkled about the irises.

The man said nothing and Clarke was unsure of what to do. He went to grab for his GPS but the man lunged forward and stopped his hand. Clarke held still and the tribesman slowly lifted the satchel off his shoulder. He held the bag in front of him, atop both arms like he was a waiter carrying a dinner tray. He turned and took a few steps towards the volcano then beckoned Clarke after him with a nod of his head.

Clarke followed and they walked around the outside of the walls surrounding the pool. The sound of water continued to send soft waves into the air which Clarke noticed diluted the chants that had been assualting his ears all night. At the far edge of the circular plateau the tribesman stopped. They both looked up the slope of the Northern Sentinel. It was nearly vertical and impossibly smooth. Unclimbable. After a moments pause, the tribesman walked through solid rock and Clarke tumbled backwards in shock. He stared at the face of rock the man had disappeared into. Slowly, an arching shadow revealed itself. He walked forward, tentatively holding his arms in front of him. His hands hit no surfaces and he passed into the cave.

The cave was, in actuality, some sort of tunnel. There was no direct source of light inside, but once Clarke crossed the threshold separating the inside and the out, the tunnel was lit up as if torches lined the walls. The interior looked like the stone Clarke could remember seeing in the jungle, just past his camp site. It was splintered with jagged lines of tar that were dusted with golden flakes. It was these flakes that cast off the light, shining like foil in the sun. There was no burbling brook to mull over the chanting any longer. The voices filled the tunnel with an immensity of echoes, vibrating Clarke’s vision, bones, and skin.

The floor of the tunnel, while occasionally taking on a slight incline, remained relatively flat. Apparently, they were traveling straight into the heart of the Northern Sentinel. The pond of water and irrigation system had been impressive but Clarke wondered if a tribe that had never been contacted by the outside world could have managed to construct such a perfect tunnel. The walls, ceiling and floor were as smooth as a granite countertop. If they hadn’t built it, it was certainly an odd, if not impossible feature for a volcano to develop on its own.

Finally, after what seemed like minutes, and after what seemed like hours, they reached a steep uphill climb of the tunnel. The tribesman stopped, turned to Clarke and held up a hand. On his palm was a symbol, a hieroglyph of sorts. It was octagonal in shape and within its borders it held strange lines. It was a language, maybe, and it looked a bit like Arabic, but Clarke had certainly never seen such writing before. Yet, he guessed, or knew, that it meant stop. He understood the tribesman was telling him stop and when the Man of the Earth turned and kept walking, he stayed put.

Clarke stood alone in the tunnel and watched the man disappear out of sight. The man had taken his satchel so Clarke pulled the letter from his back pocket. If he was going to finish it, now would have to be the time. Who knew if he’d even be alive to read it later.

Page Two

 

… that I was planning to land on Libris? Not only would that be highly unethical of me but it’s unethical of you to even think that is even a possibility. Emily told me that’s why she left, you kept saying I was going to try to land on the island and that you had to beat me there. You had to be the first to step foot on the island and meet the Terra Homines.

     When I heard that I knew something was seriously off. That’s beyond competitive and beyond reckless and, to be honest, beyond you. You can be a hard colleague to work with but I know you are a professional. And I know, you of all people, would be drastically opposed to making contact with this tribe.

     Something has gotten into your head Clarke and, whether its an idea or something more sinister, I hope it’s not too late to get it out. You wouldn’t listen to Emily but please listen to me, stop this, now. We all know there’s something not quite right about this place and, so far, Emily is only one to say it. But now’s the time the rest of us wake up. You really think no one has ever been here before? Is it not strange the only records of this place’s existence are local legends and myths? Myth’s that are almost always based around some sort of truth, no matter how ridiculous.

     Here’s my offer Clarke. If you leave, I’ll go with you. Let’s call this thing now and forget this island was ever here. Both of us will say our research proved to be a dud. We were wrong, no proof of a tribe of any sort, just an uninhabitable island with a dormant volcano. Hell, if you want you can blame our failures on me. 

     Just, please don’t take that boat out Clarke, don’t do something you’ll regret. You’re not thinking straight, and we need to leave this place. I hope, if you’ve read this, you will meet me. Tomorrow, café across the street, 9 sharp. We can talk this out.

Sincerely,

Jasmine Croft

The same contradictory feelings returned to Clarke. But this time he could see more, remember more, than he had before. He had been wrong… and he knew it. What had he been thinking? He hadn’t wanted the credit for discovering the island nor did he care about being the first outsider on the island. He’d known there were others before him and would be others after. He just wanted to be here, to know the island like no one else knew it. To understand it and to be a part of this tribe. He used Jasmine’s presence as an excuse to try and land on the island. He did not care whether his crew followed or not but they all has, except for Emily. And they’d all lost their lives, except for Emily.

For once, his memories of the truth outweighed the side of his brain that, he realized now, had nothing to do with his brain and had taken him over since he’d first heard of the island. He finally saw, truly saw, where he was standing and what was occuring. There was something wrong here, something disturbingly wrong. The memories he kept losing, his unexplainably intimate familiarity with the island. The strange powers he felt every night, building inside the volcano and driven by the chants of the Terra Homines, exploding outward and washing away everything in its path, and then returning to the Northern Sentinel and dragging him closer and closer. He panicked, he needed to leave. He’d almost met with Jasmine but walked by the Café’s entrance at the last second. He wished he hadn’t and now it was too late. There was no returning to that Café, no chance to talk down the utterly foreign and invading presence in his mind.

Footsteps sounded up ahead, Clarke let the letter slip from his hands. The same tribesman appeared, still carrying the satchel. He saw the letter on the ground, looked from it to Clarke. He placed the satchel on the floor, picked up the letter and its envelope, and placed them inside the satchel’s front pocket.

Clarke watched him, all memories receding and a sense of excitement taking over. He’d done it, he was on the island and he was about to witness a ceremony no one outside the tribe had ever witnessed before. The tribesman held up the same hand as last time. But now a spiraling, twirling arrow replaced the octagon. Follow, it said but did not say, instead imparted. And Clarke followed, up the incline and to the mouth of the interior side of the tunnel and out onto a platform, a railing-less balcony, hundreds of feet below the volcano’s mouth and hundreds of feet above a rising floor of lava.

It was daylight inside the volcano and night without. The glare of the lava was bright and hot, its heat stacking upward upon itself. Stone stairs led down from the platform that Clarke was standing on but he did not take them. Instead, his guide and him froze and listened. The chanting, coming from the dozens of tribesman below, sounded like it was coming from thousands as the words echoed off the granite like smooth walls of the volcanos interior. The chanters, revelers, stood on a stone walkway that ringed its way around the crater. One man stood above them all, on the very edge of the mouth at the volcano’s peak. It seemed as if he was the center of the ceremony yet not at all involved with it. He did not chant but watched, his body swaying slightly back and forth.

Clarke stared into the rising lava below. He did not feel he was in danger, nor was he afraid, happy, melancholy, or excited. He felt nothing except for a growing fatigue as if his life’s battery was draining with each slight rise of lava. Although he’d heard it many times and could recite the unintelligible words by memory, Clarke still did not know the chant so he refrained from speaking. Instead he lost himself in the embers of the volcano’s blood and…

The voices finally ceased as the lava reached the walkway the tribe stood on. There it stopped, just before overflowing the edge. Light shone, not only from the volcano but from the sky outside, and the sun was just starting to rise. Clarke’s eyes had been transfixed below the entire ceremony, watching the lava rise with every incantation of the chant. When he finally looked up, the man at the mouth of the volcano looked down at him before quickly turning and disappearing from view. Clarke’s escort turned to him, and showed him the same follow symbol. Clarke followed.

Talking to Myself: Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is a strange film. However, it is not strange for the normal reasons like characters, setting, or plot. All of those are actually pretty straight forward. It’s strange because there is something… off about it.

First things first, the most obviously strange part of this movie is the lack of a soundtrack. There is only one piece of music throughout the whole movie. Initially this is jarring, but eventually it seems natural. The sound track becomes the sounds of the actors and their surroundings. This glaring departure from typical movie making defines the entirety of the film. In one sentence, Bone Tomahawk strips away the tropes of its genres and uses their absence to elevate itself above them.

One term that could be used to describe the bizarre feel of this film is campy. While I suppose that there may be some exaggerations of genre tropes in the movie, campy is still not the right word for it. In essence, Bone Tomahawk combines two genres, the western and horror. But, under the surface, there is also a tinge of comedy. And by “under the surface” I mean that it rarely, if ever, shows up in dialogue.

At no point in this movie is there a really blatant attempt at making a joke. Instead, the comedy comes from the obsurdity of the very way in which the film is constructed. For instance, on the morning after a deputy, a nurse, and prisoner are abducted a dead stable boy is discovered. Sheriff Hunt and his “back up” deputy, Chicoroy, go to investigate. In one shot, they approach the barn door, guns out at the ready. The scene is set up to be both serious and suspenseful. In any other film, it would most likely be shot up close, from over a character’s shoulder or focused on their face. But here, we see Hunt and Chicoroy approaching the barn from a wide and withdrawn angle which places their full bodies left of center screen and allows the barn to fill up the rest of the frame. This, quite honestly, looks ridiculous. It makes the set look fake and the character’s look like they have no clue what they’re doing. On a first viewing it’s kind of a put off, on a second viewing it’s genius. A scene like this goes beyond campy and seems to comment on the act of filming a western itself. We know this movie is fake and the characters are actors but choose to ignore that fact. Here, we can’t ignore it because the camera reminds us of it. Instead of two cowboy’s approaching a murder scene we are given two men, crouching awkwardly and swinging their guns from side to side approaching a fake barn. It got a chuckle out of me for sure but not at the expense of the film. Shortly after this scene, the body of the stable boy is revealed and it is quite uggly. Although I was somewhat removed from the film while watching Hunt and Chicory approach the barn, the shot of the body in the barn brought me right back into the narrative.

Another aspect of the film that reflects this weird humor is a kind of a running joke. John Brooder (a notorious Indian killer who volunteers to aid the rescue attempt) is in possession of a very expensive telescope they call “the German”. At first, he will not let anyone else use it. But when the group arrives at their destination and try to figure out which valley the Indian tribe lives in, another humorus scene unfolds. Brooder looks through the German, turns to Chicoroy and asks him if he’d liked to use the German. We then watch a scene that is a couple minutes long in which each character is invited to use the German only to discover that they all see the same three valleys and none of them knows which is the correct one.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? No? Well I’m not sure I see it either. So lets try a comparison. This is gonna sound crazy but hang in there. I’d like to compare this movie to Deadpool. Now, in Deadpool, Wade Wilson continually goes out his way to reference the super hero genre as whole. With lines refering to the X-Men movies, Green Latern, studio expenses, and even predicting things like the “Super Hero Landing” Deadpool continually points out every super-hero trope as well as some of the aspects involved with making a block-buster super-hero film. In Bone Tomahawk, we see the same things. The true “cowboy” of the film, John Brooder, is not much of a hero, the filming of the barn scene actually looks ridiculous when you’re slightly removed from it, and the group of men have trouble finding the right valley because, well, there was no GPS’s back then.So, in a way, Bone Tomahawk is a movie that is self-referential to the western genre, like Deadpool is to the super-hero genre. However, I’d argue Tomahawk pulls off this trick in an even better way.

Bone Tomahwak does not just point out the tropes of the western genre to crack a joke about them, like Deadpool does with the super hero genre. In my mind, it is more like it throws those tropes out the window and highlights the fact that they’re no longer in the film. In westerns, characters always seem to know where they’re going even though they never look at a map. Well, in Bone Tomahawk, they know the general direction and distance they need to travel but when they get there they have trouble finding the actual spot. In westerns, the cowboy’s and sheriffs always look cool and smooth with their guns drawn, ready for a shootout. In Bone Tomahawk, they look bumbly and clueless approaching the barn and the combat scenes come across as badly scripted and sloppy, like they often are in real life. The movie erases many of the tropes we are used to, and in their place, puts something directly opposed to them. This not only highlights the fact those tropes have been removed but it creates the “strange” humor within the movie as well as allows the film to acknowledge what it truely is, a film. Bone Tomahawk is one of those few movies that readily admits it’s a movie and uses that to its advantage. Sure, this kind of thing is more prevelant today, but as in Deadpool, the fourth wall breaks and trope acknowledgements are often used only for laughs. In Bone Tomahawk (there are no fourth breaks by the way) these techniques are used to give the film a “feel” (for lack of better word) that seperates it from all other horrors and westerns. Beyond this, it revels in every part of the movie making process. It is accurate to it’s time period, yet points out the downfalls of that time period. It has a good amount of action sequences, yet it makes them aesthetically amusing and, probably, more realistic than most. It contains well written dialogue, yet uses that dialogue to set up some very odd but impactful sequences. It has no soundtrack, yet uses the sounds of the actors and their surroundings to create a soundtrack. And, as I will explain in the next paragraph, it contains violence, but uses the absence of some instances of violence to make others even more disturbing.

If you’re still with me, lets dive into the violence I just mentioned. We will be looking at one scene in specific but it is near the end, so spoilers ahead. The movie’s very first shot is actually one of violence. A man about to have his throat slit. However, the camera cuts away and all we get is sound effects (which are still gruesome as there is no soundtrack to muffle them). Throughout the rest of the movie we see some people being shot and the aftermath of a murder that, while gory, comes after the fact. I’m kind of an advocate for the presence of violence in films, not because I necessarily enjoy it, but because it gives the film more power and allows it tell the story with more of a wallup behind its punches. Besides, real life is violent so why wouldn’t movies be so too? So, when directors cut away from the violence I find myself searching for reasons as to why they would do such a thing. How does it enhance the film? Well, in this case, it leaves you totally surprised and distrubed during its most brutal scene of violence. One character is dragged from his cell within the Indian’s cave. We have been informed this tribe is composed of  cannibals and we’re ready for this guy to be killed and eaten. The character is stripped naked and I was prepared for a cut away during which we’d hear his screams (like the scene from the start of the movie). However, there is no cutaway. The Indian’s proceed to scalp the man, put the scalp in his mouth, drive a spike in behind it, then they flip him upside and cut him in half with a bone tomahawk (thats where the name comes from, I guess). This is not only shocking because it is incredibly graphic but it is also shocking because the viewer has been purposefully lulled into a sense of security. We have seen no “real” violence until this point because the camera has gone out of the way to avoid it. But here, the threat of violence is presented and the camera stays in that same spot, holding the same angle, until the victim has died. We await the cut-away but the camera holds our eyes in place and forces us to watch what is happening. Again, this an example of Bone Tomahawk taking a trope (in this case actually using it), stripping that trope from the film (in this case rather unexpectedly), and using its abscence to the film’s advantage.

Overall, I enjoyed Bone Tomahawk for what it was. Something different and new. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone because, for some, its strangeness will be a turnoff. If you like horror, westerns, or just weird movies, check this one out. If not, check it out anyway because it is a very creative movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Unless you’re looking for date movie, cause this ain’t it. Unless you and your date are movie buffs, then this could work.

P.S.

Thank you very much to anyone who took the time to read this review all the way through. It was certainly the most difficult one to right thus far. However, I tried to take my time and really get across what I was trying to explain. I apologize if it did not make much sense.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought about this review. If you liked it, leave a like so I can visit your page and see what you’ve got cooking. My next review may not show up until next week because I’m still a few days off from finishing the book. And it will probably be even more confusing than this one. However, Closer to God: Episode Four will be up by the end of this week so please stop by again when you have the time!

 

50 Word Story Experiments

Recently, I came across a website called 50 Word Stories (http://fiftywordstories.com/). It’s pretty self explanatory, they publish flash stories that must be fifty words or shorter. From the first to the sixteenth of each month they accept submissions and those they take are published that same month. Not only is it a fun site to visit everday and read a quick story (or twenty) but the challenge of writing a 50 word story is enjoyable as well. On the first of this month I sent in a story and while I can’t put that one up here yet, I have a few others I wrote but did not submit (they only allow one submission per month). So, here they are, enjoy!

Doorbell

I wake to the incessant ring of my doorbell, instead of my alarm clock.

Downstairs,

I peer out windows,

through parted curtains,

no one’s there.

I am in the kitchen when there’s a knock at the door.

A repairman says, “I’m here to fix you’re doorbell.”

 

Infestation

My house is infested with insects. Roaches, spiders, centipedes.

I don’t mind, but people say I should call the exterminator.

I get one on the phone, “It won’t be cheap, we charge by the bug.”

They work fast and leave faster. I find the bill on my table.

$0.00

 

Bills

I receive a bill in the mail, it’s overpriced by ten bucks.

I call customer service. I’m on hold for five minutes.

5:00

A woman answers. She takes her time accessing my account.

10:00

She says, “Your bill’s correct.”

“How can that be?”

“Customer service is a dollar per minute.”

 

Mirrors

This hospital is filled with mirrors. Every time I see one, I stop and look.

Somedays, I go from room to room, pausing only to watch myself in each mirror.

I meet with my doctor, he always ask questions that confuse me. Like, “What do you see outside those windows?”

If you’re looking for a writing challenge I would definitely suggest trying to write a piece for this website. However, I would recommend reading a few before you start just to get a feel for it.

Closer to God: Episode Four is in the pipeline so keep an eye-out! It’s looking like this will be a five part series so we’re almost to the end. I’m hoping to doing something a little more creative for the “season finale” so more on that is coming. Still reading The Bone Clocks so that review is a little while away but I watched Bone Tomahawk (lots of bone’s this week) the other day so keep an eye for that as well. Looking long-term I have something different planned after Closer to God is wrapped up and I’m about to start a story on which I am collaborating with a friend. So lot’s of excitement, for me at least. Thanks to everyone who checked this post out, leave a like so I can visit your page as well! Oh and…

Happy Indepedence Day!

Talking to Myself: The Familiar Volume 1 (Why I Stopped Reading It)

The best way to start this post is by saying that I think Mark Danielewski is a fantastic writer. I loved House of Leaves. The story was interesting and creepy, the form was inventive and original, and I was hooked after only a few pages. Alas, this isn’t a review for House of Leaves, but is instead an examination of The Familiar: Volume 1 and why it has not worked (for me) as well as Danielewski’s previous books.

I think part of the fault lies with me. Unlike my approach to House of Leaves, I kind of picked up The Familiar out of the blue. I had an idea what I was getting into but my mind was not in the right place. There were also two books on my nightstand that I could not wait to read and that I was obviously more excited for. In other words, I was not prepared. So, now that I’ve owned up to my part of the blame lets move onto the book.

As the title mentions, I did not read this book to completion. I still plan to, but for now I’ve had enough. Being about half way through (around page 400) my favorite aspect so far has to be the style. It’s typical Danielewski, solid prose morphing into chaotic and/or simplistic pages that can contain one word to hundreds of words. While I loved the style in House of Leaves, I’d argue it works even better here. The pages where Xanther (the main character and a 12 year old girl) goes into her quesion song are beautiful. Her repetitive and rambling thoughts flow across these pages looking like the rain pouring down around her. Each of the other eight character’s stories take on their own complex forms as well. This turns each section of the book into a unique experience and something you have to approach from a completely different angle. However, the form is really the only thing that worked for me.

I’m not saying the characters are flat (they’re not) or the story is unoriginal (also not) but there wasn’t enough of either to keep me reading. Every 10-30 pages the narrating character is changed, which is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you don’t give the reader enough time to care about them. Which is exactly what happened to me. They’re interesting people but the constant shift in perspective meant I couldn’t see enough of them, or they’re stories, to stay invested. I’ve come to understand that this book is the first of twenty-seven planned volumes and, as such, is meant to be an introduction to what is sure to be an expansive story. Still, I’m not sure a writer can ask his readers to delve 400 plus pages into a novel before the story even starts to pick up speed.

This brings up a ton of questions regarding how much work the author should be doing for a reader. I am all for ambigious plots, language, and challenging prose. I don’t mind, and even enjoy, piecing together the narrative as it is given to me. However, Danielewski asks us to do much more than that. He asks the reader to dissect sections written in extremely shoddy english mixed with madarin and russian. He wants us to take mysterious hints and descriptions and put them in our back pocket for later, despite the fact that we don’t know if we’ll even need them. Sure, in House of Leaves he did not give us all the answers, but he supplied enough of them to keep people interested. We knew the characters, their motivations, and the stakes. Here, at least half-way through the book, we know none of that. Instead of full portraits I felt like I was getting snippets of each character and I found myself asking, why do I care? Give me a reason to care! Besides the stories connected via family members the rest made the book seem like a collection of random novella’s and short stories pulled apart and rammed into a book.

I know what people who’ve read this book are saying. Don’t be so impatient, answers are coming. I understand that, and I will return to this book. I am positive that, by the end, I’ll be blown away. However, right now, I don’t feel like waiting until then. And I think that reveals the major flaw with this first installment to The Familiar. Unless I am completely dedicated to the style/format of this book as well as to Danielewski himself, the book risks losing me as a reader. Most of the people I know (who are not as crazy about fiction as I am) would have given up on this well before 400 pages. Does that matter? Probably not. Does Danielewski care? Absolutely not. But I firmly believe that one of the things that makes good fiction good is that it reels the reader in like no other medium can. Only books take place completely in your mind, but this books feels like it takes place on the page. It does not complete the circuit, the agreement, we all join in when we write or read something. From the author’s mind, to the page, to the reader’s mind. Instead, the best aspect of the book, the form, sticks out the most due to the plot’s and characters’ lack of presence which grinds said circuit to a halt. The result is a story that has a hard time getting inside the reader’s mind as its most endearing qualities link it to the material nature of the page itself. Some may say thats fair and that the reader is meeting the author halfway in this circuit. Thats a valid point that I cannot disagree with, but in this instance it instead felt like the author wasn’t doing enough. In the end, after 400 pages of feeling lost I grew tired of putting in the effort required to read this book because I felt like I was getting nothing from it. Was it my fault for being unprepared to take this journey or the author’s fault for not doing more of the work for me? I have no freaking clue.

What make’s Danielewski such a special writer is that his books bring up questions like the ones I’ve just struggled to talk about. No other writer manages to challenge the status quo quite like Danielewski. So, if you like confusing plots, beautifully realized textual experimentation, and (at times) extremely challenging prose then give The Familiar: Volume One a read. But don’t be like me, read it all the way through. And if you don’t like those things, I can’t really say much because I am like me and I haven’t this finished book. Instead, I started The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. It’s out of this world amazing and my very much in this world mediocre review will be coming soon.