Androgyna, or The Fool (a play)

Dear reader,

I wrote this play for one of my classes last semester. It’s an interpretation of Ben Jonson’s Volpone from a different point of view of one of the characters.

Here Androgyno becomes Androgyna because this character identifies as female. It is important to understand intersex people and their rights.. This play is an attempt to enable minority characters and reveal the voices that sometimes go unheard but that deserve to be listened to.

Please provide feedback + ideas in the comments below.

xoxo,

the bbb blogger

image from here

Human Isolation in Urban Setting

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The oil painting depicts a man sitting on the edge of a sidewalk, stretching his tired left leg while flexing his left foot outward into the street. Resting his right foot in the gutter, the man hunches over. While the disconsolate man rests near a fire hydrant, rows and rows of concatenated legs walk down the sidewalk, since the pedestrians are shown from the knee down. One could almost see the ephemeral shadows flutter by as the rows of people walk past the man – unnoticed and alone – on the city sidewalk. By focusing on the structure of one man, a brief formal analysis of Maynard Dixon’s Forgotten Man (c. 1934) reveals the isolation of humanity juxtaposed against the crowded city through the use of golden ratio, color, shadows, size, and lines.

The man is the central focus of the painting because of the artist’s organic use of the golden ratio and lines. Through the use of golden ratio, the man is not in the center of the painting, thus drawing the viewer’s eye to concentrate on the man. The man’s shape is an elongated circle or oval. Although the left leg is almost a straight line, the curved shoulders and softly bent right leg rounds out the figure; the lines are flowing and rhythmic, thus making the man’s structure organic. The fluid motion of the contrasting tilt of the head downward and the opposite tilt upwards of the foot contributes to framing the man’s body. In addition to the golden ratio, the edge of the sidewalk is parallel to the mass of people behind the man. However, one row of legs matches diagonally with the man’s back, creating an elongated cross. X marks the spot, or in this instance, the main importance of the painting. Therefore, the combined use of the golden ratio and lines emphasizes the central figure: the isolated man.

Dixon uses colorful accents to juxtapose the muted colors of the whole of the painting. First, the man’s hair is flame-like with colors of gold and burnt-orange. The flame hair, which is formed by coming to a point, creates two diagonal lines or a triangle shape for the top of the head. The man’s hair is unnatural but accentuates the man’s hunched structure. Second, more than one-fourth of the painting reveals the beige sidewalk on the bottom right corner of the painting. Even the gutter in this corner has warm, autumnal colors, such as mauve, maroon, and teal. The gutter’s color is also unnatural, since gutters are usually full of repulsive trash and black slush. Dixon transforms a usually dirty city sidewalk into something beautiful and welcoming, yet no one sits beside the man. Therefore, the use of color and the empty space highlights the man’s isolation.

Through juxtaposing the man versus a simple fire hydrant, the size and color highlight the man’s isolation as well as his motionless state. This man is, of course, hunched, but even if he sat up straight, he would probably still be shorter than the hydrant beside him. This comparison of size leads one’s attention to other parallels between the man and the hydrant. For example, the hydrant’s teal color matches the same teal of the man’s jacket. Both the hydrant and jacket are offset by flecks of tan and brown, suggesting rust. While the portrayal of rust on the hydrant is naturalistic, it would be impossible for a man to have literal rust on his jacket. However, rust occurs through corrosion, which destructs of metals; usually, the rusty object is stationary, unused, or exposed for long amounts of time. Similarly, the man with rust on his shoulders suggests that he is stationary, just like the hydrant. Thus, the man’s static state juxtaposes with the suggestion of fluid, constant movement of feet behind him.

Through the use of shadows, the emphasis of the man’s shoes and face contrasts with the pedestrians’ shoes and lack of faces portrayed. The bottom of the man’s shoes appears worn-out. The top of the man’s right shoe, which is in the shadow, appears to look like everyone else’s shoes behind him. But the viewer can see the bottom of the man’s left shoe, which has tarnished lines and a worn, dark C-shaped mark. Some parts of the sole appear to be eroded off, since the colors contrast with light and dark coloring of the shadows. Likewise, the man’s pusillanimous face is the only one portrayed, since no other faces are shown from the people walking. There is no sense of camaraderie between the pedestrians, who only seem united in a robotic, continual march. In contrast, the man’s face is shown, although it is partially hidden in a shadow. His slanted, closed eyes are sunken, his eyebrows are furrowed deeply, and his thin lips are pursed shut. Yet, in the Gallery, the viewer is about eye-level with the man’s face. If this were to happen in reality, the viewer would be in the middle of the street, which is unrealistic due to the threat of oncoming traffic. But here, the viewer is provided with a different perspective; as a result, the viewer becomes connected with the man.

In conclusion, the juxtaposition of the man against his surroundings reveals that the man becomes the central figure. The title of the painting, Forgotten Man, could suggest a forlorn mood. The man’s warm, autumnal colors of his flame-like hair and teal, rusty jacket set against the empty space besides him emphasizes the paradox of man’s isolation and stationary status within a crowded, bustling city. Although the mood may be dejected, hope is also present. The formal elements of the painting connect the viewer to the man, suggesting the potential of a person to stop and notice those who go by unnoticed and alone in life.

How to Recognize and Resolve Writing Burnout

Sally dreamed of becoming a successful writer. For several years, she had been working as a freelance writer. Her upcoming project was due in a few hours. At first, Sally was enthusiastic about the new project, which she’d been working on over the last two weeks. But every time she picked up her laptop to write a sentence, no inspiration struck.

After the initial excitement of the project wore off, Sally felt increasingly rushed to finish the assignment. Additionally, she started to avoid writing whenever she could: she would do a load of laundry, scrub the kitchen floor, shampoo the carpet, vacuum the stairs—anything to avoid writing. Disagreements and arguments between clients and Sally seemed to happen regularly.

Now, well after midnight, Sally stares blankly at her computer screen, realizing that her eleventh hour is quickly coming to a close.

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Identifying the Problem: What is Writing Burnout?

The fictional anecdote above could happen to any freelance writer. Whether freelance writers have worked independently for several years or have been working on one project for several months, writing burnout can happen. Burnout means that an individual experiences mental or physical exhaustion because he or she is overworked or stressed. Writing burnout is a real problem. But what are the signs of writing burnout, and what can be done about it?

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak (image found here)


How to Recognize Writing Burnout

Recognizing writing burnout can be difficult for many freelance writers. On the LinkedIn group page called “Freelance Writers,” web writer and small business owner David K. William posted an article and asked how to deal with burnout. William posted Tiffany Faming’s article called “3 Signs You Are Approaching a Writing Burnout.” In this article, the three signs Faming warned of were the following: first, “you don’t want [the article to be] perfect, you just want it done”; second, “you’ll take any opportunity to avoid writing”; and third, “you’re having problems with clients.” Although these signs may seem obvious, freelance writers must be aware of how they are feeling in order to identify burnout.

In the story at the start of this essay, Sally experienced all three of these signs. First, she tried to rush through writing to complete the project. Second, she cleaned instead of writing (which is always a bad sign). Third, Sally argued with clients more often than normal. If freelance writers experience one or all three of these signs, they are probably feeling writing burnout. After addressing the telltale signs of burnout, what can freelance writers do about the lack of inspiration?

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The Responses: How to Resolve Writing Burnout

If freelance writers begin to feel exhausted from writing, they should find options to resolve the problem. On the LinkedIn group page, David K. William’s question was how to deal with writing burnout. In the comments section of this post, freelance writers offered their ideas they use in their own work. Their suggestions fall under two main categories: take a break or continue working. These two ideas could appear contradictory; however, freelance writers must determine which suggestion works best for them.

First: Take a break.

On the LinkedIn page, many freelance writers suggested taking time away from projects. For example, freelance writers could stop writing and start reading. Ronald Joseph Kule, a contributor to the LinkedIn discussion, explains, “When facing burnout, I realize this phenomenon as a stuck, one-way flow: too much outflow. So, I pick up one of my books written by another author and sit and read it in a different physical space from where I work.” Reading books may not only help freelance writers clear their minds but also help inspire them to write like other talented authors. In another comment, Roger Livesey explains that after reading blogs, he not only becomes more motivated to write again but also learns something new from what he read. After reading, the new information freelance writers learn could inspire their writing. Taking a break can help freelance writers beat burnout.

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Of course, there are other options of what a freelance writer could do to beat burnout. Creative options—away from the writing arena, of course—should help freelance writers. For example, freelance writer Susan Shuman explains that she takes a break by finger painting or coloring. Being artsy instead of wordy could be a good way to get out of a funk. Another option for some freelance writers is drinking. As David Cooper, another contributor to the LinkedIn discussion, explains, “[G]o to the nearest bar like Ernest Hemingway did,” or as Frank Cagno describes, have a drink and have fun to “clear your mind.” Religious and/or non-alcoholic freelance writers will not take this suggestion for moral reasons. However, having fun and clearing your mind—even when drinking is not involved—can help beat burnout.

Second: Continue working.

On the other hand, rather than taking time off from writing, the second suggestion is to continue working. This process can involve continuing to write the current piece or focusing on other tasks, such as editing or writing something else. Elizabeth Haynes explains on the LinkedIn comments section, “Mostly I just have to force myself to write, albeit in smaller chunks than usual. No writing = no paycheck.” Money is always a motivating factor, especially for freelance writers. Freelance writers could feel more motivated by pushing through and working in smaller chunks at a time, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the whole project. Haynes continues, “[S]ometimes getting an influx of new work gets me moving again. Sometimes if things are slow I have a harder time writing than when I’m really busy.” Although constantly pushing work out will certainly lead to burnout, staying busy is beneficial for freelance writers.

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Another way freelance writers can feel motivated is by editing or rewriting other parts of their work. Editing is an essential part of the writing process, but editing can also help freelance writers feel motivated again. In the LinkedIn post, another freelance writer, Matt Duncan, claims that “editing my work helps me get over a block. Editing [is] the part of writing that is the least creative and I find that the creative side of my brain [will] fight to work when I’m not using it.” Editing may not seem creative for some freelance writers; therefore, working that part of the brain—the supposedly less creative side—could motivate a freelance writer. Additionally, freelance writers could try rewriting previous sections of their work. In the LinkedIn post, Vicki Roth describes her process: she likes to “take something [she has] written before and rewrite or correct it.” By rewriting, freelance writers could not only dispel burnout but also create better writing.

Although taking time off or continuing work may seem like contradictory options, both are valid for freelancer writers to try if they feel unmotivated. What works for one writer may not work for another. For freelancer writers, what is important is to be aware of how their bodies are responding, mentally and emotionally. However, if these options do not dispel burnout, what else can freelance writers try?

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Additional Ideas of How to Resolve Writing Burnout

There are many ways to resolve writing burnout. The opposite of burnout is to stay inspired. Elsie Larson is the creator and writer of the blog A Beautiful Mess, a company that hinges on inspiration, imagination, and creativity. Her success story is based on her ability to avoid burnout. When working on different projects, she suggests five tips to stay inspired: first, “carry a journal”; second, “find a new muse”; third, “develop a creative playlist”; fourth, “refresh your workspace”; and finally, “prove yourself wrong” by making a list of “the impossible” and then accomplishing those goals. When freelance writers evaluate how they are feeling about a project, they can try these ideas to continue staying inspired.

Maybe freelancer writers need to get away. Where should freelancer writers go to find inspiration? As Elsie Larson suggests, freelance writers could try a flea market, the library, a local historic district, or a bookstore. Perhaps they would prefer to go outdoors: have a picnic, take a country drive, or check out a flower shop. These ideas are just a few places for freelance writers to go to avoid writing burnout and to become more inspired.

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Conclusion

Freelance writers must recognize their career goals and work hard. As wealthy freelance writers, the reality of writing burnout is important to be aware of and to recognize. Freelance writers should be conscious of how they are feeling about work. Then freelance writers can adapt to their needs easier. As a result, wealthy freelance writers may be emotionally and mentally fit—in the workforce and in life.

image from here


 Works Cited

Heartbeat

madera-contrachapada-ocre

Last night when I lay down sickly,

Resting my tired head on the table,

My ear against that smooth surface,

I heard thu-thump, thu-thump,

And for a yielding second,

I truly believed that I was listening to

The wood’s heartbeat—

Its soul connecting with mine.

Of course, it was only my own quick heart,

Thumping loudly in my tiring ears.

But there was a connection, spiritual and soft

Between the ancient, stricken tree and me.

Written Wednesday: Sarah Perkins

My dear friend, Sarah Perkins, has shared one of her essays on the blog today! She’s such a talented writer. Enjoy!

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“Bears”

To Big Bear, the most domesticated grizzly I ever knew. Merry Christmas, Daddy.


Old Ephraim is supposed to be the biggest grizzly bear that ever lived. He stood at nine feet, eleven inches, and weighed about 1,100 pounds (which is approximately equivalent to 4.6 NFL linebackers sitting together on a scale). Though he had a big heart and no natural enemies, he had but few friends. This may have been due to his tendency to devour the local sheep. They were conveniently scattered around his mountain home, and after a long day of foraging for nuts and tubers, he would often climb into his neighbors’ pasture for a late night snack. Lamb is widely acknowledged to be tastier than tuber.

The shepherds did not understand. Although Old Ephraim was capable of living on huckleberries and wheat grass, his body was made for meat. Grizzly bears have 42 sharp teeth for tearing meat, strong noses for smelling meat, rounded ears for hearing future meat, and a carnivore’s stomach for digesting meat. The berries are their salad—the promise that another, better course is about to come. Why then do we deny them their caribou? Their delicious hoary marmots? Why do we wish to confine them to cutworm moths and hide away the bison?

I imagine a few shepherds may have tried to suggest a compromise.

“Look here, Ephraim,” they may have said, “You can’t go about eating all the sheep. But you may eat the ground squirrels. Please, eat all the squirrels you like. And the raccoons, as well. There are more than enough of them for you.”

But Ephraim swings his big, furry head and walks back up into the mountain. He is a big bear, and ground squirrels are toothpicks, not meals. He will return later that night and borrow another cup of lamb.

Old Ephraim was a smart bear. Many shepherds would lay traps for him, only to return and find them sprung and empty except for a rock. We can only infer that grizzly bears, as notable sports enthusiasts, have a strong arm and superior aim.

An outdoorsman, too, Old Ephraim was. Most bears are, for that matter, always hiking, and fishing, and spelunking. In the spring and summer, they sleep outside, limbs reaching out across the grass or curling loosely about a serviceable log. A log is really all they need. They are solitary sportsmen. Having stayed up through the night, they are likely to sleep most of the morning and early afternoon. When they do arise, perhaps they will wish for something to do. Most bears can climb trees, but not the adult grizzly. Old Ephraim would have been too big, and his claws too long. He could not have even grasped the trunk. This should not be seen as a significant loss, however, as few sheep live in those branches, and even fewer caribou.

So instead, Ephraim must have gone on a swim. Bear Lake, nestled in the heart of Cache National Forest, is big and lonely and old. Old Ephraim identified with it. He would lumber into its depths and allow the current to fish ticks and thorns out of his coat, then paddle his way through his geographical namesake. The trout would avoid him, the minnows would speed away, but he was not forlorn. Old Ephraim was a reclusive fellow and did not protest against the squelchy peace.

Afterwards he would crawl beneath a willow tree, lie on his back, and let the branches filter the sun upon his grizzled snout. (Grizzly, the piebald mix of grey and brown and gold upon a single hair, should never be confused with grisly, which is a synonym for behemoth mosquitoes and dental appointments.) Under the tree, he would ponder the solitary delights of honey-fresh beehives and fleshy lamb chops served exclusively to him. It would be a simple, sleepy afternoon.

I read in a book about Berserks: (Bear-surks) Norse warriors who wore bear skins into battle. They believed this gave them the same ferocious aggression as their furred counterparts. Some scholars believed they achieved this by working themselves into a frenzy before a fight. Their faces would swell, their teeth would chatter, and they would begin beating their chests and clawing their hair and running about the woods on all fours. Others claim they would eat a hallucinogenic mushroom or drink a whole cask of beer. On one point, however, all scholars are generally agreed: they must have been very warm under all that fur.

We may assume from their assumptions that these Bear-people were at one time shepherds, who are prone to think of bears only as the shadowy cause behind missing sheep. They clearly did not see Old Ephraim lounging beneath a tree while the honeybees hummed lazy warbles in drippy yellow sun light. If they had, perhaps they would have chosen to be a Great White Shark-serk, or an Angry Rhinoceros-serk. But shepherds do not keep much company with grizzly bears, and cannot be expected to notice anything but the stained wool their carnivorous neighbors leave behind.

Frank Clark was a shepherd. The details are hazy, but we do know that he shot Old Ephraim on August 22, 1923. He shot him seven times until he died. Though Frank Clark felt sorrow, his sheep bleated relief.

I have seen Old Ephraim’s grave; my dad took our family to see it once. It is situated at the end of a 12 mile road up a mountain. It was a long path, but we had a car, so the journey would be short. On the way, Dad told us about the bear.

“Eleven feet tall,” Dad said, “With an appetite big as the mountains he roved. And nothing but fated sheep, and baby orphan deerlings, and pulpy human flesh could satisfy.”

The stories lasted for thirty minutes, by which time we were, in our innocence, expecting a gold encrusted statue of Bearzilla, preserved DNA samples for cloning purposes, and a themed ice cream shop serving cones the size of his actual fangs. We were young, and our imagination of fang ice cream was vivid.

However we could not anticipate the road that remained before us. Twelve miles up a graveled, zigzagged, mountained road is different than twelve miles in Texas. The park guide book states that The Old Ephraim Trail should be considered by solid intermediate bike riders only, but gives no instructions for the tenuous suburban rider. The path was steep, and our suburban was scratched up by the low living trees that it was too big to climb.

“I do not think I would like to hike today” the suburban said. “My axles are hurting. And my undercarriage is abraised. I would like to take a rest here, and then roll and roll my way, zip, back down the mountain and home to Texas where the roads are flat and the trees grow beside the path, not upon it.”

We did not reply, for car-speaking is generally a frowned upon endeavor. Dad accelerated up another switchback.

Traveling at a rate of 184 acorns per minute, we reached the grave after two hours. Here we were surprised to find not an ice cream shop, not a statue, but a rock. A nine foot, eleven inch tall rock. It was large, and creviced, and tan, and decidedly not the same thing as a bear. We took a picture by this rock. In it my sister is frowning. I asked if she was mourning Old Ephraim.

“No,” she said, “I am mourning the journey back.”

Hers was a discerning statement, for there was little here to mourn. In truth, this was not even where Old Ephraim died. Shepherds and boy scouts placed the rock here because the trees looked nice, so the rock was more of a so-once-there-was-this-bear than a here-lies-Old-Ephraim kind of rock. In fact, Old Ephraim was not here at all. His bones are not blanketed in layers of earth and tubers, left to chatter convivially with centipedes or other soil-friendly creatures. Rather they are resting on a windowsill, or maybe serving as a paperweight on a stack of legal documents. An old man from Paris, Texas subconsciously picks up the bleached phalange and turns it around in his fingers before setting it back down and making another note in his book.

After Frank Clark shot Old Ephraim, he removed his skin, buried his remains, and marked the spot with a pile of stones, the tallest of which was approximately eight inches tall, which is 94% less tall than the no-bear-here rock. These stones Boy Scout Troop 43 found, and with them Old Ephraim.

“Scouts, we shall dig up the bones and sell them to tourists,” they say. “It will be easy and brilliant and thrifty.” So the scouts take shovels and rediscover the departed bear. He is 86% lighter than before, and they sell his bones until he is 100% dismembered and dispersed across the continental United States, his skull being in the Smithsonian, and his third vertebrae being in Grandma Opal’s basement.

This of course is a highly efficient method of diffusing your genetic coding, especially if you, like most male grizzly bears, are estranged from your offspring and cannot otherwise know the fate of your biological legacy. Grizzly bears do not make ideal fathers. Before his death, Old Ephraim’s wife had finalized the divorce and taken full custody of their children. She called them Little Ephraim and Manasseh, and together they wandered through Cache National Forest where she taught them to stand in the stream with their mouths wide open and let the swimming, leaping salmon hop into their fruitious jaws.

“Free!” cried the salmon, “I am flying and free!”

Chomp chomp chomp.

These salmon travel over 900 miles every year, swimming upstream, bounding over waterfalls like a mad, sodden kangaroo, all so they may spawn in the riverbed. Laying eggs for the salmon is not an easy task, for upon completing their journey and anchoring their embryonic posterity in a mossy nest, the salmon die. They hold on as long as they can, the female adding more algae to her offspring’s bedding, the male butting and biting intruders with the hump and teeth he grew just for this occasion. But the salmon get homesick. They were not meant for this tiny, lichen-y, insignificant-y biome. Though their hearts and eggs are in a pond, their bodies long for the ocean. The fresh water disagrees with them, and eventually they die, 942.7 miles inland from the Pacific coast. Their bodies decay, depositing nutrients in the waters their children will be born in. When they awake shrouded by particles of their parents, the next generation will slip away, down, down into the ocean where they will see the humpback whale clear his spout, and feed on arctic squid and herring, and learn to speak Russian.

And when they are grown, these salmon will return to these rivers, hurdling to their death, swimming, swimming, swimming back to the same nesting waters they were born in. And if they are not eaten by Little Ephraim or Manasseh, here they will gurgle “Thank you Mother. Thank you Father. I will now be a parent like you. I will grow teeth and a hump and let my body dissolve into nutritious molecules for my children, and they will grow happy and strong as I have done.”

Old Ephraim did no such thing. He was not interested in children. He left his family before they were born, moving on to greener pastures full of sheep. And he was a free bear, forever unencumbered by hunting education, or first claws, or escorted trips to the bathroom during hibernation. If he did stay, as grizzly bear fathers sometimes do, he may have eaten his cubs—blind, bald, less than a pound—confusing them with a mole or maybe a delicious hoary marmot that snuck into his cave to escape the cold.

So Ephraim cartwheeled himself away from domestic responsibility to swim and eat sheep and nap by the lake as the day is long. And when he was shot, he did not know the names of Little Ephraim or Manasseh, and they did not know that he never climbed a tree, or that his skeleton reaches from San Francisco to Connecticut, or that the big rock stuck half way up the mountain was a monument to their father, the hermit patriarch of the forest.

But there are many taxonomies of father-figures, and not all of them are separated by species. Some salmon live out their days cradled in the infinite expanse of murky, waterlogged possibility. Some grizzly bears stay.

My dad stands in front of Old Ephraim’s rock. He is big and muscular and furry. I imagine him slouching towards us, imposing and hungry, with barred teeth and a wrinkled grizzly snout. His growls are similar to his snores—congested and impossible to ignore. Victoria would be the first to go: she is younger and slower and her scream is shriller than the rest of ours. He swallows her feet whole, gulp, then takes the rest of her behind the suburban to munch on. The rest of us he leaves father-less, sister-less, and bereft.

I try to imagine these things, but I can’t, because my father is not a bear. But if he was, he would be the kind that lies on his back beneath the willow tree and lets me lie beside him, and together we count the branches and yawn at the sun and lick the honey drips that slide down our too-long grizzly bear claws.

Creative Fiction: “Ekpipto”

He knew that he had fallen. He felt like someone or something was watching him.

Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?[1]

As SMSN[2] waited, chained against the cold stone, he knew that living and pretending as he did among the E.O.[3] had brought about this end. He had been called to save his people, the PRLTRT,[4] from the BRGS.[5] He had fallen in love with a woman, a woman whom he had never met before and would never see again. She was a stranger, but he was a stranger to her country. He was called to search for the books, for the words of Truth. His people would not die in ignorance. The priests would rejoice. SMSN would finally be a hero. But SMSN had failed. He told his secret identity to the woman he loved. She told the E.O. who he was. Now he was to be tortured.

Before he had ever come to this foreign land, he had been warned of what would happen if he would fail. The priests told them that any traitor to the cause of the E.O. would endure intense suffering and extreme torture. He was warned about the process of losing the senses. SMSN now knew what would happen to him in this pit of hell.

And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen.[6]

He had fallen in the land of GZ,[7] the very land he was suppose to destroy. SMSN had failed.

And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.[8]

The fault was all his own. He knew what he had done. It was delicious pain.[9] He could dare to admit his wrongs even here, in the darkest of caves, on the darkest of nights, below the deepest level of hell.[10] He felt like someone or something was watching him.

And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.[11]

This was to be his punishment. His senses that connected him to this world would be taken from him. A creature designed to torture entered the far side of the room. Its neck twitched with excitement. XXX[12] found particular pleasure in the five-senses-removal process. This meticulous process required palpable skills and perceptive style.

First, touch.

Which are after the doctrines and commandments of men, who teach you to touch not, … handle not; all those things which are to perish with the using?[13]

These words seemed to flow through his body seamlessly.

“The priests of YHWH[14] had taught me from childhood,” thought SMSN, “as well as MNH,[15] the male, and MRY,[16] the female, from the time of my birth.”

In an earlier era, MNH and MRY, a heterosexual couple partnered about thirty years before the language revolution,[17] would have been called the father and the mother of SMSN. But in the surge of egalitarianism, all parents, whether heterosexual or homosexual or transsexual, were stripped of any label of father or mother. The names designating roles and responsibilities were ordered to be erased from all records under Appeal 274 of Equality.[18]

Step one was completed. As pain swelled in rushing waves through his body, he dared to look down at his fingertips. The tips of his fingers—all ten—were gone. SMSN clenched his eyes shut, focusing on the words. He felt like someone or something was watching him.

In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.[19]

Second, taste.

SMSN had eaten the forbidden fruit. The snake had been too beautiful, too tempting. The face of SMSN was injected with a numbing solution. He was fully awake and could still feel some pain. However, the cutting of the tongue was significantly less painful than the severing of the fingers below the nail. The numbing solution also disabled his ability to scream. He was silenced completely. He would never again be able to say the name of his lover, DS.[20]

Third, hearing.

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.[21]

He would never hear the world above. He would never hear the world below. He would never hear the voice of DS again. Alone, he would hear silence. XXX computerized to inject the syringe above and to the side of the cheekbones so no numbing solution would impact the side of the face of SMSN. The ears of SMSN were in full-feeling effect. If SMSN had been able to scream, he would not have been able to hear his own cries.

SMSN focused on the verses that he thought almost mindlessly through the synapsis in his brain. SMSN was to be the chosen one. He was selected to not go to the regular school. MRY had had a vision. She had heard the voice of YHWH. While still a baby, he was smuggled, unbeknown to the E.O. or the system and raised by the priests. Instead of going to L.S.,[22] the priests taught him what other students were not taught. Children in L.S. were shown pictures on a moving screen with images that flashed by. One student was rumored to have asked, “If I don’t remember it happening, then it never happened?” This was the deadliest question. The purpose of the pictures on the screen were to remember what had happened. Most of the images were of footage of before the Crisis, before WWIV. These children were not taught what had happened or why; they were just shown that it had happened. This was real.

After those news programs, students were shown pictures of YHWH and miracles on the ever-glowing, ever-teaching magical screen. They had been saved. They would not be cursed again, like their forefathers had been. They would not be wiped from the face of the earth. The earth had been cleansed by water. The earth had been cleansed by bomb. Now the earth would be cleansed by products. The E.O. were, of course, over the production and selling and selling of the items of pleasure. Large pictures and posters would be spread around the small gathering areas where the people of SMSN would gawk and stare and drool over the newest item of pleasure. The people of SMSN were quite poor but several items of pleasures were especially marketed for them. The richest and the poorest both could enjoy the items of pleasures. Beautiful, smiling women help luscious clothing. Tall, dark men wore bracelets that shined like the sun. Certainly, some of these items of pleasure were not quite at the same quality as these images depicted, but what did it matter. The people of SMSN had been saved on purpose and had every right to enjoy pleasures. No need to think critically. No need to analyze. The E.O. would tell you everything you need to know. They were now the chosen ones.

Of course, SMSN was chosen. But he was also selected. SMSN was taught by the priests the ways of deceit and cunning. He was taught how to fight and how to break, to lie, to cheat, to steal. He grew in strength. Most importantly, the priests of YHWH read SMSN from the S.B.[23] He heard the verses, the words of the YHWH. He was taught by hearing. The priests would force him to memorize, to reiterate, to recite until the words fell from his mouth like mana fell from heaven for the people of MSS.[24] SMSN would not worship the idol; he would rend the earth in half with his might. He would save their people from ignorance.

Yet SMSN was not entirely trusted by the priests because SMSN was not taught how to read. Reading was considered too powerful; reading caused men to think and to reason. Reading, or words specifically, were dangerous. Reading is what had caused the Crisis. It had ended millions of lives. Had not the priests taught SMSN that even MSS could not read the ten commandments as they were written, but rather YHWH had told Moses what to say to the people?

But SMSN yearned to know the real spelling of his name. The one thing children were taught was how to spell their names. Documents, of course, still had to be signed. A few other words could be picked out, but mainly children who grew up to become adults only knew their own name and maybe the name of their partner. He believed learning his real name, his real spelling would be the source of his real identity. Those words that spelt his name would be his Ideal, his Form, his Self. In other words, those words would spell out his true identity. Not the false name he created for himself. Not the name he still called himself, SMSN. But his real, true identity would finally become a reality.

Fourth, smell.

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?[25]

SMSN knew he was no longer whole. He felt like someone or something was watching him.

He had given himself to DS, worshiped her, kissed her feet, and fallen on his knees for her. He had sacrificed, given everything for her. But why? She had lied to him, telling him that she knew what it was like to be an outsider, to be an outcast, to want something more out of life. Together, they would escape this world. Together, they would run away from it all. Together, they would transcend this world by running away to the North Kingdom, an empty land where vagabonds and cannibals were rumored to roam and hunt for human flesh. After their plans they made, SMSN knew he had passed the turning point. There was no going back. He had known that he would tell her everything in the fragrant swallows of the evening’s dimming dawn of darkness. He could never go back now. But he did not know it would end with this.

XXX knew its purpose. Its job was to complete the task. Losing one’s sense of smell was a process. It was the longest step. It was the fourth most painful sort of torture known to humans. It was a simple process: simply wave a precise mixture of the bottles labeled L2, O, L2. XXX was efficient. It did its job. It was calculated to give Subject 24718-JKB a shot of adrenaline at precisely 10.4 seconds after the solution was completely smelled. Subjects were never supposed to go unconscious. Subjects must be awake for the entire process. Each step was a process. Each step was a process. Each step was a process. Each step was a process.

XXX began, slowly, to shut down. XXX was created to shut down after step four.

SMSN jerked back into consciousness. He was awake but barely. His eyes streamed with tears that he could not brush away. His eyes were the only thing he had left. He could see that XXX was no longer moving. Somehow XXX had shut down, apparently automatically. There was no binary switch for on or off from what SMSN could see with his two eyes.

SMSN sat there for a few moments in the dark. He felt like someone or something was watching him. He was confused. His precious eyes were left for last, but who—or what—would complete the deed? SMSN began to shake harder than ever before. Not knowing what would happen next terrified him the most. He muttered under his breath these words to try to calm his shaking hands and shrinking spirits:

Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.[26]

Almost two hundred years after the bomb, the era of schwas and diphthongs was over. The masses were reduced down to mere signs. A child was assigned one or more consonants to be known by. This revealed the worth of the child. A one-consonant child was worth less than a two-consonant child, etc. Not even YHWH used vowels–only an elect few knew that the BRGS[27] could buy vowels. SMSN, a child worth four consonants, was one of the elect. The rulers of the E.O., could afford vowels.

A man in black descended the stairs. He blended into his surroundings so at first SMSN did not see him. Then another and another and another descended, like demons returning to the thick darkness of a cave. They preferred the blackness where they sought their Truth.

One man with particularly long, black gloves drew a curtain. SMSN had not noticed it before. His eyes strained, but he could not tell if the shadows were talking. They moved and moved slowly, but he could not tell whether their lips moved as well. Hearing nothing and seeing these silhouettes before him were chilling. The dark curtain was drawn and behind it was a simple stage.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.[28]

SMSN had sinned. He knew it. He wanted to confess to these black shadows all he had done, but he could no longer speak. He then realized that these shadows that were humans had come to finish his last act of torture. It would be not merely a physical ending but a psychological ending, he could tell.

The play began. It was a puppet show. Invisible beings moved the strings. A lonely puppet stood in the center of the stage.

Someone had disappeared. The lonely puppet was warned but defied the warning. The villain, an elongated masked puppet, was searching for something, gained information from a letter, and attempted to trick his victim via another letter. However, the lonely puppet intercepted the letter. This letter was worn and torn, scrolling down and around the lonely puppet’s body like a serpent entangling its victim and preparing to attack. Rather than forwarding the letter, the lonely puppet destroyed the letter. He tore the letter, piece by piece. Next, he tossed the fragments of the letter into a burning fire pit that sending shadows to darken the face of SMSN.

After the destruction was complete, the lonely puppet departed into a wilderness on a mission to escape from bondage of society and ensure his freedom. In this wilderness of endless sand, the lonely puppet grew weary, losing strength every haggard step he took. But the lonely puppet stumbled upon a pouch that was full of effervescent water in the middle of this desert. Suddenly, the masked puppet arrived on the scene, having found the lonely puppet. The two puppets dueled. It was impossible to tell from one moment to the next who would win. The lonely puppet stabbed the masked puppet with his paper sword, and when the masked puppet died, the desert vanished.

It had all been an illusion. The masked puppet, a sorcerer and magician, shimmered into a thousand pieces, scattering among the wind. The lonely puppet wandered off, searching for his home, a place he had not returned to for a very long time. He left the wilderness and was back in the city. Chased by little puppet dogs, the lonely puppet arrived at his home safely. But he sat on a chair, alone in his room. No other puppet entered the scene. No solution was offered, no exposure was made, no transfiguration occurred. Neither a wedding nor punishment happened. The lonely puppet just sat alone in the room, unremembered, unwanted, unrecognized in his isolation.

When SMSN had been escorted down the steps into the room of torture, he had seen lines scribbled on the wall. The E.O. were educated men and women. Sometimes lines were seen covered on walls, although these held no meaning for him. The guard recited the first line, and these words now echoed in the mind of SMSN:

In recognizing Oedipus or Medea in ourselves, we recognize that what can happen to that sort of person can happen to us as well, because we have just come to recognize that we ourselves that sort of person—that we are, to that extent, Oedipus or Medea ourselves.[29]

Who was this Oedipus? This Medea? He yearned to scream it out loud. Yet no one could answer his question now. Right before the guard and SMSN entered the room of torture, the guard had recited another quote:

Incidents of drama itself . . . . teaches the audience something important about life and fate, even if, as I believe, it is not clear whether we can say in general terms what this lesson is or, indeed, whether there is a single lesson that tragedy teaches beyond expanding our sense of factors that can affect the shape of our life. Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude.[30]

The thoughts of SMSN trailed now as he watched the lonely puppet on the stage. SMSN had not and did not understand these words. He wondered if the play was supposed to mean something to him. He did not know whether the drama was meant to influence his emotions in some way or if it was some strange set of motions to create confusion for himself. Or, he wondered, if the play was in some way an original creation set out for its own purpose of merely existing just as he was created for the mere usage of being in existence. Could the plot merely be attempting to internalize resolution of its tragic nature rather than considering his response as the sole audience member? Did the invisible puppet master not care that he was present—he still existed?

After that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.[31]

The play was coming near the close; SMSN could sense it. He would lose his sight as soon as the curtain was lowered on the stage. The madness would finally finish.

The lonely puppet climbed a fabricated staircase, winding up and up and up. He reached a tall building with many windows that glowed of deceitful warmness, ricocheting more shadows in all directions. After the lonely puppet climbed the stars, he reached the top of the building. He stood, arms stretched out to the heavens. The stars–tiny, flickering lights surrounded in the darkness–blinked on and off, on and off.

And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.[32]

With his arms still outstretched, the lonely puppet took a step off the building and fell. The curtain closed. SMSN shook with a terrible force.

The E.O. had an approved list of teaching material, otherwise coded as DAGON,[33] mainly of old television programs or news reports, or so the rumor had been spread when SMSN was still in L.S. The S.B. was one on the approved list. It was used to calm the people. He had been on an errand of truth, a quest for the ideal, but it soon became a search for the true name of SMSN. He yearned to know his true identity. How was his name suppose to be? What would it look like? What would it feel, look like written out? SMSN’s original quest was to search for the books that were not on that list made by the E.O. To find out the names, the real names, of titles that had been considered improper. The purpose of him entering GZ was to save his people. The source of truth, the source of reality was to be found in the list of books that were forbidden.

The center of the city in GZ was a giant orb on top of a high building, stretching into the sky. This orb sent silent vibrations through the city. At high-speed velocities, these vibrations could detect the code in the hair and sometimes even the clothing of the PRLTRT versus BRGS. SMSN did not completely comprehend how this machine worked, but its power rested purely on the exterior, detecting any unwarranted visitors to the city of the elect.

The priests had developed a way to rewire the code encrypted into the hair of SMSN. It was done through high-tech software that the priests had stolen and had been working on for years before SMSN was born. The orb would be unable to detect the false code signaling the identity of SMSN. SMSN was to become part of the BRGS. The only thing that would give away his identity would be a reversal of the code in his hair. The priests had given SMSN fresh clothes, which were also stolen from BRGS.

But SMSN became sidetracked from his quest. While hiding among the E.O. in GZ, SMSN had taken upon him the name of ISH,[34] but when SMSN met DS, she made him feel emotions he had not dreamt were possible of in the land of his people, where women were nothing compared to the greatness of DS. She had told him that she would tell him his true name if he would but reveal his consonants. But their love had been a false one. When he had told her all, she had betrayed him while he still slept in her arms. She was to reveal his secrecy, and in the dead of night, men, spying in their secret eyes hidden about the room, hanging from ceilings and tucked under tiles,[35] had come while he was still asleep, injecting him with a solution so he would remain asleep and innocuous. His false DS,[36] his idol, had betrayed him. He had sold his mess of pottage; she had cut his hair.

She took his hair to the E.O., who would soon discover the secret of the priests’ endeavors to hide the identity of SMSN. Probably not very long after the punishment of SMSN would be completed, the priests would be punished, as well. They had been warned. They had been found wanting. They would receive their just rewards. The wicked would not prevail. E.O. would rule without conflict. They would continue to sell their gizmos and gadgets, their toys and their entertainments for the pleasure of the PRLTRT. One day, no one else would resist. The minds of the PRLTRT would be too absorbed by the toys of the E.O. No long would the people of SMSN question the control of the E.O. The PRLTRT would become slaves to their passions rather than defenders of their rights.

Fifth, sight.

SMSN shuddered, violently and forcefully, in the fiercest, sharpest of pain. He never learnt if he had dreamt in the depths of his unconsciousness after losing his sense of smell or had actually seen the haunting vision in reality. He was left in darkness, never to see his Form written in letters and consonants.

All that remained were mere mirrored memories upon the glassy smear of his mind.

 

~ Footnotes:

[1] Genesis 4:6

[2] Pronounced Samson, according to the section of pronunciation guide in E.O.’s New Order: An Abbreviated Dictionary of Shortened Language. After the bomb destroyed approximately 79.4% of the earth’s population, the E.O. (Elite Order), or previous rulers that survived and about .2% of the remaining population, gathered together to establish a united language and simply terms to communicate completely, concisely, compliantly, and clearly. Only 1.93% could read this new, condensed dictionary.

[3]Acronym, using only vowels, Elite Order

[4] Acronym, using only vowels, Proletariat

[5] Acronym, using only vowels, Bourgeoisie

[6] Isaiah 21:9

[7] Pronounced Gaza, a land currently covering the Midwest of the United States of America.

[8] Revelation 14:8

[9] SMSN could possibly be referring to Giuseppe Verdi’s La traviata. A man, who falls in love with a prostitute, rejects the reality of her occupation present before him to focus on the qualities that he loves. This eventually brings about their separation, which enhances the tragedy that will undeniably happen at the end of the opera with the prostitute’s death.

[10] Possibly in reference to Dante’s Inferno

[11]Deuteronomy 4:28

[12] Pronounced, Extermination Version 30. This is in reference to its model number.

[13] Colossians 2:21–22.

[14] “The tetragrammaton (from Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning “four letters”) is the Hebrew theonym יהוה, commonly transliterated into Latin letters as YHWH. It is one of the names of the God of Israel used in the Hebrew Bible.”

[15] Pronounced Manoah

[16] Pronounced Mary. Records show that there was a high spike in partners selecting this name for their child around this time. Mary was approximately 15 when she gave birth to her first son, Samson.

[17] After the Bomb: A new order of time was established.

[18] The Appeals of Equality came into effect shortly approximately seventy-eight years before the bomb occurred.

[19] Genesis 2:17

[20] Pronounced Dios. Believed by some to be the word for gods in the forgotten romantic language, Spanish. This became a popular first name among the selection of daughters by the E.O., who were not commanded to multiple and replenish the earth.

[21] Mark 4:23

[22] Acronym using consonants, Learning Suite. Education did not have the status of using vowels in its abbreviation. L.S. years would be the years generally associated with elementary school in the late twentieth to early twenty-first century. Therefore, this would be about kindergarten through fifth- or sixth-grade. However, in the years following the bomb, the E.O. declared that children would go to school from age 4–5 until puberty, for “the multiplying and replenishing of the earth” as taught in the S.B. (see footnote 21). Children were then assigned partners, based on preferred sexual orientation; therefore, children had the option of selecting a homosexual or heterosexual relationship under Appeal 274 of Equality, but homosexual partners were given children from other parents who had died or were considered unfit. Suite is in reference to the fact that children were sent away from school, such as with boarding schools in the United Kingdom and other European countries.

[23] Acronym using consonants, Select Bible. Even high literature did not have the status of using vowels in abbreviation. Around 9 A.B., the E.O. created a committee called the R.S. This committee did not have the status of using vowels.

[24] Pronounced Moses

[25] 1 Corinthians 12:17

[26]2 Corinthians 8:21

[27] Pronounced Bourgeoisie, an antiquated French term that persisted approximately 112 years after the bomb. Some believe that this is equated with the prevalent survival rate of the French, who had retreated into Switzerland before the explosion. Some critics would argue the French contributed heavily to the E.O.’s New Order: An Abbreviated Dictionary of Shortened Language, while others would say that their prevalence is quite less obvious.

[28] Romans 5:12

[29] Believed to have been written by Alexander Nehamas.

[30] Ibid

[31] Mark 13:23

[32] Mark 13:24

[33] Judges 16:23 “Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice”

[34] Pronounced Isaiah. Believed by some to be a prophet in ancient times.

[35] Perhaps this is in reference to hidden cameras or a sort of unknown code conveying images from area 1 to area 2 in order for information to be revealed about something occurring in area 1.

[36] Upon further research in recent years, Dios is believed to have been an agent for the E.O. Some critics, however, argue about her role. Some wonder whether she could have been a double agent. Others argue about what role could she have played.

 

~ Some Explanation:

Ekpipto, as used here in the title, in Greek means the following: “to fall, to perish, to fall powerless, to fall … of the divine promise of salvation.” This short story is about the fall of a man, ultimately in the quest for Truth. This dystopian/philosophical/1982/The Tree of Life/the gloss of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”/biblical/YA novel-esque (Unwind specifically) short story is weird and … well, just straight-up weird.

But it incorporates ideas of Saussure (the idea of signs, the use of language/names, and the importance that has in this society), Baudrillard (the use of television for education and the hyperreality; whether SMSN dreamed or if it was reality), Plato (the cave/shadows/forms, searching for the truth/ideal, and the idea of preferring spoken above written language), and even Aristotle (the idea of the form of drama in addition to criticism by Nehamas).

There is also irony in the sense of the futurist critic, writing biasedly throughout in the margins, looking back at a earlier point in the future (from our perspective as the reader), as if it is a piece of art to critique; perhaps this is in reference to Wilde and the idea of a critic being more important than the art itself and the emphasis on creating, in fact constantly creating to find the new, rather than the actually reaching the certain point of the said-end creation.

Additionally, Nietzsche could perhaps be seen in this short story; the quote “God is dead” could have popped up in the dialogue at any point, and the idea of society constructing truths, which are actually lies, in order to create structure is prevalent throughout the story.

Of course, the Platonic forms is invariably important for consideration, but this piece becomes even more interesting when Foucaultian concepts of power play and a new type of Panopticon comes into the picture. The proletariat and bourgeoisie of Marx are presented in the different levels of this future society.

Additionally, this story presents the fact that consumerism that is still prevalent and the culture industry is still going strong—even in the future (poor Adorno and Horkheimer would be rolling in their graves). Perhaps the desire to obtain poetry becomes a type of religious quest for SMSN—hence, harkening to the theory of Arnold.

Creative Fiction: “Travel Machine”

Salvador Dali, “Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers,” 1936

 Time travel—it is impossible, no?

Studying, studying, studying; researching, researching, researching. No use, you would think, after years of, well, working, searching, finding what I could in what was left of the university libraries, in my spare time, of course.

No one goes to college anymore. How could this be? How had this happened? The locks are not that hard to break. So that is why, why in fact, the reason why I broke the law, I broke into the libraries, whenever I could and whenever I was guaranteed not to get caught, although, really, it’s not too difficult to be caught, since, well, remember the laws that were made years—oh how many years has it been?—but that really doesn’t matter, the year I was turning fifteen.

That’s what it was. Yes, the year I changed was the year the war happened and when the peace treaty was made between the Germanic States of Europe, the Portuguese States of Europe, and the British States of Europe, that was when the universities were locked up. Education was exterminated because no one, God knows only why, needed to know how to read. Immediate, mindless work was much more effective for the masses. Was it not? But I broke the law—the cause is justifiable, no?

My name is. . . I don’t remember now. I found my name, written out, in the records, hidden deep within the labyrinth of the library. My parents. My sister. My brother. Their names, there they were, written on the white page like seals pressed into the edges of time. I wanted, you know, to check, of course, to see if I was real. Real, we were all real, in the pages of books.

Why, books, have you been cast aside? Burned by so many after the war? Broken apart by those who searched for ways to keep their broken, shriveling bodies warm.

The cause—the cause to go to the past. To return to the golden era. The turn of the twentieth century, the age when almost anything was possible, where rights were expanded, and people began to fight for what they really believed in.

Not like this current cesspool of flashing, broken images streaked across the burning, midnight skies and dawning evening dusks.

I would write. I would write the greatest of things. I would save my people through thoughts and ideas and words, and they would learn, yes they would, they would learn the importance of words and literature. They could be saved.

The masses, the groaning masses, could find salvation.

It was during these midnight break-ins that I’d make my greatest break-throughs. Languages, I know four (German, English, French, Russian). Sciences, from Einstein to Newton to Bohr. For fun, I’d study Plato, Aristotle, Kant . . . But the one section I always returned to for hours and hours was the area that had books about time travel.

My favorite author, an Englishman, was inspired. The Muses spoke to him. Science spoke to him. Angels spoke to him. Something or whatever spoke to him, or maybe it was just his own genius altogether, but his writings lifted my mind to higher realms of inspiration and glory. Oh, how I miss those silent nights with the books that were left and the haunted memories of past students roaming through the aisles.

It was on one of these nights, so long ago, that I made a decision. The pages of a particular book, bended and faded, torn and worn, felt so crisp and thin in my hand. I turned the pages so many times, reading each line with a furious hunger. Why not, I asked myself, do what this very character did? He went to the future; I can return to the past.

For ages, I longed to write my own book. My book would be spread underground and read by thousands. Eventually, my visions, my theories would change the world and infiltrate to the top. People would be forced to hear what I believed. People would be forced to see the world in a new light. People would be forced to read.

Works of great literature should be whole. Like scientist’s theories were complete and exact, so would my greatest contribution to the written word be. My ideas would flow like great rivers I had never seen or the fresh ocean water I had heard about only in these dusty books I stole, or barrowed, of course, barrowed, you know, for reading purposes. My writing would be an organic unity of wholeness. How could it not?

But I lacked any original ideas, or so I thought. Even my idea to create a time machine was based on an idea that had been going on forever. This time, rather than going to the future, I would return to the past.

By going to the past, I would ask the writer of this book, my favorite author, for inspiration. How did he create his ideas? How did the Muses speak to him? How did his mind work? We would have an actual conversation, face-to-face. He would like me. I would like him. We would become friends. I would no longer be alone in the labyrinth of books. Then I would write my book, return to my time in the future, and change the world.

I took a risk—I took my precious book from the library to my home. It wasn’t really stealing, no; it was not to be missed among the other rows of books that were left.

I read the book over and over again. Some pages tore just from their delicate states. Additional trips, during riskier times of day, mid-morning and late afternoon (midnight was the best time to go), were made. No one ever broke into the library—no one but me. But, of course, I wasn’t breaking in. I was just exploring the world of knowledge the world did not see.

During these extra hours, I read even more than I had before, trying to create a way, through the piles of theories I read, to fulfill my desire to return to my idealized precursor. Years passed by. One day, while sketching on some torn sheets of paper, I found my eureka. For months I built my time machine, using old desks and old electricity wires and metal from around the library. It took diligence. Once it was created, I knew, I knew it would work.

But it needed to be tested, you know, like scientists test hypothesizes with little mice or birds with grey feathers, so I set the dial back to one day, at university library. I saw blurred visions zoom past my eyes, and when it stopped, I was, as the clock indicated, exactly one day previous to the day I finished the time machine. In my excitement, my fixation, I choose to go back in time to meet my favorite author where he lived and wrote. I set the dial for 1895, pulled the lever three notches down, and zoomed faster and faster into the past.

The dial began to spin, turning, turning, turning backwards. Over what felt like a few seconds to me, I began to see the dial spin close to the 1900s. The blurry images surrounding my machine began to slow, and the dial eventually came to a stop. Right as the dial was about to click, I noticed an image, which seemed to be glaring at me from the end of a long corridor. The machine stopped, and soon I realized we were not in some hallway.

Rather, it was dark, and it was night. It must have been a forgotten alleyway. I checked the time and place to make sure and then unlocked my door. Stepping out of the time machine, I noticed that it was exceedingly dark. There were no flashing lights, no glaring screens, no block long advertisements. Vibrant darkness in all its glory screamed to my soul at what I had done.

As I stood by my time machine, I did not realize at first what was happening. I was quite dizzy and felt a bit sick. My ears were ringing like haunted bells churning in a dark nightmare. Resting my hand and left side upon the nearest wall, I swallowed gasps of cold air. My eyes clamped shut, I tried to adjust myself. Slowly, the dizziness went away, and I realized how cold it was out. I had no jacket, no money, nothing on my person.

Then I heard a few gasps, a moaning, a blood-curling sigh come from my machine. Great goodness, where was it coming from? It was actually from underneath my machine, I thought. I feared going close, but then, quickly, I came to a realization that there was some teenager somehow under my machine.

But no—he was not merely under the machine. He was crushed. I found, on the other side of the machine, the kid’s face, his eyes glassy, his tongue flopping out to one side. I stepped back in full horror at the realization of what I had done.

In going back in time, I had killed this poor boy. I had assumed that going back in time was fine, but I had not considered time and space. This person was exactly at the wrong place at the wrong time. I had not killed him on purpose. It was an accident, an accident, I swear. But he was surely dead.

His hand was outstretched to one side, and the finger seemed to point out towards the right of the machine. I walked around the machine more and found a bundle of documents tied up with string. This poor kid, his last attempts were to hold these papers one last time, but, alas, they were too far out of reach.

I picked up the bundle of papers. My hands shook, and as I tried to steady them, I noticed something on the top corner. A name so familiar, a name that had haunted me in my waking thoughts: H. G. Wells. The title read in curvy letters The Time Machine.

No, I screamed in my mind. This cannot be. In going back in time, I had inadvertently killed the very author I had so desperately want to see. But I gave another glance at the blank face under the machine. Wells was supposed be twenty-nine years of age when he had written the book, the same age that I was. Yet this boy looked like he was not even in his twenties. He was younger. Had Wells actually written this story when he was still in his youth, only to publish it years later? My mind swirled in confusion.

A sudden thought came to my mind. What if I could go further back in time, just a few minutes more, and warn this poor boy not to go down this alley, to avoid any sounds, to never venture down this path. I ran immediately with the papers in hand to my machine. I closed the door and twisted the dial a bit and then twisted the nob down. But the machine did nothing. It did not move or spin or zoom or anything.

Panic thumped loud in my ears, and my hands shook even harder than before. My machine! Broken! But how? It must have been my horrific landing when I hit the boy, my author, my inspiration.

I was officially stuck in the past. I had no resources. I had no friends. I had no home. I had no life. I opened the door to my machine. My bag held some of my prized possessions from the old university library: some philosophy and all the writings of Wells and some paper. Although I had planned to talk about Wells’s books in full, vibrant detail, I had indeed killed my precursor. I took this manuscript, blood-splattered and torn, in my hands.I found some smelling old rags in the gutter. I had no clue how long it had been there. Because I was quite literate and could write, I was able to find some work quickly. There was only one thing I could do.

Though my name had been Harold Gross, I became Herbert George Wells, shortening it to H. G. Wells.

Shortly thereafter, because I was low on cash, I sold Wells’s story to a publisher. Every night I scrub, and I scrub, and I scrub. The blood—it won’t come off my hands, I tell you! It’s always there. My hands are died permanent red, and when the water rushes down the drain, it’s stained pink, of course, but the blood never leaves my hands. I had killed my precursor—I had become my precursor.


~ Some Explanation:

Bloom’s theory centers on the anxiety of influence from precursors. So that got me thinking—what if a person became so obsessed over creating an original work of art that that person would do something crazy? I love how Bloom argues about “a greater awareness of the artist’s fight against art, and of the relation of this struggle to the artist’s antithetical battle against nature” (1653). Bloom’s believed, “To search for where you already are is the most benighted of quests, and the most fated” (Leitch 1656); time travel—the first thing that popped into my head.

My character, a man from the unknown, inexact place in the future, obsesses over original creation. Art in this futuristic setting has become broken images that do not reflect the natural world or truth or anything real. Art becomes flashing images for commercial purposes only. Very few people read, because, really, what’s the point? Commercialization is much more effective in conveying to the viewer what is desirable and necessary to purchase.

The man obsesses over a return to the processes of the mind (Kant-esque) and organic works of unity (Coleridge-esque) that will uplift society (Shelley-esque), instead of blitz of false advertising and its sole purpose of people to purchase the latest gadget. This creative piece is written in the first person point of view to emphasize the focus on mind (Kant-esque . . . again).

My character is undoubtedly bright as well as creative, to a certain extent, but he fails in his journey to go back to his favorite author to gain inspiration. I hoped to bring about the feeling of the romantic but hazy genius through the narrative. He becomes stuck in the past (literally and, perhaps, figuratively by breaking with reality in a mental collapse), as if his sole identity revolves around a man who never really existed yet at the same time exists because of himself.

However, this character is ultimately unable to help the future or society, in all actuality. He never returns, stuck in the past, stuck in his mind, stuck by past influences. The cruel twists of fate, the realities of broken pride are, indeed, bitter when he falls so far as to take the identity of his favorite author instead of his own. It really does not matter whether or not he went insane or really ever went into the past.

Personally, I believe that the man was actually caught in the future by security guards protecting the university, which is why he always is on the defense. Did he go back in time? Was he just tortured? Did he kill a man? Or could he really not kill or overcome his precursor?

Despite all these questions that cannot be answered exactly, he ultimately experiences the pangs of fallen idealism. I would argue that the man could not overcome his precursor in the fight that Bloom suggests.

The Author

Expressive Theory

Expressive theory, which exploded from the 1700s into the 1800s, “stressed the relationship between the work of the art and the artist, particularly the special faculties of mind and soul that the artist brings to the act of creation” (Richter 2). Perhaps social change impacted the shift from rhetorical criticism to expressive criticism. The explosion of the printing press and the reading of the masses contributed to this shift to expressive theory. Less-educated people who now had access to literature unknown to this class before made the matter of taste of the upmost importance to theorists.

As a result, theorists considered the importance of taste; while theorists “examined the inner experience of readers, [theorists] found that the faculties behind good taste, the capacities that made ideal readers—delicate imagination, good sense, wide experience—were the same as those that made the best poets” (Richter 7). The creative faculties, therefore, of the poet could be studied, understood, and theorized about in expressive theories. Kant, Coleridge, and Shelley all fall under the label of poet-centered theory, while both modern theorists, Bloom and Foucault, put the author in question. Yet all these theorists consider, whether implicitly or explicitly, the importance of the author, thus defining the author in various ways and changing our idea of literature in the process.

Kant, Coleridge, and Shelley all focus on the cult of the artist. There was a big shift from the “out there” (the world) to the “in here” (the mind). When talking about poetry, there was less worry about how accurately art represents the world and more focus on how a particular poem reveals the way the mind perceives beauty and the way that imagination inspires genius. Kant emphasizes the work itself—that beauty is a unique kind of judgment, which does not necessarily serve the ends of truth or goodness. Beauty, for Kant, is a value, and work has value, whether or not for a moral purpose or a truthful purpose. Beauty itself is good enough. Kant focuses on what goes on in the mind of the writer. Kant takes an epistemic turn by moving into the mind to understand literature; for example, Kant argues, “Genius is the inborn predisposition of the mind . . . through which nature gives the rule to art” (Leitch 445).

Kant

Kant believes the poet is important because the poet creates beauty.For Kant, “the genius (the creative artist) highlights freedom above all else,” and “[t]he genius has a natural gift, a talent, which enables the production of exemplary and original beautiful works in the absence of any preexisting formula or rule for that production” (Leitch 410). Kant focuses on a theory of knowledge by trying to understand the sources and limits of human knowledge. Kant is not content that knowledge is completely subjective, believing that we humans are wired for thinking (i.e., cause and effect, similarities and differences, etc.).

In the Critique of Judgment, Kant analyzes three categories (truth, goodness, and beauty), but Kant does not focus on the nature of truth, goodness, and beauty but rather our mind’s way of apprehending truth, how the mind perceives morals, and how the mind perceives beauty. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant believes that aesthetics, judgment, and poetry turn out to be really the keystone of our knowledge. Judgment, which includes our imagination and aesthetic sense, is the mediator between pure reason and practical reason, that is it mediates between knowledge and action by being both reason and sensory.

Aesthetics bring the will and truth together—but in a practical way. Kant’s point is that poetry fills in the gap or mediates between truth and goodness. Kant goes beyond art and literature into bigger questions, arguing that all things being equal, acting is the law for everyone

If we believe in absolute truth, then we are Kantians. But what is absolute truth? An absolute truth is true whether or not we agree, and it is true independent of anything we do, think, or say. Kant raises the questions of beauty. Are there universal judgments or relative judgments of beauty? Something beautiful may feel like a subjective universal. Beauty is complicated because it is partly in the mind and partly in the things themselves. The judgment of taste or beauty is not logical but aesthetic.

The judgment of beauty occurs in the mind, yet it feels universal. Beauty serves a purposive purposelessness—something seems like it has a purpose but does not think that it serves no purpose at all other than to be beautiful. Kant’s thoughts lead to the aesthetics movement or the art for art’s sake era of writers like Oscar Wilde. Kant’s thoughts also lead to the idea that art is its own reward, or you do not need to pay for art; this leads to artists, the creative geniuses, who starve in attics—alienated, unappreciated, and alone. While Kant believes “[t]he experience of beauty tells us that the mind and world fit,” yet Kant also argues that “[t]he sublime, in contrast, shows us a misfit between mind and world” (Letich 409).

When we sense the sublime, our imagination strives to progress, and our imagination tries to grasp infinity, but our reason tries to embrace and enclose in a system that we can control. The sublime is infinity versus totality. Yet we cannot comprehend the vastness of its space. Despite this inadequacy within us, we still have the concept of infinity even if there is no experience with infinity. The sublime happens in our head—mind, soul, spirit. The sublime is an effect of our thinking and perception, not an attribute of the world out there. Even the ability to think proves that the mind has a power surpassing any standard sense. As Kant says, “Thus sublimity is not contained in anything in nature, but only in our mind” (Leitch 440). As a result, the sublime is the clearest evidence that Kant is moving into the mind (of the author as genius).

Perhaps Kant’s real purpose of art or literature is for pleasure. Language and form contribute to the reader’s pleasure of something. Maybe when reading a play, the reader will stop to consider a particular passage that seems to freeze in its tracks; this passage may not forward the plot, but the reader doesn’t care because of the beauty that pleases. It may be out of context but the reader pays attention and listens. These passages can be so great but have nothing to do with the play; therefore, the passages of beauty have no purpose (nothing political, dogmatic, plot-wise, etc.) other than to be pleasing. Some people argue that a poet is just trying to make money, but passages like these, full of beauty, suggest that writing is a good thing that brings about goodness, truth, and beauty.

Coleridge

Coleridge focuses on the creation of something beautiful out there, emphasizing the active mind of the artist, like Kant. Coleridge believes in primary imagination, secondary imagination, and fancy. While primary imagination is the mind’s ability to perceive, secondary imagination coexists with the will or what we draw on to create memories from our reality (the creative/artistic). In other words, the poet’s own mind is primary imagination, while the poetic genius is the secondary imagination.

Therefore, we go into the mind not just the form on the page. Imagination effects literature. Past literature, following strict rules like iambic pentameter and heroic couplets, could be following primary imagination, while the Romantic poets followed perhaps more of a secondary imagination, following what his or her mind tells him or her to do (or following the will of what the poet’s genius or the poet’s mind tells him or her to do).

On the other hand, fancy is basically a combination of preexisting things fused together; you do not animate them or bring them to life but reorganize them in space and time. Consequently, fancy is not as creative as imagination: “Coleridge’s theory of the primary and secondary imagination honors the creative capacity of persons while remaining steadfast to the primacy of God; even more, Coleridge implies that each re-creative act that a poet performs is an act of worship” (Leitch 582).

How we perceive the world makes realities, even if it is plural realities. As we become aware of multiple perceptions and possibilities, we choose the life we live in. We choose a world of eternal possibilities, and other realities can always impinge the integrated whole, big picture. Someone can change his or her view, switching to remake reality. Imagination also becomes a choice. And the author has a super imagination connected with genius. When defining the author, Coleridge asks, “What is poetry? is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet? that the answer to the one is involved in the solution of the other” (Leitch 590).

The author has a super imagination, and when connected with literature, the author’s imagination enhances the literature, making it more pleasurable for the reader. Coleridge questions the coherence or unity of the text; therefore, the organic whole becomes the basis of good literature for Coleridge. A reader can analyze a play if it is anachronistic. The play may seem like a mess, but the reader can look for underlying unity. Through incongruity, the text makes itself aware and becomes an organic work of art. The reader has to work to pull the context of the play together through analysis and synthesis, intellectually separating the distinguishable parts but then restoring the parts to unity.

The first purpose of poetry is the beauty and pleasure we get from it and then connect it with the whole and its parts. As the reader reconciles apparent opposites or paradoxes, there becomes an active cooperation between the text and the reader, suggesting that the text is something organic and alive.

Shelley

Shelley, like Coleridge, also emphasizes the nature of art, or the imagination, while looking at the principles of the mind. While Kant focuses on the mind and how poetry is the go-between of goodness and pleasure, and Coleridge discusses how poetry is in the mind of the author in regards to imagination, Shelley believes that the poet is the unacknowledged legislator to the world (of morals and of mankind) (Leitch 613).

Because the poet is inspired, poetry has the power to inspire others and improve the world. The poet can become like a poet-prophet. Shelley is outraged that poets starve in attics unappreciated. For Shelley, “[p]oetry acts in another diviner manner” through the mind’s “a thousand unapprehend combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar” (596). Language is not just cognitive; language communicates entire ranges of what it means to be human, including emotions and our highest ideas, our morality, and our spirituality.

Poetry gives delight and is an instrument of moral improvement; thus, poetry becomes more efficacious than moral philosophy. Poetry is the driving force of culture and the history of human experience and thought. Through the creation of poetry, “a poet participates in the divine nature” (600), since “[p]oetry is indeed something divine” (609). Poetry has divine sources with divine effects, but the poets are inspired: it is not just poetry, but it is the poets themselves who are inspired and then translate benefits for all. For Shelley, “[p]oetry is the record of the best and happiest moment of the happiest and best minds” (610) of the poet, since “[a] Poet, as he is the author to others of the highest wisdom, pleasure, virtue, and glory, so he ought personally to be the happiest, the best, the wisest, and the most illustrious of men” (611).

Poets enhance beauty, reconcile contradictions, and recreate the world. By shifting to the poet, Shelley emphasized the ultimate conditions of poetry that exist in the mind and in the imagination, which is more than just the ability to clone images of realities and is more than reason (imagination is cognitive and emotional, moral and religious, and richer, therefore, than mere reason alone). This all comes down to the poet. Kant shifted into the mind, Coleridge shifted into the mind through analyzing imagination, and Shelley shifted into the mind through analyzing morals.

Foucault & Bloom

Foucault and Bloom are both interested in the history of the poet. Bloom believes the poet struggles with his or her precursors, thus experiencing an anxiety of influence, yet Bloom even admits that his precursors are Nietzsche and Freud. As Bloom explains, “[p]oetic history . . . is held to be indistinguishable from poetic influence, since strong poets make that history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative spaces for themselves” (Leitch 1651).

This perspective of the author is useful for the way we read literature—that is to read every text as a response to all the previous literature or to see how many traces of earlier literature that are there so that you can see a struggle between the text and a previous text for precedence. The reader can then work out the strategy of the battle, explaining how this text changed from the earlier text.

In contrast, Foucault focuses on how discourse changes and evolves while defining the author-function. For Barthes, the birth of the reader comes from the death of the author, making it possible for different readers and a multiplicity of readings; yet, for Foucault, the author-function provides an array of possibilities constrained by the author, reduced down to singularity, suggesting an ideological construct, not a natural construct. Foucault summarizes the functions of the author as the following:

[T]he author-function is [first] tied to the legal and institutional systems that circumscribe, determine, and articulate the realm of discourses; [second,] it does not operate in a uniform manner in all discourses, at all times, and in any given culture; [third,] it is not defined by the spontaneous attribution of a text to its creator, but through a series of precise and complex procedures; [finally,] it does not refer . . . to an actual individual insofar as it simultaneously gives rise to a variety of egos and to a series of subjective positions that individuals of any class may come to occupy. (Leitch 1485)

This author-function occurs within the discursive system, thus revealing mechanics of discourse in the absence of the author. It is not an individual over a text or group of texts but rather a function that the author serves to established systems: “The concept author . . . is an organizing device, permitting us to group certain texts together” (Leitch 1470).

Foucault “questions and examines the concept of authorship and, in insights that were taken up by the New Historicism, argued that analysis of literary texts could not be restricted to these texts themselves or to their author’s psychology and background; rather, the larger contexts and cultural conventions in which texts were produced needed to be considered” (Habib 151). This influences how we look at literature. When we read, we look for boundaries or how power of reading reflects what this discourse controls or tries to transgress.

The reader is not interested in the author or who he or she is. Rather, the reader is interested in how things articulate within the discursive system (i.e., is the text resisting the system, or is the text following established norms?). As a result, reading becomes more practical by how you group texts; it is no longer the genius of the author. The author has multiple functions, thus expanding the reader experience through various discourses into something more accessible, global, or multicultural.

The reader analyzes the text in different ways by seeing literature in a network, being influenced in a thousand different directions. Literature is immersed, not transcendent. As a result, the idea of the author is diminished if the reader reduces the author to a series of cultural influences.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, for Bloom and Foucault, there is less emphasis on the enlightened, genius poet, which contrasts greatly to Kant, Coleridge, and Shelly. There is less emphasis on genius and more emphasis on influence for Bloom and Foucault; poetry, therefore, could be seen as more accessible and more able to influence culture, in some ways, than what the Romantics suggested of an exceedingly brilliant poet speaking down to mere mortals.

Our understanding of what the author is changes what literature should do. Early theorists perhaps would argue that the author-genius is inspired and consequently bestows morals (like with Shelley) and absolute truth (like with Kant) through poetry and literature.

For the modern theorists, by struggling with wanting to be different or how the author is influenced, this makes literature become less influenced and less on a pedestal, and success of literature is not based then on whether the poet can change the world. The early theorists all talked about how the poet influences through the poet’s genius, while the later theorists focused on how the poet is influenced. Although the earlier theorists emphasized that the reader should be inspired (maybe through the sublime or beauty) as well as brought up higher (Shelley), the later theorists would focus more on the individualistic nature of the modern experience.

Works Cited

  • Bloom, Harold. “The Anxiety of Influence.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Biographia Literaria. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of the Power of Judgment. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.
  • Habib, M. A. R. Modern Literary Criticism and Theory: A History. Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.
  • Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 3rd ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe. A Defence of Poetry, or Remarks Suggested by an Essay Entitled “The Four Ages of Poetry”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.

Creative Fiction: “Entrepó”

Entrepó

Last summer of the Year of the Revolution
The First Unit split into three: the sapphire hearts, the ruby stars, the emerald diamonds; the Second Unit argued about whether sapphires and rubies would join
The Third Unit didn’t care
I was part of the Third Unit,
Yet at the time, I knew nothing

Politics meant nothing to me, and talking heads sounded like voodoo magic gone wrong
It’s not that I didn’t care—I just didn’t know, I just wasn’t aware of my surroundings
All I cared about was my surgery, a little preoccupied, I guess you could say
That summer everything would change
I was born different, and, finally, I would fit in with other kids my age
I couldn’t go away from class because, well, my parents didn’t think that I would fit in
I’d be made fun of, pushed, teased, tricked out of a normal adolescent’s experience
If the surgery went well, they said, I could go with the other students to class
Homeschool would no longer be an option
Okay, I said to them. I can do this, I said.

The surgery experimental and expensive—I was a lucky one, my parents told me
The requirements included connections and being over the age of fifteen—I was that plus an additional four months due to paperwork and payments and under-the-table negotiations
I wasn’t really aware about that either until later

Never before had I been allowed to play with kids my age
Nor had I been allowed really go outside alone without either parent by my side
I could walk fine and learned how to read through hard work, but it had happened through blood, sweat, tears
And learned about all sorts of history
Like pop star music hits and movie quotes and listened to everything I could get my hands on
I wanted to be prepared to fit in as much as the other kids once the surgery happened
One day I heard there would be a live performance of a play I had partly read a few years ago, downtown the night before my surgery

A famous name blurred by, I think it came from the TV, yet I just couldn’t figure out his name
Was it foreign? I hadn’t heard of it before, but I knew that I needed to go see this play, even if I hadn’t completely finished reading it. . . At least I kinda knew what it was about
What if the other students would go to this performance?
I needed to go, to fit in, to be cultured
To hear the words from Mr. K— D——

I wasn’t to go, especially never alone, I was told
It was too dangerous, they claimed
Being alone at that time of night at this time of year was especially unsafe
I would enjoy it more after the surgery, and the family could all go; my parents lovingly informed me that the Glasmere’s party was that evening, couldn’t I remember that, silly me

Because I wasn’t allowed to go outside, I asked if they could pick up some books for me, from the library since we weren’t able to purchase books that weren’t used–too expensive
Especially maps, like of old places and such, at the library nowadays
I had asked the maid to pick up a book about bus maps and descriptions of the city
The maid, in her little distant voice, placed her tiny hands in mine and promised to do so
“Ah vill geet vou deese boooks. Vut vill Ah dhell vour pahrents, vough?”
They would worry, of course, about “reading” so much before surgery and thinking too much and worrying too much about the world instead of focusing on preparing for surgery
I thought she had caught onto my plan
But no worries–I told her that reading helped to distract me and not to bother my parents with the silly things I wanted to read from the special library collection
Feeling those pages were liberation in my hands, freedom for my heart
Hours were spent in my room, hiding these treasure troves under my pillows
Pouring my soul into my liberty, my social salvation

The last performance of the show was the night before my surgery
My parents, fortunately, were to be guests elsewhere and asked,
“Are you sure you can be alone for a night without us both by your side”–they feared my fate without knowing my schemes
My dreams of running away were a silent whisper in my mind
The car was ready, the dinner prepared beforehand, and all was set according to plan
Kisses were shared, good-byes were said
Off they dashed into the world as I was left to remain alone in my room
But I had planned every moment as to not to be missed
As soon as I could no longer hear the car’s vroooooooom, I began my journey, which started in the opposite direction
I would turn three lefts at the corner, then one right at the last
The bus would arrived every ten minutes

Right on time
People chattered around me, their voices blending and blurring together as we collectively scrambled onto the steps
My careful steps were guided and safe
As I took my seat on my first bus ride alone

The bus stopped right in front of the theatre so I waited patiently, listening for The Charleston’s Theatre to ring through the air
Stepped off, found the line, bought my ticket, through the doors, showed my seat
All happened without a problem to bog mind, to distract my clarity
My stomach fluttered and quivering thoughts trembled in my mind of being caught in my act of escape
But no one mumbled in my ear to leave, and no one grabbed my arm in accusation
I merely sat in my seat when the curtains rustled
Voices of a chorus of men and women rung in my ears
Sweet, odd music–melodiously sad and melancholy–echoed through the theatre
Describing the fate of the hero at stake
He would do despicable things, but why would he do those acts?
Someone muttered behind me on my right how this was suppose to be Director Kaffkav’s best work yet
Another person on my left perhaps two rows back sighed and muttered about the beauty of the costumes, while the person beside me turned to me, her voice creaking like a frog’s old croak, saying how shocked she was that the staging was so bare

I said nothing, focusing on the lyrical words the performers spoke
These actors could play their voices as if they were instruments
Gentle yet strong; sometimes passionate but controlled

My favorite voice to listen to was the main actor, Gulioni Voce
His voice rung like sturdy, silver bells through the hall
Surprised—no ringing tinge of Italian when he spoke English translation of this Greek tragedy
My blood curled when I heard the prophet’s prophecy
My hair stood on end when Voce’s chilling cry sounded when he found the body of his role’s wife
My stomach churned when the despair of his voice sounded as he gouged out his eyes
The woman next to me muttered how startling the gold the pins looked in contrast to the black set that enshrined the actor
No man, no woman, no one is fortunate
Until they are dead
The echoes of those words chilled me to my very core

Even after the play ended
And the audience clapped
Those words resonated, as if bouncing back and forth inside my empty mind
All the way home
As I sat silently on the bus ride home, unable to look out the window and see the actors exiting the theatre to sign autographs or the audience’s plastered smiles or to see the red carpet rolled out, like blood spilling into the flowing waters of the Nile

I wanted to be Moses of the Old Testament—let my people go, let my Oedipus go
To the pharaoh of Egypt, to the writer of the Greek tragedy
Oedipus would never have done that, would never have gouged out his eyes, no matter how terrible the crime—sight was a gift from god, and no one should take that away
Sighing, I leaned my head to the left, resting my head against the hard rail, but I just couldn’t believe that the writer would or could ever write something as terrible as that
I guess I should have finished reading the play before I went to go see it live
That way I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the ending
I didn’t know—I didn’t know that would end that way
My head suddenly jerked forward, mid-thought

A screech of the breaks sounded, and I couldn’t feel the bus moving anymore
Why had we stopped?
The bus was silent, so I guess I was the last one, although the ride had not been very long, and a voice sprung to life, I guess it sounded like it was coming out of little, square box near my right ear
“All passengers off, please. Now, please. Ma’am, that would be you.”
But it was early
This wasn’t my stop. I was waiting for number 520, not 430
None of my protests helped
The bus driver escorted me down the steps.

Apparently, this bus stopped at number 430 after 10:00 p.m.
No, it wouldn’t go any further
Yes, yes, yes. Cut through the park, honey. You can use your cane to follow the fence rails. On the other side of the park, yes, yes, bus 520, that’s right, will be the bus stop you need.

His words still echo in my ears: yes, yes, yes . . .
His job was done. He wanted me off. He wanted to go home
But so did I.
So I did the only thing I could do—I started my journey across the park

Although my life is in constant darkness, I learned to be able to feel darkness, or heavy darkness, I guess you could call it
Of course, it was dark outside, but the shrouded trees felt like a blasphemous shrine, like the ones Catholics use, or maybe not, I read about it once in a book
Like dark magic or Satan worship or something I can’t quite remember the name of, you know, how certain words like that can just leave your brain in a moment
The park, I was completely unfamiliar with
The path, it was unknown

The fence, it rambled tap, tap, tap as my cane hit each bar as I walked
Alone, utterly alone, and lost—the fence ended, and I was left at a fork in the park’s pathway
As far as I could tell, at this point in time, no one was around me
Alone, utterly alone, and lost

“Hey, tootsie. You a red or a blue? You sure as hell better not be one of ’em greens’.”

A voice erupted behind me—I dropped my cane

“Who said that?” I mumbled under my breath. No one answered. Then I said it again, louder. Then again, even louder. The fourth time I said it, my voice came out in a shuddering scream.

But nobody answered my query
Yet I could hear, like bats flapping their wings in a cave, several bodies begin swish, swish with their clothing, you know how it rubs against your legs, and they came, circling me, and I didn’t know which way to turn, you know when you feel disoriented and don’t know right form left or up or down

I think I tripped, maybe over my cane I had dropped and tried desperately to feel out with my feet, but maybe it was one of the boys he started jeering near my ear and my heart jumped and a stumbled over a root or something or maybe it was a foot, I really don’t know

“I don’t see no red or no greenie or no even blue mark on ’er. What’d’e do?” The voice whined, like a sick dog in the heat.

“No mark means no side, right’e’o?” Another voice jumped out across the other side.

“No. What are you saying. No mark means ain’t mean no side. No mark means she one- ’em, don’t cha ’member, you’d be shitin’, fools. She one ’em. She a thirdy. She bets she’s one ’em purdy, thirdy, uppedys.”

The voice lurked like seeping black spit bursting from a tar pit
Then I felt a kick, and I was already on the ground, but my face landed in the gritty sand, and the sand rubbed my face raw, and he kicked again and then I felt more feet kicking me and a rumbling chant emerged in the back throttle of their voices “dirty thirdy, dirty thirdy” because I was part of the Third Unit

Please—Stop—Please—No, I’m—Please—

They did not hear my cries, and the more I said, the more they hurt me, and finally, someone kicked me in the mouth, and I felt warm blood spurt out on my face as two or three guys grabbed my legs and dragged me, like a dead, worthless deer you move out of the road, to a nearby tree, I guess more hidden from the path, even though I scratched and clawed and tried to scream but someone gagged me and someone grabbed my head and someone tied a hard cloth across my mouth

Hot, weathered rope burned across my hands and as they tied me to the tree like a wounded puppy being punished, and they tore my pretty white tights as they ripped and tore with their fingers and whatever they could grab and they hurt me, deeper, deeper, inside, they tore and I tried to fight I did, but I grew tired and melted and hurt as they climbed, as if conquered, on top of me, one, two, three, four, five. . .

They climbed on top of me and tried to climb me like a tree, each digging, tearing into my aching, bleeding body

The stabbing thrusts and jabs began to slow, tears and blood stained my face, and the mutterings “dirty thirdy,” after they threw something at my face and spat on my mangled flesh, began to fade in the cooling evening of the darkness
I had never felt darkness as I did that night
Salty, painful tears sprawled down from my silent eyes as I wished in the fragrantless stillness that I had never disobeyed my parent’s advice, that I had stayed home, that I had never gone outside alone

Because I never, ever in my life had felt alone as I did in this moment
I was left on the ground, like a tied up calf about to be sacrificed on an alter

When a voice emerged across my left side, I jolted and convulsed, but a hushing sound. . .
A girl’s hand touched my face as she loosened my gag, and I could feel another boy’s hands as he cut the ties from my hands

“Why’re ya oot ’night? Don’t cha know. . . ’night were da raids? Ya don’t have yar star or emerald on?”

“Oh, oh, oh, oh, Emelily. . . she one a ’em. Can’t cha see? She’d be a thirdy!”

I breathed in and out and tried to calm myself. My aching back made it difficult to sit up, but my mouth and hands were free.

“Yes, I’m from the third district,” I whispered. “But I’m blind. Do you see my cane? Please, please hand that to me. Yes, that’s it, yes. Please, can you help me get home?”

The young boy and girl were silent for a moment.

“Please,” I begged in my quietest tone. “I don’t care what side you’re on. And you shouldn’t care what side I’m on. We’re the same, can’t you see that? I know I can’t see, but you two are good, aren’t you?”

The two sat in silence for a few more moments. The girl then decided that her brother and she would help me home. But we would have to be fast. I realize now that they could have been killed if they were seen helping me. I pray to God that they weren’t.
When I told the little boy and girl my address, the little girl pinned a star to my chest. I was now one of them.

The little boy with soft, gentle hands delicately held my hand, and the girl, several inches taller than the other child, carefully wrapped her arms around me to give me support
We walked as quickly as I was able to, given that, although nothing felt broken, my back hurt to move or to be touched, and my ankle was twisted

The three of us, creatures lurking through the night, hide in the shadows and behind trees, avoiding other groups storming through the park, attacking passerbys, and those muffled screams sent shivers through my body

No police sirens were heard—no justice would be served this night
The attackers were the judges, their parents the jury, these two children, my saviors

The girl whispered in my ear when we had exited the park. My home was just a block or two away from the park. The streets were hushed, the houses silent.
No cars zoomed by in a rush to make curfew, and I knew my parents would not be home for hours still.

The Third District went to sleep at 8 p.m. during the workdays, unless it was a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Saturday or Sunday, because the Third District never worked—of course, unless you counted shuffling cards and enjoying hors d’oeuvres

The little boy and girl helped me enter the back gate of the house, holding my broken body somehow with their unexplainable strength
My bedroom was on the first floor of the flat, the window on the side, and I had left the screen down on purpose so I could sneak in after the play had finished
I whispered good-bye to the children, but I couldn’t tell if they had already scrambled away, back to the park to save other strangers like they had saved me
I closed the window and locked it

After I felt my way to the door and opened the bathroom door, I turned the water on and stepped in while pulling my filthy clothes off; while the water ran, I scrubbed the mix of blood and dirt off.
I was glad I couldn’t look in the mirror. Never before had I felt such shame, such guilt.
I let the water run. I just sat, empty and hollow and naked, in the bare tub.

“Oh, Julia! You are up! Did you hear the news? Last night, the Ruby stars, that’s what they’re calling them now, they attacked several people in the park last night. Your father and I will need to move soon. That nonsense! So close to our flat! It’s unheard of. Those people. . . well, indeed, they’ve never ventured so close to the Third Unit before in all my life. Can you hear that, Julia! Never before have I ever seen this trag—”

“Nor have I, mother. I have never seen before, you know that,” I interrupted.

My mother paused. I could hear her shuffling papers, and something was sizzling on the stove. She knew I wasn’t suppose to eat breakfast. But there she was, making eggs or bacons or toast for me, and I wasn’t suppose to eat.

“Oh, Julia! Don’t be so sensitive. You know today you will be able to see! Your surgery is
just in a few hours! I know I should have stayed home last night. Oh, you know. To be with you. I should have known you’d be more nervous than you’ve been letting on. But that party, oh the dresses and the food, it was all just so divine.”

“No.”

“No, what? What’s wrong now?” My mother’s tone pinched and twisted like knives stabbing me in my throbbing lower back.

“I’m not going. I can’t go today. I’ve decided I don’t wan the surgery.”

My mother’s voice shook, “And when was this decided? It’s already been paid for. The arrangements are made, Julia. Don’t be silly, Julia. You’re being selfish, Julia. You’re just sacred, that’s normal, it’s perfectly normal, in fact, but think how long you’ve been waiting for this, Julia. You’ve always wanted this.”

She had no clue. She had no clue what had happened to me. She was blissfully unaware. She was just as blind as I was. She couldn’t see her own daughter.

I didn’t answer her. I just walked into my room. Shame burned in my face, but I locked the door because I couldn’t bear to hear her any more. I couldn’t listen to the words she would ask if she saw the tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t bear the shame any longer. I turned the lock on the door and that was that.

I would not go to the surgery—it didn’t matter how long my mother begged, encouraged, threatened, yelled, cried.
I didn’t open my door, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, but all I knew was that I would never ever see the world that had done this to me. Nor could I ever see the faces of my parents if they ever learned what had happen to me, that I had disobeyed them, that I had

I have just hid in my room, writing my experience in poetry (I do have a computer and taught myself how to type), right now as I do, I know that it’s not very good, and sometimes I forget commas and periods and misspel words and maybe the grammar are sometimes wrong, and that there’s no rhyme scheme, no great story, no great tragic hero, yet it feels like a Greek tragedy to me, and my lines ramble on and on just as my thoughts do

This is my story, my experience. I will read and reread it from beginning to end. No man, no woman, no one—not even this young, naïve blind girl—are fortunate until they are dead

I am Oedipus. I am blind.

 

~ Some Explanation:

Entrepó, as used here in the title, in Greek means to turn to confusion, to put to shame, or to recoil in shame. Recently, I read in the news about a horrific event that happened; a man raped a blind woman. I wanted to analyze the idea of reader’s response in this story/poem (is it arrogant to make up the term “storem”?) set in the unspecified future (perhaps something like this could happen even tomorrow) set in a revolutionary and restless time with a young, blind girl, who is a reader of the special library’s books written in brail. Sometime, not mentioned here in the story, this blind girl read Oedipus.

How would a blind reader respond to the text and then a performance of that the Greek tragedy, Oedipus? Oedipus is a complicated play, and I am not sure if this play would fit into the requirements of Johnson’s intense morality, even though Oedipus is punished severely at the end. Perhaps the Greek tragedy, following the Horacian principles, does entertain, by shocking readers, and instructs, by showing readers what not to do.

Yet this young girl does not know how to respond to the play. The audience members are supposed to represent various interpretive communities, such as what Fish proposes, shown here through their (undeniably rude) running commentary throughout the play; the audience each has his or her own bias, yet this does assist the blind girl in shaping her perspective, since she selects which comments she values, which is revealed in this story through what comments she remembers and writes down.

Even though the girl can hear the audience’s responses, the blind girl still does not know how to respond to her experience. Yes, she read the play. Yes, she watched the play. But her underlying question is why anyone would ever make themselves blind—removing one’s sight, when receiving sight is the very thing she has longed for her entire life.

It is not until the unexpected happens that the blind girl’s perspective changes: the bus stops, she becomes lost, she is attacked and maliciously raped by a gang. The naïve girl is not completely aware of what has happened, but she knows it is something so serious and terrible that she cannot tell her parents. She feels like she has ignored her parents’ counsel (she was not to leave home), just as Oedipus ignored the prophecy of Tiresias. As a result, the blind girl feels inexorable shame, just as Oedipus felt shame.

Rather than plunging long, golden pins into her eyes as Oedipus does, the blind girl refuses to have the surgery performed to restore her eyesight, choosing a life of darkness to never see the light of the world where people did these terrible things to her. She opts to read from the safety of her home and in the darkness of never seeing the shame in her parents eyes as reflect in the shame of her own heart.

One claim Iser makes is that every time the reader reads a text, there is the possibility of discovering new perspectives from each reader. Yet, because of this traumatic experience, the blind girl continues to read and reread the play. Now, she is caught in a trap, like a mouse caught in a spinning wheel. I would like to believe that my character will one day, hopefully soon, reach out for help.

Although her relationship with her parents is strained, perhaps she will confess what has happened to the maid or to some other trusted adult. Just as sharing stories with other readers brings out different perspectives, I believe that through telling her rape story to others, she will gain new perspectives as people tell their stories, or their perspectives, to her.

Before she is able to share her story with others, she feels like she must write down her story, in poetic form, because that’s what the great Greek tragedians did. By writing her story, she shares it, even if it is only with herself. Her writing is full of errors, but it is supposed to be flawed.

Please leave any comments or questions below!!!  🙂