Dust

Dust.
It erases
everything.
On the western steppes the dust wind blows and blows.
It leaves behind nothing;
no past,
no future,
and no present.

All history and future comes from the mouth of the storytellers.
The Mythmakers.

There is no history
other than what they tell before a campfire.
There is no future
other than what they tell behind a dust rag.
There is no present
other than what they tell on the back of a camel.

But the dust –
it erases
everything.
Words
left in the air
tumbled and erroded
as the dust wind blows.

The Death of Inmate 409

“Tell me a story,” she said.  And I obliged.

 

Philip Philip is a small-time investigator and journalist for a small-time publication.  “The Weekly Weird” puts out stories that deal mostly with the quaint types of paranormal and supernatural activities.  Things like a piece of toast that looks like someone’e dead relative or a cat that could (supposedly) walk through walls.  Mr. Philip always fancied himself a writer and was drawn to a magazine like “The Weekly Weird” because he was raised by two people who named their child Philip Philip.

Philip’s boss had run across a story of a mad man on death row.  “Says he’s just asleep and killing him is only gonna wake him up, or something like that.”

“Wha…” Philip began to ask, but his boss cut him off.

“Doesn’t matter.  My guy inside says he’s got all the other inmates spooked with some story he’s been telling.  My guy wouldn’t tell me what it is, so I’m sending you out to the prison to get the story.”

“How does a dying man fall under our area of journalism?” asked Philip.  “I would understand if they had tried to kill him a few times and it didn’t work or something like that…”

“Doesn’t matter.  If this guys is telling a story that’s got hardened criminals spooked, we need to know about it.  And you are going to write about it.”

“But I’m still working on that cat piece,” objected Philip.

“Doesn’t matter.  Gary or Ralph can finish up an article about a cat that runs into walls, no problem.  Today, you are going to prison.”

And that was that.  Philip had learned early during his employment at “Weekly Weird” that arguing with his boss was pointless.  He was a self appointed aficionado concerning the things that did and did not matter.  Philip Philip was off to Sandstone Prison where an inmate was apparently not being put to sleep.

 

Inmate 409 had a very agitated manner, but spoke very slowly and calmly as he paced around his cell and fidgeted with his hands.  His behavior made Philip very uneasy.

“Mr. Philip, it is my sincerest hope that you will see the reason in my story and be able to persuade the warden.  When that needle is plunged into my arm, it won’t be me that fades away.  It will be all of you instead.”

“And that is because,” inquired Philip, “you are actually asleep right now, dreaming, and all of us are just characters in your mind?”

“That is precisely the case,” said Inmate 409 as he paged furiously though a book he picked up from his bed.  “When I die I will wake up and everyone in this world will be gone.”

“Well that seems odd,” Philip thought aloud.

“It is the truth, I assure you.”

Philip shook his head.  “No, not your story about being asleep.  Well, that is also odd, I have to admit.  But I was thinking it odd that you would be so eager to stay asleep.  If we are all just characters in your dream, what is the incentive to keep us all alive by staying asleep?”

“And they consider me crazy,” sighed Inmate 409.  “I tell you that all of you are in mortal danger, that my so-called execution will only result in the disappearance of everyone in this world, and all you have to ask is why I’m interested in saving everyone?  Is not life -any life- valuable and worth preserving?”

Philip reluctantly spoke.  “Well, I mean… That is to say you are on death row.  You aren’t exactly a person easily pegged as someone who cares about all life.”

“Well that was a bit harsh, Mr. Philip.”

“My apologies,” said Philip.

“No matter,” said Inmate 409 as he waved the notion off.  Philip has the oddest feeling of déjà vu before the prisoner began speaking again.  “Did they tell you why I was in here and placed on death-row, Mr. Philip?”

“Well, no.  I forgot to ask, I suppose.”

“It wouldn’t have done you any good,” said the inmate.  “They can’t give you a reason.  There is no reason for me to be in here.  It is all just one big dream brought on by my subconscious.”

“I’m certain there is a reason.”

Inmate 409 stopped and looked at Philip.  “Take this book,” he said, “and tell me what you see inside it.”

Philip took the book from him and glanced over the pages.  “It looks like any other book to me.  Letters, words, paragraphs and all that.”

“That is my point exactly.  You see it as a normal book because you are a part of the dream.  But when I look at it, it’s all gibberish.  The words float and swirl around the pages.  This is a dream, Mr. Philip.  Once I’m killed off in this world, you are all going to disappear.”

Philip was about to object when the warden stepped into the room and informed him and Inmate 409 that it was time.  While Philip was leaving the room, from behind him he heard Inmate 409 plead to him.  “Save me, Mr. Philip.  Save yourself.”

 

About half and hour later Mr. Philip and the warden were seated watching another room from behind glass. In the other room was Inmate 409 strapped to a hospital bed and a nurse attending the i.v. in his arm.  Mr. Philip was asked to be a witness to the execution as the Inmate could not provide the names of any family or friends to be present at his execution.

“What did you think of his story?” asked the warden.

“It was something, that’s for sure.  I’m not sure it will make it to publication though.”

“Oh?” asked the warden.

“I mean, it isn’t the type of thing that we normally report on.”  Mr. Philip watched as the clock above the viewing glass ticked towards Inmate 409’s last seconds.  He was only slightly anxious that the inmate was telling the truth.

“Oh, warden, I forgot to ask you.  Why is Inmate 409 being put to death?”

The warden got a look on his face like someone had just asked him to describe a square circle.  “What do you mean?” was all the warden managed to say.

For a very short moment before Inmate 409 died, Mr. Philip was gripped by a great feeling of impending doom.

It is all Dissipation

There once was a hermit who lived on the side of a mountain just above a small village.  The hermit would spend his hours between tending to his small bonsai tree and speaking with the individuals down in the village.  As it turns out, the village was famous for its great library and very impressive collection of books.  Fortunately for the village, the last tyrant to sweep across the country burning down towns, farms, and particularly all the books he could find had never been told of the existence of this particular village and its very impressive collection of books.  But now that the tyrant was gone, and traveling about the country was safe again, scholars from all across the land were beginning to flock to the small village to take advantage of its library.  This was all very wonderful in the mind of the hermit because his second greatest passion in life was talking with whomever he might find about whatever they might want to talk about.  His first great passion was tending to his tree.

As he spoke with the great scholars and thinkers of the day, the hermit thought to himself that it might be interesting to incorporate all of these ideas into the tending of his bonsai tree.  So, each day he would speak with someone at great length and then return to his home in the mountain and think about the best way to shape and prune his tree that would reflect his conversation from earlier in the day.  His bonsai had become large and robust over the years under his careful hand; it would be able to handle a little inspired pruning.

For a few months the hermit did this, but even before the end of his experiment, the hermit realized what was to become of his tree.  Still he persisted.  After so many conversations and ideas battling, chasing, hiding and changing one another, there was not much left of the poor bonsai tree other than a small husk.  A mere hollow of its former state.  This did not discourage the hermit, though.  Instead, he was excited about this opportunity to grow his tree anew.

The hermit never returned to the village below, and he wondered what would happen to all the busy scholars and thinkers.

Frank and Pisley

“Hey Frank, check it out man.  It’s about to happen.”

“My money says they are all going to collapse into one another annihilating everything once and for all.  What say you, Pisley?”

“Not sure.  Maybe this will be like a new starting place and they will all start reverting back towards the other end of time.”

“Uhg.  I hope not.  Watching it all over again would be so boring…”

Frank and Pisley are two pan-dimensional beings who are about to watch something quite extraordinary.  Of the infinite number of parallel dimsions mirroring our own, nothing like this has happened since back at the beginning, when everything was getting started and variation first birthed the infinite infinity of possibility.  You see, the moment in time just before the big bang that got this stretch of time started, everything was singular.  Everything was kind of at a manageable nexus.  You could get a grasp on what was happening because… well because nothing was happening yet.  But man, right after that explosion…  Shit got wild.  For some reason the universe decided it was going to keep track of all possibilities and probabilities by playing them all out side by side in alternating dimensions.  It got uncomfortably complicated very quickly.  It did make for an interesting show for two pan-dimensional beings like Frank and Pisley, though.

Anyways, what Frank and Pisley are about to watch is so completely improbable that it actually had to happen.  With an infinite number of different dimensions, eventually every conceivable thing is going to happen.  The same thing happening in all of them at the same time is still just painfully unlikely.  Those who can know these kinds of things knew something like this was bound to happen eventually.  This just happens to be the first time something like this will happen.  And it didn’t even take long to get to this point – relatively speaking.

In every single dimension there is an individual named Red Jetson who is about to die.  Every single dimension is going to be tied together through this single moment.  Nothing even close to this has happened since the beginning.  Red dying is probably the biggest thing to happen in all of existence since it all got started, and will probably remain the the biggest thing until the end.  That is, if it isn’t the end.  Because honestly no one knows how this is going to turn out.  Especially not Frank and Pisley.

“It’s kind of morbid, don’t you think?” asked Frank.

“What?  Why?  People die all the time.”

“Yea, but not like this.  The universe wants this guy dead so bad it’s willing to collapse all possibilities down into one scenario just to make sure it happens.”

“Frank, you are seriously over-thinking this.  Just watch and see what happens.”

“Back when we first spotted the trends that were leading up to this happening, did you take the time to get to know any of the Reds?”

“Some of them,” replied Pisley. “But mono-dimensionals kinda bore me.”

“How caring of you.”

 

And then Red Jetson died.

 

The universe paused for just a time as if it were taking a moment to digest what just happened.  Maybe a moment of silence for Red.  Just enough time for a name to get written down somewhere.  Shortly after, the infinite spiral of unchecked possibility got back underway.

“Did… Did the universe just pause to reflect upon itself?” asked a worried Pisley.

“It might of…”

“I thought that was our job.  To reflect on the goings-on out there.”

“Apparently not?” replied Frank.

“I think I’m afraid,” whimpered Pisley.

“Who was Red Jetson?”

 

 

 

The Great Tree

Once there was a boy who found himself living alone in a very harsh place.  Every day the sun would scorch the land and make the air taste like fire.  Every night there was a downpour of rain that smelled of death.  The boy soon became very sad and decided the best thing to do would be to live in a dark cave where the rain and sun could not reach him.  It was dark in the cave, and the darkness soon began to frighten him.

The boy was very sad and still as he sat at the entrance to his cave.  Before too long a stranger came upon the boy and asked him why he was sad.  The boy explained how the sun hurt him and made it hard to breathe during the day, and he told him of the rain that smelled like death.  The stranger thought this was a very tragic thing, took pity on the child, and offered to help him.  He offered the boy a small seed and told him to eat it.  He said that if he ate the seed, the sun would stop shining so brightly and the rain would not smell so bad.  The seed smelled very strange, but he eagerly took it and ate it anyways.

That night, after the stranger had gone, the boy became very sick, and he vomited up the seed onto the ground.  He was very tired after this and fell asleep for many days and nights.  When the boy woke up he found that outside his cave, where he had been sick, there now stood an enormous tree.  It was unlike anything the boy had seen before.  The boy found that the tree provided shade and made the sun stop hurting him.  The boy also learned that at night, the leaves of the tree would grow very large to soak up all the rain and make it so the terrible smell was gone.  The boy was very happy that he could now live under this tree.

But as time went on the branches of the tree began to wither, and the leaves started to turn brown then fall off.  More and more sunlight and rain pierced down through the tree and reached the boy.  He was afraid the tree was dying.  To the boy’s relief, the stranger found him again.  When the stranger saw the condition the tree was in, he offered the boy another seed.  The boy quickly accepted, but this time, before he could eat the seed, its smell and the memory of being sick from eating the previous seed made the boy feel dizzy and light headed.  He lost his strength and fell to the ground.  The seed fell out of his hand and into the dirt.

The boy awoke the next day.  The stranger was nowhere to be found, and the tree was still withering away.  The boy looked around for the seed to maybe try and eat it again.  To the boy’s surprise, the seed had buried itself in the earth, and was now a small sapling.  The boy knew that saplings eventually grew into trees, but he did not know how long it would take to make a tree out of this small shoot.  The boy decided he must care for the sapling.  As the days went on, the seedling grew slowly but steadily.  The old tree continued to slowly die as well.  More and more of the sun reached down to the boy.  Less and less of the rain was soaked up by the leaves.  The pain and the smell caused the boy to become sad again, but this time he knew he must endure it for the sake of tending to the new tree.

For many weeks the boy endured the pain and the smell as he helped the sapling grow tall.  The boy knew that if he could hold out long enough, this new tree would protect him from the sun and the rain.  He waited and waited.  Eventually he began to notice that the sun did not hurt him as much as it used to, and the smell did not bother him quite so much.  As the days went by and the boy tended to the tree, he eventually began to think that he would not need the tree after all.  During the day the sun was bright, but the boy’s skin had become tough.  The light no longer caused him pain.  At night it would still rain, but the boy could hardly smell death on the air any more.  By the time the tree was fully grown, the boy had no need of its protection.

The boy decided to leave the tree behind and seek what adventure could be found in this harsh land.  He hoped his tree would remain for anyone that might need to rest under its protection some day.

 

l’autre Golem

Many universal cycles ago, our particular sun was located in more or less the same position in a galaxy that was not so uncommon from the one we live in now.  And around this vaguely familiar Sol, floated a planet not very much like ours.  This planet was covered in sand, and had only two denizens.  A red golem, and a blue golem.

The golems wandered across the endless sands, and every couple of centuries they would pass each other.  There not being a whole lot else to see on a planet completely covered in sand, the golems would stare at one another as they passed.  They never stopped when they met; they just kept on walking by.  Golems aren’t much for conversation, anyways.

The eons passed, and the two golems had many more encounters with one another.  Each time they would just stare as they continued on their endless, sandy odyssey.

Then, one astoundingly eventful century, the two golems passed one another, but this time the red golem lifted its arm up as it passed the blue golem.   It was a kind of wave.  The blue golem was caught a bit off guard by this, but countless encounters with his red companion had taught him that the proper thing to do was simply to stare back and continue on his way.

As the years went by, and the blue golem wandered the dry seas by himself, he began to wonder about his last run-in with the red golem.  It was a strange thing that happened.  The blue golem thought that every time he passed the red golem, they would simply stare at one another – like always – and then continue on their separate paths.  But that wasn’t what happened last time.  Something unexpected happened, and the more the blue golem thought of this, the more he wondered what it meant.

“The oddly colored stranger did something it had never done before,” thought the blue golem.  “Will it do that again?  I wonder…”  And wonder the blue golem did.  In fact, he didn’t think of much else over the centuries.  He thought maybe the red golem would raise his arm again.  Or maybe he would raise his other arm this time?  Perhaps even raise both arms!  The blue golem continued to wonder and eventually his imagination built up great expectations for his next encounter with the red golem.  He longed to pass by the red stranger again to see what he would do this time.  Now as the blue golem wandered across the sands, he waited, and he happily wondered.

Eventually the two crossed paths again.  The blue golem was nearly shaking with apprehension as he moved closer to the red golem.  As they passed, the blue golem stared at the red golem, waiting to see what he would do.  The red golem simply stared back at the blue golem, and continued on his way.

The blue golem, for the first time in ever, stopped.  He thought to himself, “The red stranger didn’t do anything.  He was supposed to do something!  I knew that he was going to do something.  I waited all that time to pass him again, and he didn’t do anything.  He was supposed to do something!”  The blue golem turned around and began following his red companion. He had had it in his head for the past couple centuries that when he and the red golem next met, something was going to happen.  He expected something to happen, but nothing did.  This made the blue golem very uncomfortable.  He had been so happy imagining that the red golem would do this or that, and then his enjoyment was shattered by the red stranger.  Now the blue golem was getting angry.

The blue golem caught up to the red stranger and began smashing him with all his might.  “Do something!” he shouted as he pummeled his only partner on their sandy world.  “Do something! Do something! Do something!” came the cries with each powerful blow.  Eventually the red golem stopped moving and was dead.

The blue golem sat down and slowly began to think about what had become of him and the red stranger.  The other golem was dead.  He would never do anything unexpected again.  Slowly, the blue golem became very sad.  He regretted what he had done in his rage, and began to yearn for the red golem to be alive again.  “Just a passing stare would be enough,” he thought. “You don’t even have to do anything special…”

The blue golem sat in sorrow next to the red golem for a very long time.  When the red golem never moved again, the blue golem got back up and began to wander in loneliness.

Too soon, too late, and all at once.

This old man had a long time to live.  But that was a long time ago.  Now, this familiar forest trail is too long for him.  He knows that just about all his footsteps are behind him, and he has settled with that fact.  The forest is quiet tonight.  This one last eternal night.  It is cold.  The old man sits down among the grass and trees to warm himself.  And maybe to catch his breath.  He remembers when these trees were not so tall.  He remembers when he was a young boy.

This young boy was out gathering firewood on a bright and cheerful winter day.  He decided to rest for a while and to build a small fire to warm himself.  As he warmed his hands and face next to the fire, he happened to spot a metal keep-sake box in the snow next to him.  The box was locked, but a key rested on the box; imprinted in its top.  The young boy took the key to unlock the box, and wondered what he might find inside.

As the young boy turned the key, darkness enters the old man.