The Doctor is Sick: Dissecting Dostoevsky

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY IS NOW PARTLY MYTH.
He is perhaps as popular in the English speaking world as he is in his native Russia. His work is that of an exaggerated naturalist by tradition and a psychologist in practice. He is deservingly famed for his intensive, microscopic analysis of the human condition and the psychological insight that is be found in his more fleshed out characters.

Although his legacy is controversial, the conversation on Russian literature is incomplete without him; if Dostoevsky is left out of the picture it is incomplete. It’s akin to writing about the beginning of a truly American literature and not mentioning Mark Twain. And, with the exception of Vladimir Nabokov, who had no fondness for the ‘novel of ideas’ approach, and [Joseph] Conrad, who, in his own words, thought, ‘Dostoevsky reaches far back into the first chaotic mouthings [sic] of the Earth.’ That’s one hell of a review, insult or not.

Because his work evokes a madness, a mania, a tempest of animalistic, flailing and pathetic people, the natural assumption is that these are exaggerations intended as a type of satire, parody or social commentary, and I’m sure in many situations that’s exactly what it is—as certainly Prince Mishkin was in The Idiot and the Underground Man was in Notes from the Underground. What I believe is more interesting than the myriad of opposing people and their conflicting philosophies, are all internal, warring aspects of this author’s soul. He was a psychiatrist—his own; writing was his therapy.
“All the novels [written] by Dostoievski [sic] were Crime and Punishment,” wrote Marcel Proust in his collection of essays, Art and Literature.

I’d say that’s about right.

Dostoevsky was a man at war—at war with ideas and philosophy; with destiny and himself. Each of his characters embody a characteristic of their creator either consciously or unconsciously created as such. As he writes, he is revealing more about himself than about his characters. As was said in Oscar Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, the work revealed much more about the artist than the subject.

(I paraphrase; it has been many, many years since I last read that book.)

As for madness, I would say that Dostoevsky was a kind of madman, sure. He once robbed the famous Russian author of Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev. He was mad, truly, but not a sporadic writer. He wrote with clarity and patience, often by dictation. Through this dissection, he attempts to excise the within himself to find some sort of peace, as well as the more popular notion that the central thematic element in all of Dostoevsky’s work is the necessity for suffering in attaining spiritual redemption. He is adamant, across his entire body of work, that suffering is a necessary condition for development and salvation.

All of Dostoevsky’s literary characterizations are not only externalizations of inner struggles, they also served to contrast competing political, ideological, and theological attitudes in Russia as it neared the turn of the century. Perhaps as a wink of acknowledgment, Dostoevsky introduced the abstract behind this dual analytic projection in The Double; his meaning there inverse to the doppelganger, though sometimes it gets murky; it is a person of the very opposite of your ideals and beliefs. For example, if you were left handed, your double would be right handed. If you were deeply religious, your double would be a staunch atheist. A double is an intrinsically linked literary antiparticle, such as the positron—an extant example of anti-matter, being the anti-particle of the proton.

In Demons, what Dostoevsky is calling demons are ideas. Specifically, the ideas that possess; the ideas are the demons. They cause war and destruction and can lead to murder, betrayal, and sin. He uses the concept of the double and ideas as demons in his final work, The Brothers Karamazov. Each of his works have an ideological relationship.

Prince Mishkin, the idiot from The Idiot, is a brother in spirit with the ‘hero’ in The Brothers Karamazov, the youngest brother, Alyosha. The double concept is also heavily featured in the novel. This is done not by direct contrast, and never made concrete; it is done by playing characteristics of one character against another in the background, reacting to unspoken provocation to the others’ expressed beliefs within independent, unconnected scenes—connected only in the manner of the anti-particle: Ivan Karamazov’s pairing with father Zossima is a good example. The former is a skeptic of the highest order, atheist, and intellectual. The latter is the leader of a religious order; a faith healer, and a devout Christian. This is a way in which Dostoevsky goes above and beyond the call of duty and gives his personality to the shadow of his characters.

Dostoevsky understood the poor in the same way Tolstoy understood the aristocracy. He was a notorious gambler, and to pay for more money to gamble, he wrote a novel entitled, The Gambler. And, to avoid being counted among the peasantry, the hopelessly poor folk of the country, he wrote a novel called, Poor Folk.
Dostoevsky had a well documented case of epilepsy and Smerdyakov, the bastard child of Fyodor Pavlovich and Stinking Lizavetta in The Brothers Karamazov. In his private letters, which were recounted in Sigmund Freud’s Dostoevsky and Parricide, it is shown that, just maybe, Dostoevsky had more in common with Smerdyakov than epilepsy; Freud linked this neurosis to the loss of his mother (What else is wrong with people, Freud?) but was later rebuffed when Dostoevsky’s surviving children were diagnosed with epilepsy.

It is not by accident that Raskolnikov (the anti-hero from Crime and Punishment) has the same possessive demons that characterized the main character in Demons, Stepan Trofimovich, who could also be said to have been possessed by an idea. In this case, the Double is becoming more of a doppelganger than an inversion, but the double is meant to define by contrast, or tie together by resemblance in expression. Both Raskolnikov and Trofimovich are lead to ruin by their possession, by their possessors, these demons.
In the culmination of his life’s work, The Brothers Karamazov, all of his work leading up to it features in some way—through demons and doubles
You have the intellectual; Ivan Karamazov is a brother in spirit to the Underground Man from Notes from the Underground, Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, Stepan from Demons; all of these characters are linked together, each one third of the trinity Dostoevsky is constructing within the framework of the sons of Fyodor Karamazov. In giving the wastrel, buffoonish patriarch Fyodor Karamazov his own Christian name, he at least identifies the trio—the trio in harmony. But what of the sickness that creeps in and disturbs this trinity?

The Russian Orthodox Church believes that the mind, the body, and soul are elements within the Godhead. The mind:
Ivan Karamazov, Raskolnikov, the underground man, Stepan; the body: Dmitri Karamazov, Alexie from the Gambler, Grushenka, Marmeladov; the soul; Prince Mishkin, Alyosha, Grigory the housekeeper, adoptive father of Dmitri.
What do all Dostoevsky characters have in common? They all in some fashion gamble with everything they have on the table. More often than not, they lose. At the end of The Brothers Karamazov, Dmitri is off to prison for a crime he did not commit; Ivan is “on death’s door,” and Alyosha, seems the only brother with a full life ahead of him.

Through these characters the trinity remains in balance until a poison, something toxic weeds its way into it, disturbing this holy order, making it unnatural: Smerdyakov, the bastard child, the reeking one, unacknowledged, the irrational strain just outside—a new breed of degenerate cropping up in Russian society, the real murderer of his father Fyodor Karamazov. And what was Smerdyakov? Another in a long line of possessed whose ideas lead them to ruin—and in the end he hangs himself; all real problems seem to be self-terminating.

At the end of his life, at the end of The Brothers Karamazov, we have the idiot, the simpleton, the soul, giving the famous speech at the stone, exalting the virtues of simplicity, tenderness, and kindness. Through this Dostoevsky withstands the harshest indictment ever created against the orthodoxy (which he himself delivered through Ivan Karamazov in Rebellion, and The Grand Inquisitor, respectively) and found a kind of peace.

Poem: Willow (from Counterpane)

I
NO SIGNAL

Not far from here, not long ago,
an old man heard the voice of God—
through his old radio.
He lived with Willow,
his son—the Mute,
who never spoke a word.
His father did not care, he knew,
that when he prayed God heard.
All was well until the day,
the signal seemed to fade.
where once was the voice of God,
a tawdry ballad played.

He stayed awake all night and tried,
through the darkness light to find,
and could not tune back in.
His digital dials attempted forever
though deep down he knew he’d never
hear God’s sweet voice again
The holy frequency was gone,
and that old man, now scared, alone,
to the basement did descend.
His saddened son above remained,
while his father went insane,
yet all he did was pray.
“Don’t leave him in the dark, like that,
why have you left, will you come back?”
and yet the silence stayed.
“Bring him back to grace, and home.
Don’t leave him in the dark, alone.”

He paced about the basement dark,
oft lit by radiator sparks.
A sick God seemed to rise;
In the twisted shape of his dad, late,
were tired and bloodshot eyes.
“The child must go,” the sick God said.
“There are devils in his head.
The child—the Mute—must die.

“I’ll give you the frequency,
so you can tune back into me;
you know just what to dial.
The sick God in his father’s skin,
faded into black again,
and ‘lone the old man cried.
It goes on now, to never end,
like that which did not begin.

II
FOR YESTERDAY

The silence stayed for several days,
on antique speakers never played,
the sublime songs of God delayed;
Just echoes of a man who screamed,
and tufts of smoke in slanting beams,
the day was sickly gray.
The old man with his knives in hand,
walked the quiet stairs to stand,
in Willow’s gold doorway.

And on the pillow,
lay there, Willow,
who silent cried for help.
He prayed for his father, and,
his lovely long lost mother Anne
but never for himself.
destiny weaves spider webs—
the tide comes in, the water ebbs,
leaving shells upon the shelf.

The disconnected loved ones mourn,
their life upon the shore forlorn,
where once they went to play.
The sunshine and the ocean breeze,
they made sandcastles by the sea.
When they were done—
down went the sun,
and then they tired lay.
The sun went down,
when Willow frowned—
a lament for the day.
That which never did begin
like a circle will not end.

III
ANGEL IN THE DESERT

The crazed old man sat by his son,
on a ragged racecar bed.
He said, “We have to talk, my son.”
Yet Willow turned his head.
He tucked him in, and sang his song
until his son had safely gone
to the dream world Gilead.

And while there, the pale blue air,
in dancing circles did not care,
and words passed through the sky.
Amidst the endless wheatfield stalks,
above he heard a lost crow squawk,
and his lost mother’s cry.

He ran blind into the field,
his hands before him grasped to feel,
and Willow came to find:
A radio and crying tape,
he knew at once he was too late;
the digital crying died.
It hacked and coughed,
and then shut off;
young saddened Willow sighed.

Willow in the wheatfield heard,
the sound of something like a bird;
he stood and looked around.
All he saw was trees, and quiet,
twisted trees their shapes beside it,
and the shrouds of silken clouds
looked just like his mother’s gown—
he chased it through the night.
Through the rows of stalks,
he heard his mother call.
He walked amongst the dying leaves
as they around him fall.

He found her on a quiet hill,
a breathing mannequin lying still—
he then walked up the slope.
He knelt and tried to hold her hand—
it slipped away like grains of sand,
and then turned into smoke.

Don’t cry for me,
my sweet, you’ll see,
at rest in El Dorado.
The wind picked up,
the voice was gone,
and he was on the hill alone,
until, at last, he thought:
How could what did not begin,
ever stop or ever end?

IV
THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

Beside him when he woke, there lay,
a hundred knives lay by his face.
as chalk around a corpse and facing in.
Outside his door his father wept—
and then with bloodshot eyes he crept,
from the basement to the den.
Willow wished to call his name—
he tried “I love you”—nothing came,
then silent Willow sighed again.

Underground his father watched,
the man in the mirror he forgot,
his mind was white noise now.
The ticking clock above had stopped,
like crumpled paper Roger dropped,
again he heard the sound.

The sun came up—to his surprise;
The radiator shrieked, and cried,
and static seemed to drown:
Roger stumbled to his feet,
and his eyes tired seemed the greet:
his father’s pictures spread around.

The more he stared—the wall,
which bore,
His father’s pictures smeared with
WHORE
written in blood,
like caked on mud,
he tore the pictures from the wall,
shouts his son heard down the hall—
with vertigo he stood.
The tempest of the moment gone,
he remained there, cold alone;
he tacked his father’s
blood stained pictures,
on the wall again:
only to take them off once more:
the circle never ends.

V
THE TREE THAT SEED BECAME TO BE

Willow had his mother’s eyes,
as blue as springtime azure skies;
his hair was tasseled, black.
He got his name from an old tree,
where his father asked his mother,
“Will you marry me?”
She said yes and they both sat,
together in one silhouette,
when love and life was free.

Five months later they were wed—
the newlyweds played in their bed,
and planted the seed.
over the months it steady grew,
until the seed itself had bloomed,
when Willow came to be.

And all the wond’rous years that followed—
one after another ‘morrow,
were joyful times for all;
They ate together, smiled, and laughed,
as hour after hour passed,
as an apple from a tree to fall.

VII
LIFE IN ONE STANZA GONE

All was well, and life was bright,
until wandered in that night,
when they played lost and found.
Willow splashed in pools of rain,
when a car passed in the lane,
and lifeless Anna hit the ground.
Her young son,
now frightened, stunned,
heard but a ringing sound.

Willow by his mother lay,
unable, as he wished to say,
mother I love you so.
He watched her life drain,
as she died,
he saw that frightened look,
her eyes,
and she dissolved like smoke.

Silent Willow, by the grave,
stood by as the reverend prayed:
“Let Anna find her rest.”
Even as hard as Willow tried—
he couldn’t hold back as he cried,
and Willow did his best.
They buried her beneath the tree,
the weeping willow in the spring—
in the orchard where they loved:
The sad and listless loves one lost,
in tears they stood above.

VII
IN FALL WHEN FALL THE LEAVES

Later on when he got home—
he stood in his room alone,
and wistful held his breath.
That poem, he thought,
that poem of old—
in lyricism quaint yet bold:
You are what you become, no less.

He could not live without his Anne,
but Willow did his best.
He met a lawyer late that night,
and found his mother’s locket white—
it dangled on his chest.
On each side, when open pried,
a picture of himself.

One of them, a child who cried,
the other—Willow smiling wide:
“You were the world to me, my son,
And now that you are gone—
I only want to tell you now,
I heard your every song.”

He did his best all of his life,
when terrified awake at night,
his mother’s ghost appeared:
Don’t you love me?
Can you say it?
The forlorn loved one leered.
Willow tried to speak again,
just silence with his mouth open:
his mother disappeared.

He lay there in the bed, at night—
his hands clenching the covers tight,
hoping his mother would appear.
And sobbing Willow on his pillow,
thought that he could hear:
the love and comfort in his mother,
be replaced by fear.

VIII
THE LIGHTHOUSE GONE

In the years that after passed,
Willow seldom—if all—laughed,
instead in silence moped;
his father waited in the hall—
with his back against the wall,
that his son would see the light—
the light of God at night to strike,
that he might hear the good Lord call—
though all he heard was silence, all;
the shadows danced the night.
Amidst the shadows that he saw—
the ones that up his wall had crawled,
his mother— his dead lighthouse bright.

Anna’s ghost transparent white,
came to Roger in the night:
I guess you’ve left me, nothing new,
my father and your father too.
I guess you’re gone,
and I have grown;
that’s what we always do.
We all leave, and in the end—
return to whence we came again,
and so the circle goes.

IX
THE NEVER ENDING VALLEY

The tragedy of those days gone,
his father underground, alone:
tacked pictures on the wall.
Where once was his father’s face,
his own sadness had replaced:
and above it, as with all:
he scrawled above his pictures, that,
what once was red was written black.
BASTARD in his blood he scrawled,
in his despair he heard a call—
the sickly God of old was back.
“If you wish to save your son,
I’m sure you know what must be done.”
and the voice slipped through the cracks.

Roger made the preparations,
for the junkie constellations.
The needle sighed, Roger, relieved,
Thought about his son and then,
saw the valley by the bend,
and felt the ocean breathe.
It was the song, that sing along,
the Earth’s soliloquy.
Roger was so close to drowning,
in a numb opiate sea

There amidst the rich green grass—
under a blue sky made of glass,
Roger was at peace.
Paradise was within sight—
where grew a never dying light:
the never-ending valley of the free.
And then he saw behind his eyes—
that far flung long gone night:
when laughing Willow, in the rain,
skipped through puddles as he sang,
his mother’s smile so bright.
And when she faded like a flame,
Roger had himself to blame;
he thought of Humpty Dumpty,
and saw it was his life:
and he thought that he was not
put back together right.

The quiet children, pale, naive,
lay in their beds in far off dreams—
of velvet skies and golden streams,
and watch the good Sol die by eve.
to lose it is not high a price,
and no one has to grieve.
Just a flicker of the eye,
Another pilgrim passes by,
as yet another leaves,
That which never did begin,
in no way could come to end.

IX
AUTUMN

Roger walked the stairs with care,
Looked through doorway, Willow there,
On his side and legs withdrawn.
For a moment Roger watched,
And all the moments he forgot,
Drowned him as the dawn.
He took the needle from his pocket,
and his mother Anna’s locket,
and then he shot the faun.

Willow woke and saw his dad,
in the chair beside his bed
with tear stains in his eyes—
What’s wrong daddy? Willow wrote
“I’m sorry,” Roger penned a note.
And nervous turned to leave.
But Willow drowsy wrote, to ask,
“Will you read to me?”

His father Roger turned around,
went by the bed and sat back down,
“Of course I can,” his father, pleased.
“What do you think that I should read?”
“On the bookshelf by the door—”
He wrote it down just like before.
“—was a book my mommy read to me.”
Before she died on Blossom St.

Roger pushed the chair and stood,
and walked across old planks of wood—
to his son’s bookshelf.
Sitting on top of clothes and socks,
Was an old book dog-eared at the top,
a book he’d bought himself.
A Child’s Garden of Verses,
he found the favorite verse of his;
and read it to himself:

When I was sick and lay in bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy through the day.

Sometimes for an hour or so,
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed clothes through the hills

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets,
All up and down amongst the sheets,
Or bright my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow hill,
And sees before him, dull and plain,
The pleasant land of Counterpane.

He took a pillow from the bed,
and put it over Willow’s head:
Willow gasped but could not call,
His father pressed down on his nose,
that stained the pillow like a rose.
A minute passed, with his last gasp,
a silent child named Willow passed.

X
THE MURAL IN THE CLOSET

He took his body to the basement,
were he kept Willow’s replacement:
a gaudy harlot mannequin.
He unlocked the closet door,
and drug his son across the floor—
and the white noise came again.

He propped it up as Willow sat—
in Willow’s clothes and baseball hat,
and Roger grabbed the bin.
The pictures of young Willow spread
across the wall and down the halls.
The white noise came again.

Above the pictures lined in rows,
He wrote in thick white paint
WILLOW
he closed the closet door behind,
and tried to keep it from his mind,
he walked in an unsteady line;
to the sofa apropos.
The sound of static hissing, cracked,
it seemed the sick God had came back.

He tried to trace the source,
the sound,
and on the radio he found—
such an old song playing slow.
It reminded him of that lost day,
just him and Willow on the lake,
they climbed into the boat.

They made their way to deeper water,
and Willow smiled beside his father—
the winds of Spring began to blow.
They sang together in the breeze,
the thought made Roger hit his knees:
he changed the channel on the old,
radio he wish he’d sold;
tears were streaming down his face—
his heart had quickened in its pace:
and then he heard the Ghost.

He changed the channel, yet he heard,
a string of disconnected words,
all soft as they came in.
Behind the songs and sing-a-longs,
“Daddy what did I do wrong?”
As he had done all of his life,
Roger ran again.
As he passed a pane of glass,
Roger turned and saw, at last:
the sick God in the frame was him.

He hurried up the creaking stairs,
and opened up his dresser, where,
lay the only gun he had.
He ran back to the basement, and,
his wife and son stood hand to hand;
he put the magnum to his head.
After a flash he hit the ground,
slurring words he twitched around—
and Roger lay there dead.

Roger passed by in a dream,
as he unraveled at the seams:
trapped in his mind alone.
Frozen in a chair beside,
the ghost of Willow which replied:
“Daddy what did I do wrong?”
He repeated the question,
over and over,
The question went unheard,
and Roger could not reply.
There he was inside his mind,
and trapped he could not cry.

With silent Willow standing by him,
in vain he often tried:
to say those words, Will wished to hear:
just a simple, “Daddy’s here.”
Their souls are stuck—
between two worlds,
a silent circle not to end:
like that which did not begin.
And they came like water,
and as wind they go:
they’re all buried underneath,
that old and weeping Willow.

Chameleon Mirror – The Lie of Morning

I woke in the early morning, my phone glowing with the numbers: 2:55 – it was morning, I’d been awake for a moment only, missing by ten minutes the cliché of Witching Hour. I was assured in the knowledge that only a hundred kilometers east, a train of demons was seating and on its way from limbo into the past I was apathetic to have woken in. My clock I thought must be wrong, as the colors between my blinds were the distinct blue of a coming dawn, the first hint on those long days and nights alone. I noticed that it was just a trick, dawn still many hours away: the false dawn was a set-up, deliberate or otherwise, by Lain.

He was sitting by my bed across the room, laptop on his lap and writing away. I was at my desk, laptop on hand and writing away. He asked if I could close the blinds, being annoyed by the beam of light cast across his face. I said I couldn’t, as the blinds were raised so allow the air conditioner to be used. He put his laptop down, took off his shirt, a ratty, green away that one would assume to have a checkered past, and pushed it between the blinds to blot out the shaft of light the impolite sun was casting. He returned to his seat and sat down again, finding the light not properly curtailed, and rose again. He went through my bureau until he found a black, long-sleeved shirt. He squeezed it between the curtain rods and stuffed the rest behind the other shirt and smiled as he watched the beam of light bow out and fall away from where he sat.

And now with the only light in my bedroom a digital candle, a unique present to say the least, the black and green in the low light somehow mixed to impersonate the dim but dark blue of a coming dawn. I like it, the way such opposites mixed enough to make me fall for the idea of a rising sun. I kept it, often waking with the same feeling, falling happily for the same trick, to think of dawn being sooner, to think of Lain.

How Science Disproves Ghosts (Or Makes Them More Terrifying)

I’m not against the idea of a spirit, of any sort, nor am I against the idea that our soul or consciousness might survive the death of our body. It’s unlikely and absurd, but it happens.
Since physics and nerdiness went pro, a surge in interest of all things uninteresting has, like the preeminently uninteresting TV show The Big Bang Theory, persisted in the recent pop-culture landscape. I think a prequel to The Big Bang Theory, taking place before the titular Bang, would be a much funnier and more interesting show.

tumblr_lqo2fbUSLI1qjt223

The early seasons were the best.

But physics is a heartless, soul-crushing beast with no capacity for joy (like your mom.) So, before you give up the ghost, or talk about something you terrifying you totally saw one night as a kid that scarred you for life (which was also your mom), consider …

5 To change in color, light has to heat up

Physics is an academic discipline dedicated to many goals: telling people how and why things behave as they do and answering powerful and profound questions that have long plagued humanity: What is the nature of time, how did the universe begin, and how would a Star Trek transporter really work?

477px-Castle_Romeo

Scotty’s fucked. Also, the entire population of Rigel X.

The black body problem, despite sounding like a Fox News talking point, was an infamous problem in late 19th century physics: Why does light change color when heated? At the time, light was still universally thought to be the electromagnetic wave as described by the equations of James Clerk Maxwell defining electromagnetism / the spectrum of visible light of James Clerk Maxwell, but he was completely stumped. In 1900, a German student named Max Planck was tasked by Maxwell himself to solve the problem. Planck’s solution led to the hypothesis of the quantum leap, basically meaning: when light heats up, an electron (a subatomic particle) makes a leap to occupy a higher orbit. Translating this it means: there is a transition from one state to another and an emission or absorption of a quantum (a discreet packet of energy). Light changes color when heated as natural light. So to make a substance become a duller color, the heat must go down (the heat of a body, that is).

atoms

To see a ghost, the light would have to be generated by it – and if it is slightly opaque (a fancy word for see-through) that means it is made of light. First, in order to appear (instead of always being visible) it would have to heat up its own particles. To be more than one color, the ghost would be in control of raising the temperature of the particles which make it up, if it consisted of more than one color, that is with eyes or hair, it would have control over individual particles of light – warming and cooling itself with each motion – as interactions between other light sources can change its refractive colors across the rods and cones that make up your eye’s light-detectors.


hotel                                                          All work and no play gives Jack radiation poisoning.

So whenever you see a ghost, either you’re brain is playing tricks on you, or that recently-departed earthbound spirit that just walked through the wall is capable of nuclear power. Do you know what happens when you can meddle with particles and release the energy within?

Lost lock on them, sir.

                                                                              Who weeps for Rigel X?

Speaking of walking through walls …

Falling (A Christmas Letter) – 2015

FALLING
(for DIANA)
BRANDON K. NOBLES

1
Past Imperfect
We met at a carnival, on a ride, a tilt whirl went up and down, and gravity brought us together in the aisle, our little prison. Ten years hence and we were friends, good friends, as close as two could be without being collapsed into a singularity, without honeymooning on Jupiter and being compressed into a single atom together, and at that point in the relationship, I wasn’t ready for that level of commitment.
She was from a different, more civilized world, affluent and responsible. I was from an abandoned set from the movie Deliverance, a place with thirty-six churches and one library in a four mile radius–that’s not healthy. We were both still in school at the time. The more we talked, the more we talked; the more we talked, the more we sought to do so. She was cultured and soft spoken though boisterous and brimming with compassion, understanding with a poetic bent. I would later cast our mad romance in the vein of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I was, of course, the orphan madman Heathcliffe, and she the precious Catherine; I fought through a world of noise to reach you, so for now you must endure my silence.
We would end up casually dating, after spending time together at work, and much more afterwards on weekends. We went to the Museum of Modern Art a lot, checking out the Rembrandt’s and the painting of Antoine Lavoisier by Jacques-Lois David, Picasso’s and Caravaggio’s and that milkmaid Vermeer so small but perfect with it’s effusive hue along the wickerwork of the breadbasket. As high-minded and cultured as we affected, we worked at a sandwich shop one inspection check short of an issued writ from the health and safety commission, Nam Pang on MacDougal street in Greenwich Village. It was owned by a crazy ex physics professor from Cambodia who tried his hand at inventing and couldn’t invent much beyond a Philly steak that anyone seemed to care for. She was a manager, and I was a grunt. Which was appropriate for our levels of education. We worked there for years; her behind the counter, me on a bicycle, and everything was routine. Other than Ho-Chi’s inventions, and the stuff we did to amuse ourselves with other people’s food, there was nothing of interest to speak of, nothing but every time I saw her face it brought a lantern into a world that had been dark for me for so very long.
After work, we’d have drinks at a jazz club, Miles Davis and women in tuxedos. In top hats handing out cigars. expensive wine, atonal raucous music hovered over the thick pockets of cigarillo smoke. We wiled away the hours waiting for her responsibilities to locate her GPS signal, and she’d drive back to Manhattan were she lived; I lived in a garret above the sandwich shop. I was friends with Ho-Chi, and I was a physics student, off and on, as my health would allow, with an associates in English composition.
Literature is a time machine. You can relieve Raskolnikov’s confession, the pawnbroker’s murder; the nightmare of the horse and poor Mameladev all by opening Crime and Punishment. You could wind your way through time and memory with Marcel Proust, a prism reflecting shapes against the wall like his magic lantern animations from his bedroom, a pantheon of nature des mortes Gods on his cornea, or get lost in Balzac or Tolstoy’s world of the aristocracy, watch Anna Karenina dive to her death in front of the train, or go fishing with the Old Man on The Sea, attack the windmills with Quixote; But we wanted to travel back in time for real. Not for the respect of the scientific community; for our personal enjoyment, to see the premier of Don Giovanni; to have a glass of wine with Oscar Wilde, to go back to Dallas in 1962 and shout, ‘Duck!’ at JFK as he went down Elm st.
Everyone who has ever studied physics has wanted a time machine, and for different reasons. I always wanted to find one perfect moment, with one perfect person, like a sunset in the belt of Venus slowly falling, falling forever as I with someone loved, rewound the world to live that moment again and again. So I worked out the theory, and since he was an engineer, he worked out the rest. It took years, but when you’re working on something that can control the years, the time seems to be well spent, seeing as how you can become a thief of time, a thief that steals and rewrites priceless moments.
One day we found out that the carnival we met at would be coming back into town. We were dating at the time, and we loved each other–well, I loved her, and she tolerated me, so we decided to go together with a third wheel, a friend of mine. We got on that same tilt-a-whirl and during its normal method of action, something went wrong; the harness came loose and she was flung from the structure into the cold embrace of the metal railings surrounding the neon monster with its disco eyes. They stopped the ride. I ran and knelt beside her. She was okay, just bruises and cuts and a formidable headache, but nothing a shot of Cambodian fire whiskey couldn’t tame. They say when you’re about to die, your life flashes before your eyes. I don’t think that’s true–not the life you’ve lived, but perhaps the life you wont. And when she was flung, I saw a life we would never have, and when she was reprieved, I decided to attempt to make that life a possibility. I saw so much I didn’t know if I could live a life without, considering the happiness the moment’s contemplation brought me.
I was in my flat later that night with Ho-Chi and another coworker drinking cheap beer and Ho-Chi told me he thought that he had figured out how to make it work. The only catch was–and this was quite a catch–you could only go back in time for ten seconds, and it would only affect you, and anyone in contact with you. That wasn’t a serious drawback–as I thought of that never dying sunset with my love. And seeing that life we would never had, I always wondered if we could have a life together; at that moment, I wondered if I could ever live without her. I decided to do something drastic: I was going to ask her to marry me, against the advice of everyone I knew (two people) and an opinionated cat, I would ask her to marry me–as soon as the time machine was working, so we could watch that never setting sun together and live that perfect moment. At that point, her agreeing to marry me seemed more farfetched than having a working time machine.

2

The next day when we came into work, Ho-Chi called us into the dingy room in the back, the dingy kind of room that just looks sticky, and told us that his time machine worked. A genius is most often a crazy person because sane people don’t apply intelligence to things in the same way a crazy person does; this man ran a sandwich shop and spent his time working on obscure inventions (a toilet that wiped the would-be shitter,) and he had his button–the time machine. The science is boring and uninteresting, but the effects were most extraordinary. He pressed the button and I found myself outside the room again, and walked back inside to find him smiling. At first I wasn’t sure what it was that happened, until he extended the effect on everyone in the room. That is me, Diana, and my friend Thomas. He kept us within five to ten feet, me and Thomas and D, and had her write her name on a sheet of paper, sign it, and then he pressed the button. Time rewound, and she appeared outside the room again. She came back in and read the page–and, to her astonishment, realized, we had a working time machine. Albeit an ineffectual one, rewinding the world by ten seconds didn’t seem to have much practical potential–except for that eternal moment in the sun, with me and D and the belt of Venus blue, a light blue and pink wrapped round the world, and us high in the air, forever rewinding, drinking wine and laughing, forever together, forever falling.
There was a sort of catch with the machine–which we called the button, which he refused to announce to the scientific community–it took ten seconds to reinitialize. If it was used before it was recharged, so he said, it would break the universe. I’m not sure what kind of merit this statement had, but when you see the universe as an expensive, Ming dynasty vase, something that you’re holding that can break, it is unlikely that you’d want to drop it just to test a theory. The people of Earth would care for it more if it was a cheap keepsake on the mantle, outraged to find it scuffed. After that, things went back to normal around the sandwich shop. It was a sandwich shop, and Ho-Chi was too much of a bigot to submit his idea, or the theory we worked with, to any scientific publications. Being ostracized by the scientific community can do a lot of things to a person, not least of all it can turn them into a bitter asshole. So as soon as he went out, I broke into his office and took his button, asked Diana out to dinner, and arranged to steal an engagement ring in the meantime.
I went into the jewelry store and asked for a man to give me the most popular and expensive ring he could find. He gave it to me, and I pressed the button, and had a free engagement ring. We met at the Minetta Tavern on MacDougal St. It’s a nice place, full bar, classy–excellent service, and expensive. I didn’t really care. I lived above the sandwich shop, and didn’t pay any bills because Ho-Chi was a lonely, loveless husk of a man and liked having someone around who was just as joyless and bitter as he was. It’s easy to hang onto money in New York if you don’t have a drug problem. Anyway, we both had the Cote De Boeuf steak, wonderfully prepared and cooked, and were having drinks. After I paid the bill I took out the ring and asked her, “Diana, with you marry me?” Immediately, seeing her gasp, I panicked and pressed the button, and went back and didn’t ask that way. I handed her a ring and said, “If you will marry me, meet me on the Observation Tower and 6:30. Don’t say anything, just meet me there.”
I wandered around the city picking up wine and food and snacks and cigarettes and everything for our perfect moment. When you’re preparing for a moment never-ending, you have to bring supplies; cigarettes and bourbon, Cabernet sauvignon and blush chablis. And I sat there waiting watching my clock. 6:30 came and went. Then 7 and the sun began its descent and I was there to live my moment alone. And I thought back to that moment on the ride when I saw such beauty in our lives together, tired and smoking cigarettes sweating in a disheveled bed listening to Tchaikovsky’s baccarrole, with our happy children sleeping peaceful in the other room, unafraid, unconcerned with monsters–the monsters would be daddy’s friends.
They’d have racecar beds and video games, pianos and guitars and violins, everything they’d want and books, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein and Where the sidewalk Ends. We’d read them to sleep and go to their baseball games, little league and spelling bees, and somewhere for their trophies. But none of that would happen. Then I saw the ghosts of a Christmas never coming. By myself with a bottle of wine at an old pool table writing verse, spinning the ball around the table as I thought about it, drinking myself to sleep and living in a mess of unorganized papers and cigarette butts scattered cross the floor. And there I’d fall apart, unpeeled by each passing afternoon like a bruised banana in my drunken stupor dancing to the singing crickets in full bloom by a poor man’s patio. And it isn’t money that makes a man rich, it is the value of his friendships, the meaning he derives from his pursuits, his knowledge, his experience and failures.
I looked over the ledge of the observation tower. The sidewalk is where it ends, I thought; to live a lonely life is tolerable until it is no longer a choice you’ve made that determines for you. When you’re the oddman out in a reject crowd, the outcasts always mourn–and alien tears will fall for them.
Like two doomed ships we passed in storm
We crossed each other’s way;
We made no sign, we spoke no words;
We had no words to say.
For we did not meet in a holy night,
But in the shameful day.
I remembered a day that I first read that poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (Jail), by Oscar Wilde. It made me think about a lot of things, but one of the most striking aspects of the piece is the refrain. ‘I never saw a man who looked with such a wistful eye, upon that little tent of blue we inmates call the sky.’ He reiterates this throughout the poem in regards to the man who walked the same yard as he, though he was sentenced to death instead of hard labor for not loving in the acceptable manner. The striking thing about it is how after the man has been hanged, he reintroduces a slightly modified refrain, and instead of just that one man looking to the sky in such a wistful way, all the men who walked the yard have their longing glances upward cast. The image of such a group of suffering people, feeling the death of another, another’s guilt, is striking and it’s powerful. The reason it means so much to me is because of the window it opens into the poet who wrote it. Oscar Wilde had done something similar with the Picture of Dorian Grey, an externalization of an artist, and it resonates because of how artists deal with personal grief through externalization. It reminded me of a poem I wrote, Counterpane. It is a modern take on a poem of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson. In it, a child who’s sick in bed, conjures up mock battles and struggles in order to externalize his pain.
In my poem, a woman is attracted to a model village, and she populates it with everything she never had in her own life–and as I stood there just on the edge, I thought about that model village that she made; it was mine–the family, the loved ones, the father, she was queen and everyone loved her; when I looked below I saw no counterpane; this wasn’t my coping mechanism, it’s what made me need one to begin with. The pad, the notebook, the wordprocessor–this is how an author bleeds.
And the title for counterpane applies to the woman who makes herself queen of an imaginary world within the poem, and the poem itself is a counterpane, a populated world to take the focus off a world I couldn’t handle. And all those populated memories–the Christmas mornings, new socks and aftershave from the least favorite of my friends, that was the population of a counter to my pain that I saw vanish in the wind of that December day in New York City as I looked down. I’d have to die, I knew, for anyone to know my name; the only way to be forgiven. You can’t hang up the paradise sign until the property is sold. My counterpane was just a downpayment on something I would never have, an the Realtor who withdrew the offer was just too late to stop me this time. No pen, no pad, and with the button in my hand, took a breath, it’d be my last, and knowing she would never come, I closed my eyes and then I jumped.
I looked at all the people down below, hither and thither moving swiftly through the lightly falling snow. People with families, with kids and back and forth they went with shopping bags and holding hands. Happy people, miserable too, some going in circles. A lot to lose and nothing to gain is to die, an unbroken dreamless sleep. No hurt, no pain, no more love or fine champagne, no sleeping late on weekends, no well cooked meals with friends, just that dreamless sleep that never ends. And with the button in my hand, I jumped. In order for my life to pass before my eyes, I think I’d have to fall from the moon, but I started to see things that never happened. A wife, children, nice house in Manhattan, a name that matters not a whisper in a screaming city. I saw Diana and her happy friends, her happy lovers that I’d never live up to. I’d be a smear on the pavement, a thumbprint on a skyscraper lost among a million more. The higher you get, the harder it is to distinguish people from one another. But I could see her halfway down, as soon as I saw the clock–it was 6:23, along with the one on the building, and mine was too far ahead–all those seconds I had accumulated with that button had put my watch off.
So I press the button and… I didn’t make it far enough to stop myself from jumping, and so I was falling again. No way to get back to the top, except to break the universe. So I was stuck there, my perfect moment full of dread and panic and indecision. And I still didn’t see my life, my past, I saw impossible futures. Christmas eve and children happy. A family I’ll never have, two girls and a boy, and one would be a writer and one would be an opera singer and the other would surprise me and Diana both, we’d adopt like me because of the kind of love adopted children need. She’d do the queen of the night aria. And I heard her scream again and so I clicked the button. Falling again, caught in the ten second loop.
Another impossible future, Easter Sunday, and they’re looking through the high grass near Rose Hill. I went there with my church as a kid. I never really looked until they said some egg hid a dollar, and that made it matter, so everyone wanted it. And then the images came. There was Diana by the water, the pitter patter of her soft soled shoes as she walked beside me, stuffed animal in her arms like a clichéd movie, smiling wide. That ride that brought us together, that gravity, would take us apart; and it got bigger and bigger as I fell, and the images came faster. The queen of the night was in my ear and everyone below was smudged and through that holy music all I heard was screaming and I pressed the button once again, back just shy of the ledge to fall again, and so I fell.
I began to realize that that was life, falling not knowing when you’re going to land. And there I was at my aunt’s house, thirteen years old, the year before my father died. And there’s his casket bronze and quiet and him in his Sunday best sound asleep inside it. And everybody’s boohoo and wailing and I’m in the bathroom on the toilet with a cigarette, my cousin standing just outside on watch. Head in my hands, someone comes in and I douse the cigarette out. Press the button again. My little sister on my mothers lap holding tight crying against her best attire, my mother holding tight. The saddest thing I’d ever seen in my life. And my brother’s standing there not looking at anyone, head on his chest, eyes on his feet, uncomfortable with the noise, the crying. Ten more seconds.
And there I am in the emergency room, third grade and my head is bleeding. I did a flip off of a pole and landed on my head. Then the sounds became pictures, numbers had color, and that hallucinogenic effect extended to the city below me, and all I saw where walking skeletons, dying slowly on their ways to nowhere. From one prison to another on a multicultural slaveship, and my love in the distance in her best dress running towards me, and my clock too far ahead and I kept falling, falling, caught in that moment of hell forever, to break the universe or rewind time and time again until I’m no longer afraid to die.
Back at the ledge again and falling–waiting to see my love in the distance calling stop, no way to stop it; and we’re all falling, from day one falling, falling forever, from the start to fall. And I realized something as I fell, the past swells up more ghostlike but it’s no more touchable than the imagined happiness of days impossible; impossible days that extend beyond my moment trapped. Birthdays and valentines, anniversaries and wine–and now I’ll never have the time. Just ten seconds to live and regret over and over too scared of death to just fall in front of my love and my friend and all those nameless faces walking between the sewers and the vents on that hot summer day and the sunrise was perfect too. We could’ve watched it bob like a yoyo up and down like that tilt a whirl that slung us into one another’s arms, and in the air caught in a circle, I never could let go, and so I pressed the button once again to try to picture in my mind all the moments that we had just right so in case when I die I’m allowed one memory of Earth at the gates of paradise to take inside. What memory would I take? Me and my father on the lake, corks in the water bobbing with the ebb and flow of the prismatic lake below our boat that mirror for the sky to do its hair. Properly quaffed it rolls on, and the moon in orbit falls as well around the Earth by gravity. What memory could I choose?
There was that trip when I was in primary school to the space camp in Alabama. We got to be weightless, and listen to them explain what they did in space, and showed us all the planets going round the sun. Jupiter the cyclops with a bloodshot eye and Saturn majestic and engaged. Neptune the blue marble and mars the ruby with Olympus moms, phobos and deimos fear and panic at the side of that great God of war. And Venus where Venusians live, that pink blue bubble. Mercury that scorched rock burnt by its mother forever in nuclear flames And Pluto on the outside cold alone like all the children who never got a chance to grow, an orphan amid the Kuiper belt, a glimmer around a source of light it often forgets like dust caught in a bent sunbeam stretching from star to star. So that moment just like Pluto long in a crowd, that would be that moment that I’d take into heaven with me, a picture of what I thought heaven was, to keep on my wall in whatever mansion my good deeds could buy.
And then I had an idea that could save me. I pressed to switch and as I fell again, as my love broke through the moping sea, I would throw her the button and let her send me back in time to a point where I didn’t have it. And she came out and grasped and I threw it at her. Then everything went blank and I felt myself dissipate and fade into the background of the day, merging with the sky just energy aware of what I’d lost but losing the faces of family and friends like water cupped in my hands. And then I was falling again, slightly lower down, and so it went over and over until she pressed the button before those ten seconds were up–which broke the universe and froze me on the ground. She took my hand and went back and we fell from ten foot to the ground together, falling over but none the worse for wear. And everything was frozen. Cars and passersby, dogs chasing frisbees in the park, people on their cellphones with their umbrellas–and the sunset frozen in the belt of Venus locked forever with us the only animation.
We walked among the statues, frozen mid-stride, the snowflakes frozen in the air as we passed over the bridge in central park. Diana plucked a snowflake from the air and blew it across the frozen water like a dandelion puff. It spun like a dredle before freezing on the unseen stage on which everything was posed, posed for us and perfect–a silent world with only us to wander, not to fall, to walk through the amazon to see such beauty, jaguars beautiful in pursuit of prey forever saved beyond their reach alive, across the Atlantic ocean, dolphins frozen in the air in play, safe to never fall–a broken universe and everyone lives on, frozen in that moment, happy or sad, with that belt of Venus sunset hanging over the observation deck in New York. And we kissed atop the Eiffel tower with a glass of wine, walked across the never breaking shores of Galilee and Venice–lost ourselves among the crowd at Mecca circling the black rock, the Kabba–the rock Muhammad circled when he came back as general. We saw blankets of sand poised to strike but never to fall in the Arabian deserts like timid curtains, strolled along the great wall and into Russia, Rostov von Don and st. Petersburg–the world we were from was going, and everyone else was just a ghost stillborn.
And then we started seeing the green lights pass by us as we swung from a hammock under a blue sky in van Gogh’s Amsterdam. And again sitting in the lap of La Pieta and I fed her grapes and kissed her neck and rubbed her soft tummy such a color, a milk white and pale pink were her lips so soft to kiss the breath against my neck. And there I asked her once again, did she ever intend to marry me. The button wouldn’t work, and I had taken it apart to make a lighter, and she said yes. So we walked across the ocean once again, back to my garret above the sandwich shop in New York. Spin the bottle, always landed on her, and we kissed like we were still young. Always young, without cruelty or cowardice we loved a love so fierce, so visceral that it went beyond friendship, beyond family, and as we lay there in that bed that night within that static world I thought about our ceremony and my vows, so I rolled over to my desk and wrote them out.
I will never be good enough for you, no one could be; you’re more than just my waking life, you’re the substance of my dream, my cherub in a frothy cloud, from one to another in my head when I lay down in my bed I close my eyes and see you there still smiling, still there for me like the family I never knew but I know you and if we can remain together I think that there could be no sort of weather that could ever break us apart as long as we’re true to each other and true to our heart and love a love that encompasses all, when we’re standing proud and when we’re standing tall, when we’re down and when we’re out, when nothing else goes right you where there you were my light the light that led Dante out of hell up to Heaven just to see his reflection in a well with you the angel on his shoulder and there I hope you will consent to be as long as I, as we both shall breathe; to part at death would be too soon, for this is a flower that I never intend to allow a falter in its bloom, and this balloon we make to celebrate this joyful day, it is the best day of my life so far to think that when I see you, once I saw you, here you are, beside me sleeping soundly with your soft voice muffled exhaling deeply happy satisfied, won’t you please be with me, all my life, and as my wife/?
We wheeled our frozen family together with a priest and performed the vows ourselves.
Do I Brandon Keith Nobles take you, Diana Elizabeth Yannetti, to be my unlawful wedded wife? “You do.” She said. “Do I, Diana Elizabeth Yannetti, take you, Brandon Keith Nobles, to be my unlawful wedded husband?” You do, said I. You may kiss the bride. And when we kissed I felt we too had like the rest froze–and, married, decided to return to that observation deck again to watch our never ending sunset. We were old, had grown old together, no company except that green whiff of light that often passed us by, hovering in the air for a moment and letting out an inhuman static shriek, the sound of white noise and static on a dead TV station, and there we set with our sunset and at our end had spent our lives together; all together, a perfect life, so many impossible futures having never been we made the best with what we had. Do you regret it? I asked. “Not at all,” said she. “I’ve never felt alone.” Neither have I. And then behind us a tunnel opened and outstepped our old friend Ho-Chi, the bitter ex-professor shunned, upset that we had locked him outside of time; somehow he had saved himself, said he, and had been tunneling through time to find us, just to find the button. He took it from me, and I told him how I’d broke it for a lighter. Not a problem, said he; I can fix it. There, he said, after a few minutes. We can do it all over again. But we wouldn’t remember any of it. Would you like to go around again, my love? I asked. Smiling, said she, “I do.”

F
A
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We met at a carnival, on a ride, a tilt whirl went up and down, and gravity brought us together in the aisle, our little prison, in our little prison free.

Chapter 4 – Constellations

4

Alissa pushed the mirror away and covered her face, holding her eyes shut tightly. Her father sat beside her. The lady – she could tell through each small sound, still at strange heights – began to redress the magic mirror. She couldn’t shake the image bu she tried, for hours hoping, praying, begging, wishing that when she slept she’d lose the image, the whole thing would go away, like a memory from childhood of a small moment, a moment no one notices or remembers; filling a bird-feed, changing the hay for the horses, something routine, something ordinary.

Her father stayed with her until the sun went down. She felt her father’s heartbeat against her shoulder, tender and supportive. She felt silly and opened her eyes. His eyes were closed, but he seemed calm. Calm enough, at least. And he put his head on her shoulder, looking, she knew, for some sort of support from her.

And she said, “I’m sorry.”

He laughed and asked:

“What did you see?”

“The painting,” the princess said. “It just didn’t seem like me.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s okay.”

She’d find out later to her shame the kind of fee her father paid for a mirror, for such magic. The price for her to get to see had cost her father’s sight. She thought back to that night with him, leading him outside into the courtyard and then on the hill under the black velvet blank full of stars. He got comfortable on his back. She wanted to show him she remembered, the stars from the night before. She put her finger on his stomach first, “I remember,” she said. She pressed into his stomach, “Here is Ariete,” she moved onward, sideways, “And Leone right here,” she kept on drawing. “Pesci of course and your sign Acquario, that’s yours and mama’s sign is here, Gemelli…”

“Wait!” she cried. “Where is my mother?”

“She’s in the country,” he said. He repeated a few more times and was quiet. She understood and never asked again. She continued with the constellations on his stomach, on his chest. And when she stopped, he said: “You forgot yourself.”

He pulled her hand above his heart and said, “Right here,” he said.

“Toro!”

Continue to Part 1 –> Vanishing Point

Chapter 2 – The Face in the Fire

2

The night had crept up on them quietly, bathing the now dim dining hall, its candles blown out and left smoking. That candle light, those flames still seemed so personal, like living things. And she liked to watch them as her father spoke, to relive that moment when she first awoke again.

He led her from the dining hall through winding corridors with torches hanging on the walls. The shadows thrown, such strange patterns, with light and darkness split by lanterns. The castle doors came slowly slowly down and moaned. Everything seemed to make some sound or sounds, as if they spoke, not as a consequence of movement, not for her, but from personality; the doors were old and groaned but did their duty still; they had purpose, as all things did, all personable and alive. Soon they were in the courtyard, and under the canopy of distant lights, the stars! There they were, scattered in that endless ocean, stretching on and on forever, without end. A black ocean full of fire, anglerfish with entranced planets, hypnotized and trapped by its spell.

So much to take in, so very much! So much she knew she’d never know, never could know, never hear of all of them nor their names, and silent all of them, so far away like all of space and quiet, She fell asleep underneath the constellations as her father spoke, imagining those distant fires as candlelights themselves, with the same voice.

“And that is Ariene, and Toros, and Pesci there, and my sign Acquario, your mothers there, Gemelli, and yours..,”

Alissa was fast asleep. Dreaming in color, too; she was a fire like the rest; and spoke to kids as that same flame that managed to light her life, bring her the stars; among them now and uncontained by mirrors or frames unbound by math just change; never stopping endless never still. Breathing and stretching in such freedom with such relish, a longing she had never known and it went on. Sparks struck into flame and swelled orange at first then red, then white and finally blue and bright bright beyond compare it flashed and ebbed away. One after another flaring into flame and life just to subside as had all others growing faint, growing dim each light, each point she had just slept under in such peace. Each point followed in its fashion, some larger and some brighter yet none of them were lasting; finally they were far away, as far as they had been when she had listened to her father. She heard him speaking, voice of the last stars each fading, ever darker, ever gray. She woke in the comfort of her bed. She could hear father talking to someone, a woman; the voice was familiar.

Alissa heard her father say, “Whatever you ask,” he said. “It’s yours.”

The woman walked into the room. Alissa’s father followed close behind, “I have something for you…”

The woman held an object, egg-shaped on one end , straight on the other; cased in black satin, tied at the hilt with a golden tassel.

“This,” said she, “is very special, a magical object. Your father said you wanted the best of all the mirrors, best in the whole wide world, is that right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Alissa.

“Well,” she said, “look at this!”

The velvet sheet fell to the floor as a glittering object, mostly silver, slid from it into one hand, then to both. The glass was more liquid than solid, unusual and restless; the mirror moved—the mirror moved! Changing shapes and changing colors always shifting restless, so it seemed. The woman said, “This is a very special mirror. This mirror tells only truth, while other mirrors only show what’s real. This will show your true face no matter what, whether you wish to see it or not. It is a camaleonte, alive… Do you know that is?”

“It is a lizard,” said the princess. “A chameleon.”

“Yes,” the lady said. “This is the Chameleon Mirror.”

Continue to Chapter 3 –> The Mirror Moves