The Ballad of Sleepy Morning

In the Early

“Here, you have no name,” Chief Bongo said. “You have no name until you are given a name.”

He waved a strong wand in front of me and I couldn’t remember what my name was. I was to be initiated.

Bongo took me on a tour of Musicologum.

“Meet ancestor Chieftain Homunculus,” Bongo says and points to an exhibit holding a primitive woodwind yodel that stretches from the ground up to above the crown of my head.

“Homunculus was very tall. He blew through this trumpet the sounds of our people—deep peace, deep tranquility.”

Bongo instructed me to put my hand on the yodel. I felt a strong presence of hummingbirds and large rivers, avalanches and the sweet scent of lightly-purpled flowers.

I saw the myriad ways in which I had been cruel or selfish in the history of my life. I wondered if a sea monster might swallow me. I felt as if the entire life process was a hideous exercise in humiliating my existence. I writhed under this difficulty.

Then I heard a faint whisp of sound, breathy in thunder-coated rough-softness. The sound warbled as it reached my mind, but when it entered it became a swift and lazy brook that carried me into a deep cove. I ducked underwater. There were glorious reefs, tiny anemones, talking fish. I popped my head back up and realized I was in a giant ocean.

The ocean had a choppy water. It began to shake and the waves all collected in a uniform fashion. They all began to shake at the same height, same spread, mathematical. The whole ocean boiled down to a small quivering in its surface tension and the whisp became a bellow. The water was calm, but it became heavier to hold up my body. I sank and was swallowed by the ocean.

“That is the song of Homunculus,” the chief remarked. He instructed me to follow him to a tree stump marked with sad and/or violent-looking engravings.

A man wearing a rooster’s skull on his head grunted at me and furrowed his look. “You must use this,” he said, and retrieved from his hut a caged owl. The owl looked nervous.

“I will now sacrifice this owl for you,” the man said. “You must use this.”

I stood there feeling very culpable. Both the chief and the rooster man had severe facial expressions and I was scared of them. I didn’t  want to make them angry. I decided I would show my reservations about killing an owl by making a patronizing/ironic look on my face, and try to give off an aura of condescension about the matter.

The man took the owl out of the cage. “Hoot,” the owl said. The owl was held sideways on the tree stump. Its wings were wrestling with the firm grasp of strong hands. In one sudden motion the man unsheathed his knife and chopped the owl’s head off. It looked like you’d expect it to, the owl had his head cut off. There was more blood and it kept pooling up. The blood soaked the stump as if it had all the time in the world. And yet it moved quickly.

I puzzled over the apparent paradox when I realized I had seen death and should feel remorseful or at least profound and serious.

“Life is beautiful,” the rooster man intoned as he looked downward. Though his eyes did not contact mine, the meaning in his voice felt like he directed a main-line telegraph straight into my brain, everything he had seen, felt, heard up to that very culminating moment was just for me. All of it had been just for me.

The owl’s blood and twitching body seemed to swallow the whole of the world in this beauty I now felt permitted to appreciate. Bongo returned with a laurel of garnets and painted acorns that he placed on my head. He gave me a necklace made of cocoa beans and the pits of tropical fruit. He bent down to the ground and touched the tips of each of my toes slightly with the smallest point of his tongue.

“You are now one of us,” he said, “your name is Sleepy Morning.” I inhaled half a breath. Freeze-frame cognition-stop.

Bongo saw.

“But you cannot live with us,” he said. “You are wrong for this place. You are Sleepy Morning, and you must go from here.”

He raised his staff and pointed to a beckoning forest path whose tree twigs held pink eyes and whose flowers held question marks in their centers.

“Go!” he shouted in a voice simultaneously louder and softer than the apocalypse.

I, Sleepy Morning, took my things and left for the forest path.

 

Requiem of the Owl

After I walked for a while I came across a hut that had been emptied. No one lived there except burnt out twigs used to light a small fire. I was alone and somewhere in the distance heard the sounds of catabasis.

It was late noon when I saw the owl making its way across the nearby sky-forms. I moved my head about 5 feet northwest via standing up and peering toward the window. The owl entered my window.

“a triumphant tale of a long journey,” she said.

I nodded. It was as she had said.

Outside there was a dog wounded, chained to a tree by a trap. Its leg was chewed with steel. It attempted to make human noises, and the sound was hideous. All it ended up making was a “How-ow” sound, something like “Come back” or “Don’t go” or “Help me.” Decidedly bisyllabic.

Realizing, the owl departed before I had any time to think. I couldn’t make a response I just sat there staring at the dog, and now the owl was gone.

It flew back sometime later. Things felt different. I was less inside the situation and more inside the wall separating the situation from the remainder of the surrounding universe. But maybe it was just because the longing I had felt to go home was so strong. Maybe it was just because I missed the land of the Sleepy Morning, and I myself a person with a name and a world.

The owl hooted. I thought I last saw it with its head cut off. It dropped off a bag. The bag was made of dark and luscious silk. I opened the bag.

Inside the bag there was a button. The button made a “ey-ey-fizzshhhcadune” sound when I pushed it. The button revealed a world I step inside.

nothing.  whiteness.  you can poke through skin of white to reveal oscillating patterns of

color, and you can poke through the color to reveal blackness.

The door closed. My thoughts returned to the most precious object I saw there. I’m mad I’m back here. I miss it. I notice the owl is gone. I forage what I can from the hut’s interior and move in the direction of the sun. Maybe The Long Divide will be there.

 

Sleepy Morning, pt. 3

I followed the owl’s trail across the mountain to the land of the Long Divide. As it flew, it spun its head around 360 degrees and looked at me from time to time from above. Sometimes it would vomit the skeletons of littler animals and leave them for me to find, like presents.

The little skeletons could be transformed into puppets if you grabbed the little pieces of ligament and cartilage the owl had wrapped around them. I’d amuse myself beside the campfire with little stage plays made of the little puppets.

Over the mountain’s ridge and into the outskirts of the city, I sometimes felt my feet falling asleep as I walked. I got the sensation I was being watched. I passed by two tiny huts, hidden under the hills by the sides of the road.

“We got em!” someone shouted. “Stay put you little fucker!

One of the villagers caught a ninja.

 

In the Morning Time

“A sane person can drive themselves insane deliberately, but it’s not the kind of insanity you’d expect. In fact it’s rather predictable. True “insanity” is not insanity. The thing you may want is right here with you already. It’s just that it’s concealed. You’re confused.”

The village people paid no mind to the words of the ninja and took off his face mask. Good God, he was ugly. But he was smiling.

“You are scared of my ugly face. But I am not scared of what you think. Go ahead and lock me up again. I wasn’t going to kill anyone, anyway.”

Ninjas had a reputation for dishonesty. He could’ve said anything and the villagers still would have strung him up and took him to town hall for a public execution.

The ninja turned and bored into me with his yellow, bulging eyes. “I am prisoner 32190-Z,” he said. “Someone might as well remember me.”

I nodded, feeling a sudden and strange sympathy with the fellow. The villagers turned and saw me, my head poking out from where a tree branch wasn’t.

“Who’re you?”

“I’m… Sleepy Morning,” I said.

They laughed at my name. This I was worried about most of all. I don’t like going to a town. Towns are more dangerous than the wilderness. You can never predict what will make the village happy. It always feels like they expect something of you. But they never make it clear what they want. I doubt that they themselves know what they expect of you.

The ninja was taken to the town hall and hanged. I was in the Land of the Long Divide. The walls of the city reached high and inconsiderate of the forest. I was uncomfortable. What was it I was brought here to retrieve? Do you know? I do not.

I began to doubt I was ever on a mission in the first place. After all, the tribesmen had caught me just as the amnesia came on. I had a vague recollection of a “purpose” and/or “journey,” but none of that was clear to me. I began to toy with the idea that I had no mission. That I was only a Sleepy Morning, coursing through the world in a half-dreamed madness. That was OK.

I reached into my bag and got out the skeleton puppets the owl had left me. I began to play with them while the villagers’ noise got louder and louder. They were partying because of the public execution. I made three characters out of my puppets:

1) Horatio Somersault, a seven foot tall barbarian from across the hills, who enjoyed old-time country music and had a mild addiction to chocolate covered berries;

2) Hardtimes McOldson, an old, old man rumored to still be alive only due to the strange elixir he had concocted for him by a witch doctor in the hills of the Land of the Sun Tunnels.

3) Bingeria Bulimaneo, a young girl from across the sea who had a keen ear for the sounds of trouble and a predilection for sugary water-drinks.

The three of them were involved in a hilarious comedy of errors involving a menage-a-trois. I built a campfire and slept outside the town, now certain there was no need to visit the Long Divide if I didn’t feel like it was a good idea. I slept, and slept, and slept.

 

Leaving Division Alone to Itself in the Dawn

I woke up and the Land of the Long Divide was popping off with gunshots and explosions. Arcs of great missiles would twinkle over the horizon and crash into buildings. Great commotion followed flash mobs of villagers as they evacuated.

How long had I been asleep? The skyline had new buildings, taller buildings, that stretched farther upwards than the ones I had seen coming in.

For some reason I wanted to walk backwards, away from the skyline. I did better thoughts when I walked backwards.

After five paces backwards many things happened very quickly. Something hit me on the back of the head. Something crawled its way down my face. I froze and couldn’t think but couldn’t leave behind how I had felt before the events began. A loud noise sounded like some kind of set of symbols for me to understand.

When I turned around the Owl was lying inside a  hollowed tree moaning “Who, who, who, who.” Its belly was facing upwards. Its feathers had almost all turned white or grey. There was blood coming out of its belly, and many different shades of blood, dried, dripping or fresh, like rainbow paint covering its talons.

I crouched next to the owl. I had no idea how to help the owl and, honestly, assumed the owl would rather die than accept help in the first place, since owls are birds of prey and birds of prey are the proudest animals in the kingdom. “Who, who, who, who.” The owl and I locked eyes.

There was an ocean. The ocean felt aware of its own massiveness. It was aware of how heavy it was. It felt a kind of sexual relationship with the earth beneath it, and its waves against the shore were a kind of lovemaking to the earth that supported it. The ocean felt its body extend everywhere its body was–I wasn’t used to this kind of sensation because I feel a privilege of feeling where my head is, as a human. My feet and spleen and nipples and fingernails are not given the same kind of automatic attention as my forehead and my face and brain are. Feeling as if I was an ocean, all parts of my body stretched everywhere.

The ocean waves brushed over my eyes, washing over my face, carrying away my thinking on a tide. When I blinked the owl had turned to a fine vapor. Its appearance turned to a silver wisp that floated away from itself and behaved like a silvery rag in the air that flew into my nostrils and as I inhaled forcefully I “snorted” the owl’s essence into myself.

Looking down, there were three small moonflowers stretching toward the night sky. I plucked them and walked around the war scene, avoiding the broken souls screaming on the exit from the city. I headed west.

A sign to the west of the Long Divide read, “Un-interruption: 5 Leagues North. Un-iteration: 5 Leagues West.” Which one should I take?

 

Code Seasickness

I was in the realm of decision making. There was little way to know whether I should choose Un-iteration or Un-interruption. I wasn’t sure what kinds of places these places ultimately were. My mind’s eye pictured the two arrows, pointing away from each other as if I was having a ping-pong battle inside of myself. In my mind’s eye it shifted to a silvery flourish. “Who, who, who” it rang out.

Who, who, who. I was feeling less uncertain of my uncertainty. “It’s time to just make a decision,” I said. I remembered a story I was told a long time ago: A donkey is in a shed. To his left, there is a pail of water. To his right there is a pail of water. Both pails of water are equidistant. The donkey has no criteria to measure which pail he should go to. Because he can supply no rational explanation for choosing the pail to the right or the pail to the left, he stands immobile in the shed until he dies of thirst.

I wouldn’t be like the donkey. My mind was made up: I’d go to the land of Un-iteration Un-interruption Un-iteration.

“Sleepy Morning!” A voice rang as loud as the universe. “You are a mere Sleepy Curiosity. You’ve failed us.”

I turned around to see what I thought was a 700 foot tall owl, before realizing I had hallucinated slightly and there was no one. No one but the voice, which had its own presence all the same.

“You must wake up as soon as possible. You’re too tired. Your attitudes and perspectives are all musty and brown-old, decayed in the amber dying of your restless, covetous soul.”

I wondered who would talk to me so elaborately. Who says such mean things with such a pompous, verbose style? Who, who, who?

“There is something very bad coming for you.” At this point I felt I needed to look around in attempts to find who was truly saying these things. There was no one. There was no one. The voice was like a P.A. system from the dimension outside of this one, where all notions of space, distance and insurmountability are nullified.

What more bad can come for me? I wondered. I had given up all hope of securing for myself something that could remove bad entirely from my life–I wasn’t even ever sure if there was something truly called “bad” that I could said to have been afflicted with. So what is this large voice saying? I began to sense a slight shift in the center of my stomach though, a vague sense that I would be leaving behind a large portion of myself were I to offer resistance or attempt to depart from under this loud and regal voice.

“When I am done talking, you will need to move quickly. I’ve read it in the bottom of a cup of Macha. You will soon begin to ache with the deepest remorse if you do not behave the way I tell you.

“You should trust no friend. Trust the trees.”

It was five seconds of silence before I realized I needed to move. What had I decided? The land of Un-interruption. I was running, satchel in hand, my thoughts blurred into silver.

When I made it over a ridgeline I saw a giant Cloud Banner in the sky. “SINGING SUNLIGHT, MORNING GLORY.” It took up most of the cloud cover and left a shadow that draped the field.

There was a bear in the clearing. The bear was dressed in a lovely silk brocade, a strange top hat, and was riding a unicycle. For the first time since I had snorted the owl, I thought to myself I hate myself. I knew myself well enough to know by now. I had been Sleepy Morning for long enough to accumulate a strong reserve of memories. They were enough to suck me into the echo chamber of my own Sleepy-Morning-ed awareness. I hate myself. The bear laughed with his head turned to the sky. His laughter seemed to cackle at the Gods themselves. Every burst of sound from his bear mouth was a delight, maple syrup, orange juice of joy. He saw me.

“I am Singing Sunlight,” he said. “I have come to give you happiness.”

I stood paralyzed. I hate myself, I thought again. I’m back to where I can’t make a single action. I’m fraudulent.

“Are you ready for my happiness?”

I stood silent.

“Are you ready for my happiness?”

I stood muted. I stood dumb. I hate myself.

“I am giving you my happiness. Would you like it?”

In a way, I knew what I could do next only because I had once been a child. Caught in a bad dream, I would raise as much of a fuss as I could. I would topple things, shout. I would disturb the social order of my environment. In response, my mind would collapse upon its own scene. I could wake up.

I’m going to wake up now, I thought. I will break this.

“I’m handing you my happiness.”

Singing Sunlight was riding his unicycle toward me. As he approached I saw he was much taller than I first realized. His fur was a delicate as crab grass, his body a lawn of brown delight. He took off his hat and was reaching inside of it to grab something for me.

I felt a nausea like nothing, like a melting of myself. I was losing who I was, when I had only recently been given myself again. “You will have a Wakeful Morning,” Singing Sunlight told me. “You will be a Satiated Bear.”

He held his happiness in his hand and, in a glorious smile, reached his paw out toward me. I had never felt more embarrassed for being who I was. I was convinced he could’ve been a Sleepy Morning if he wanted to, a perfectly happy Morning, he could be myself better than I was prepared for this role at all.

I dove my face into the dirt. Writhing on the ground (a common nightmare strategy) I fumbled for my bag of moonflowers.

Singing Sunlight appeared to have short circuited and could say nothing. I couldn’t see his face but got the vague wonderment that he was dumbfounded, which helped my low self-esteem.

I stuck the moonflower into my throat and pushed until my mouth couldn’t feel it anymore. The clouds rushed inward toward the center of the sky. Clouds came almost to the tops of trees. A fog closed in on all of us. When I looked up, Singing Sunlight was gone.

 

415th Morning

I woke up near a fresh spring at the foot of a mountain. I could see unicorns running into the woods, their bright white butts galloping away from me. I walked toward the direction the spring was flowing.

Downstream I met a Mentor living in an old hut. His life was quiet and direct, it seemed, organized around a single, real principle. My name is Bro, he told me. I’m collecting radishes, he said.

I asked if I could see his precious medallions. I could tell he had a store of them.The Mentor shook his head. There were no radishes to be found. No radishes meant he couldn’t in good conscience share his medallions. I nodded in acceptance.

I asked where a snake would go if it had infinite abilities to regenerate. He told me the snake would move toward the Mountain. All snakes congregate on the Mountain’s peak, to warm themselves so close to the sun.

I remembered an old slave song the Long Divided patrons used to sing.

 

Mountain, be kind to the snake tail

River, be meek to the snake head

People, be kind to the snake mind

Planet, hear the prayer of the fang

 

Just then some children jumped across the brook in the distance. I  heard their hushed giggling whispers mention me by name. I leaned against the Mentor’s hut and hid myself. The Mentor hit me with his long, leather-wrapped flute. “Don’t be dishonest near children,” he said.

With a buoyant, light-hearted shame I retrieved my pack and began to hike the Mountain. No more than 400 feet forward I discovered the Shrine of the Snake. No one was attending the shrine. I was alone in its small quarters.

At the mantle of the shrine was a glyph celebrating the death of the snake at the claws of the owl. I wanted to rid myself of the snakelikeness in me.. That first bit of tail tasted good, but as my midsection entered my throat I realized the error. I existed as a companion to the owl. No. I was meant to surrender, and die.

In Snake Divination, one answers three questions to the face of the snake.

What is your mourning?

Who is your own disease?

Where will you go when you’re eaten?

My answers: “The tribe of Chief Homonculus.” “The ghost of my amnesia.” “To home, without a tail.”

A screeching was heard in the shrine, echoing in a sort of repetitive amusement. I was standing outside of myself. I had become two, not one, Sleepy Mornings. I was watching both as a removed presence.

Both of the new me’s turned around and stared in my direction. “Who, who, who.” One fell through the floor. The other leaped through the ceiling.

 

Sleepy Calamity

I watched as the two people of myself ricocheted off of the planet and into two different realms. One ascended into the clouds. One plummeted into magma.

Sleepy Morning in the clouds was welcomed by a fleet of cloud lawyers. “we are here to read your rights,” they said.

“You have the following rights:

  • To never feel bad about anything
  • To understand everything
  • To feel positive all the time
  • To crush all despair inside yourself
  • To never be judged or criticized
  • To be considered, well, by everyone

Do you understand these rights as you’ve been read them?”

Cloudly Sleepy Morning nodded yes.

“You need a re-naming as part of our intake. Do you consent to this? You need to consent to this but you can answer in any way you like.”

Cloudly Sleepy Morning nodded yes.

“Let’s see…” the cloud lawyers shuffled through their papers. “You are now the Dreaming Dragon. Is this name acceptable to you? It must be acceptable to you, but you are free to answer in any way you  wish.”

Dreaming Dragon nodded yes.

“You are free to behave in any way you’d like, but you must visit the Wellness Center of the Clouds so your earthly imperfections may be cured. You are free to not visit the Wellness Center of the Clouds, but you need to visit it. Do you understand?”

Dreaming Dragon stood up and walked to the Wellness Center of the Clouds, where Cloud Weathermen were standing in a circle performing an incantation. They produced a thunderstorm, in miniature, floating inside their circle of hands like a ship in a bottle. They heaved it downwards. In the distance, Dreaming Dragon saw a greenish purple crackling demon cloud unroll itself over a chain of mountains.

Dreaming Dragon entered the Wellness Centre of the Clouds. Inside a woman wearing a hat with an ensignia of a glowing yellow disc.

“I am now going to do you a favor,” she said. “I am going to Banish your bad qualities. Since you are new here, this is free.”

She whipped a long piece of knitted cloud-particle around her head and snapped it with tsunami-levels of force. It came down on the tip of Dreaming Dragon’s head, removing the tuft of hair on the crown. She picked up the tuft and set it on an altar.

“You myst repeat after me,” she said. “You MYST!”

Dreaming Dragon touched the place the Priestess whipped her whip.

“I AM NO GOOD;

THE THINGS I HAVE DONE ARE BAD.”

Dreaming Dragon, suspiciously, a little removed, a little hesitant and civil-disobedience-esque, repeated the words.

“THE EVALUATIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND ME ARE TRUE,

INSOFAR AS THEY REINFORCE TO ME

HOW LITTLE I AM,

AND HOW I SHOULD ALWAYS BE ACCOMPLISHING MORE THAN

I CURRENTLY AM.”

Dreaming Dragon’s open mouth ended up vomiting instead of saying the words. A crowd gathered to observe the vomit. They were noncommittal, smiling, while walking away, backwards, from Dreaming Dragon. Their faces wore a happy, pleased expression that was a little tight at each of the focal points of their features, their skin was a little stretched, there was a nanoscopically small quiver to each of their faces.

There was a short break in the professionalism of the Wellness Specialist. She reached out and touched Dreaming Dragon, almost surgically, with warmth and care and said, “That was good, good job. That was good.”

 

Considerate Sadism

In other news, Sleepy Morning in the Magma struggled in agony to reach a rock island safe from the lava. Strangely, no body parts were burnt, only tingling in a leaping pain, like the whole body was dipped in extra spicy food. Sleepy Morning in the Magma took seven minutes to stand up fully.

A flying worm wafted past Sleepy Morning in the Magma, its wings longer and larger than itself. It dove into the expansive lake of magma, rustled its head down into the scorching liquid, and came up, chewing and swallowing something. The worm circled in mid-air then rushed at Sleepy Morning in the Magma’s head. A crunching sound filled Sleepy Morning in the Magma’s head and hot blood slid and pushed out of a gape on the side of the head–the worm had bitten half of Sleepy Morning in the Magma’s ear off.

It was so hot down there that the wound cauterized and also only stung a bit. Still, Sleepy Morning in the Magma screamed. The sound was muted and yet realized–Sleepy Morning in the Magma could not hear it and still felt satisfied.

In the distance Sleepy Morning in the Magma saw a fleet of grey dust concealing the swinging advance of a small army of sickly, twitching humanoids. They naturally exhaled a grey and putrid-looking smoke. One saw Sleepy Morning in the Magma, moaning, “FOREIGNERRRR” and raising its hand.

“FOREIGNERRRR” they all said.

“I am a Foreigner,” thought Sleepy Morning in the Magma, and stood proud, awaiting the advance of the fleet of the grey, smoky humanoids.

The stopped on the cliff face about 50 feet away. “We are the Smoke Doctors,” they said. “You are the Foreigner.” The Foreigner nodded, already forgetting Sleepy Mornings and aware that was not the real name of itself anyhow. The Smoke Doctors, in unison, reached down to the ground, picked up a large hunk of rock, and chewed and swallowed as one.

“How did I end up here?” asked the Foreigner.

The Smoke Doctor in the front of the pack blew a thick cloud in the Foreigner’s direction.

“Don’t bother,” he said.

The Smoke Doctors danced a little and stood up and stared hard into the Foreigner’s face.

“You will stay here forever, probably,” they said. “There is no hope for you, probably.” The Foreigner began to cry.

“You can cry if you want to,” the Smoke Doctor in the front said. “But here, come here, you might like this.”

The Smoke Doctor floated to the Foreigner’s face and said, “Open your mouth.” Choking back the sobs, the Foreigner’s mouth open wide, with closed eyes. The Smoke Doctor began twitching, near seizure-levels of shaking, and conjured a blue glow that traveled from the center of his chest up to his throat and a brilliant azure cloud released from his mouth like neon, like a radiant blast. “Inhale, inhale.” The Foreigner sucked in the blue cloud.

Slipping away, forgetting all things, the Foreigner became a true anonymous person inside the magma lair. The Foreigner forgot everything and decided to act first and consider the Foreigner as a human subject in only a secondary way. The Foreigner realized there was no gravity on the magma rock, and floated across the lava in an untroubled ease, high beyond belief.

 

Dreaming Dragon Dies

Dreaming Dragon was being caressed, carelessly, slightly distractedly, by the Wellness Specialist of the Cloud Kingdom when the Sun Master came from a cloud higher in the sky and descended downward, hooking his foot onto a small loop sticking out of the Wellness Center and flipping, downward, to the very place Dreaming Dragon had just vomited. His curled, almost cheeto-puffy cloudshoes splatted mildly in the pool of puke.

A tiny, imperceptible creep of disgust wound its way across his nose into the squinting regions of his eyes.

“Dreaming Dragon,” he said. ”I am going to help you forever.”

“You never have to worry about heaving your troubles on your back. I am here for you and will solve your problems through the glowing light of my sun, child. Come into my sun and I will cure you.”

Dreaming Dragon, confused, began to step backwards, trying to remember who… who… Where was Dreaming Dragon? How had Dreaming Dragon entered the clouds? No answers were revealed but the sense of searching began to unsettle a shaking, quivering sense of wonder and dopamine inside of Dreaming Dragon’s lower chest.

The Sun Priest gently extracted a long strand of goldencloud from the edges of a nearby nimbus and twisted it into a gentle braid. He was humming a cold, almost elegaic kind of melody, then looked up to Dreaming Dragon and said, “You will be fixed.”

Dreaming Dragon, invigorated in the imagining of his enigma, “Where did all this and myself come from,” suddenly found a resistance in the lower left region of the torso. Shooting pain carried with it on the electric nerve signal the message that, while safe, while good, while un-fixable and unneeding to improve, Dreaming Dragon could best be better away from the Sun Priest, standing over the dead body of the Sun Priest, maybe even drinking the blood of the Sun Priest in a chilled glass resting against the trunk of a grounded, dying tree.

It was then that Dreaming Dragon got a tingling sensation at the skull’s crown, and in an uncanny sixth sense most resembling echolocation realized two things: one, that the visualizations of killing and drinking the Sun Priest were “sensible” (able to and being experienced) above the skull’s crown, and two, that not only could all Cloud Citizen’s observe these visualizations (which, Dreaming Dragon imagined, began somewhere around the time the recent enigma of wondering began), but that they had always had this facility of sense and were using it around Dreaming Dragon at all times. The sense that thought-echolation had been occurring all around Dreaming Dragon at all times suggested a mild paranoia, alienation, and an even more heightened sense of wanting to rip apart the Sun Priest, to pull him apart like a cotton ball, to hear the noise of a cotton ball pulled apart in screechy, almost above-the-range-of-human-hearing discomfort.

By now the Sun Priest had made five braids of the goldencloud and had attached to them some gleaming prism-esque lightshackles that couldn’t be looked into directly. The crowd of the Wellness Center was busily beaming echos, bumping their heads up and down and Dreaming Dragon could make out only slight reverbs of sneering judgment in their bobbling heads.

“I’m binding you for your protection now,” said the Sun Priest. The Cloud Citizens leaped in one coordination onto Dreaming Dragon’s shaking body.

“I’ll kill you all, I’ll rip apart every single one of you,” said Dreaming Dragon in a half-dazed insistence.

Dreaming Dragon’s hands, feet and neck were tied tight with cloudbraid.

“We have given you the greatest gift,” said the Sun Priest when the restraints were so complete that Dreaming Dragon felt made of stone, catatonic, strangely deep inside an unknown paralysis of all emotion and sense. Somewhere Dreaming Dragon heard the sound of a bubbling creekbed’s river, a river that might have, hypothetically, engulfed all of Dreaming Dragon’s senses into one flow of sense and consciousness.

“You will stay put {and suffer} until you understand how and what we do {understand and perform}.”

“Yes,” said another Cloud Citizen. “Your vomit was a {farce and untrustable}. Why do {you insist on being so negative?}”

“You are {a demon, a sad clown, a bad person}” said the Wellness Specialist. “You will {die here}. We {do not love you.}”

Dreaming Dragon remembered, for a moment, the song of Chief Homonculus, rumbling in the soft didgeridoo-ing that swallowed the Nameless Village so foreign, so distinct and distant. At the skull’s crown came a screeching hawk, like a great phlegm was being coughed, deep green and thick, and when Dreaming Dragon looked down there was a hole in the center of where a body was supposed to be. At unimaginable speeds came a severed owl’s head, blood streaking so quickly it cast a spraypaint tan on the entire circle.

The owlhead landed square in the ribs of the Sun Priest and caved his chest in. He bent over in death and dissolved into a cloud. The Cloud Citizens started to kick Dreaming Dragon’s immobile body.

At the very moment that the kicks shifted from discrete, singular events to a smear of violent thumpings as one entire movement, Dreaming Dragon remembered the morning, THAT it was morning, and entered death.

 

The Foreigner Ascends

“I was born in a cloud of smoke,” said the Foreigner, floating above a craggled rock cliff still bubbling steamily from the magma that had seconds before lapped against its face. The Foreigner felt the sizzling heat in a new way, now–not something to be fled from directly, fled from in some totalitarian form, but something that could be utilized. The sense of instinctual escape from the fire could be “tacked,” thought the Foreigner, into some greater productive/creative force that, while answerable to a delay (in the time it would take to first experience the instinct of escape), could nonetheless be authentically straightforward. Tacking the sting of the lava pushed the Foreigner’s floating into the front of the Smoke Doctor’s pack. Leading, like the head goose, the Foreigner looked behind and saw the jittering, insecure Doctors all looking smugly submissive, as if they had been waiting for the universe, like a dominant sexual partner, to take without asking in a safe and pre-approved way.

The Foreigner saw a sculpture (sentient-being-crafted and yet, also, a natural coincidence, remaining misunderstood) in the distance, still undefined save the sense that it was something that could, with an attendant suspension of disbelief, be considered existent in a frame separate from its surroundings, as something communicative, bubbling like one would imagine atoms inside a solid do: meaningful-with-agency inside an inert environment. Something strange happened when the Foreigner floated closer to the looming of the sculpture: a sense of condensing matter and stopping time rushed through the Foreigner’s bloodstream; underneath this sense, perhaps communicated by the loomingness, was the feeling that this freezing and condensation would be incomplete and dangerous.

The sculpture, as it grew closer, registered in the Foreigner’s vision without any attendant sense of interpretation, uncategorized–when the Foreigner became conscious of this lack, the thought “CATEGORY: FEAR” flashed hesitantly inside a river of magma that seemed both physical and conceptual, in a hallucinatory way. Each freeze was broken, then reattempted, then lost, and another freeze replaced it.

“CATEGORY: PREDATOR” the Foreigner un-thought, saw only drizzling through the river of lava in an unassumed self-consciousness, a self-consciousness that had all the common indicators and trappings of careful self-observation with no attendant sense of interiority.

It was then that the Foreigner realized it could not make eye contact with the sculpture; the Foreigner wanted in desperation to see into it, to lock sentiences with it out of a fascination and respect. “I have never respected or admired something ever so much as this sculpture,” thought the Foreigner. Still, the freezing rendered the Foreigner incapable of being able to accept the idea of being seen, with all one’s actions preserved and impressioned by the other, and could not look. The Smoke Doctors stopped in uniform before the Foreigner realized there was no more pack floating and only the Foreigner, alone, sauntering above ground toward something unseen and dark, eyes held down. Too scared to make eye contact, thought the Foreigner.

The Foreigner started to look up and turned away before anything could happen.

“There may be no hope of staring into the sculpture,” thought the Foreigner. “I will need to be absolutely confident. I need to drop it all off.”

It was then that the Foreigner found, immediately underneath the shadow of the lone floating, five miniature sculptures formed into a circle. At once it was clear these sculptures bore the same creative mark as the great one; one saw the true image, in a smaller place, on the Foreigner’s own side. When the Foreigner looked closer it appeared the miniature statues, kind-hearted and posessing a vast silence, were almost gummy, flexible, and hardly made out of rock (such as the great sculpture unmistakably was), but instead magma in the process of solidifying.

The Foreigner looked up to see the statue’s shape unmistakably: the Foreigner’s own face, the Foreigner’s head growing out of the body of a creature with the torso of a snake and the thin legs of a spider.

Before the Foreigner could register the sight on any commentarial level, the ground shaked slowly and when the Foreigner looked down, where there were once human feet, there was a snake tail and spindly legs, all still floating above the magma rocks. Feeling lighter, the Foreigner began to rise. The snake spider body was flexible and felt fast, tumbling upward in a neon blue glow.

The Foreigner looked down at the Smoke Doctors and saw that they were heaving with the full force of their lungs an attempt at blowing a small artifact up toward the Foreigner as the distance between them grew greater. The Foreigner leaned down and snagged from the air at the last moment a small bag of ashes wrapped in thin, scaly leather. Then the Foreigner looked down and saw the blurring orange and red of this place narrowing and disappearing behind a single point, like a wormhole.

 

Don’t Hurt Me (I think the journey’s ending)

I looked straight forward at the ceiling and in a second apprehended my situation. I was back in the Temple of the Snake. The seasons had changed and it was a humid, swampy summer. There was a full congregation in the Temple gathered around my body. Gradually I moved the pieces of myself, which all felt like paralyzed, dead-asleep flesh that had lost all form and feeling. I stood up.

“The Foreign Dragon rises,” said the Monk-in-Charge. “The Foreign Dragon has been cured but doesn’t know it.”

I looked around in a daze. Things were confusing. Peoples’ faces, lining each pew like a solitary security cameras, only there to record and watch my existence–and hardly even that, more like a passive recording, to be accessed only in the event of some unknown and unforeseeable trangression or Big action I might perform–looked like evil and troubling spectators. I felt I could trust no one. I was Sleepy Morning before my soul split. Now, who was I?

All of a sudden the congregation sang in unison, looking at no hymn book, no prayer chart, singing, it seemed, off the tops of their heads.

The Foreign Dragon

Sleeps inside a womb

Which womb? The gentlest creatures

The Foreign Dragon believes in no one

The Foreign Dragon will be heading home

Peace to the Foreign Dragon

Give the Dragon mercy, snake

Swallow the owl, kill all owls, destroy each owl in the multiverse

Swallow yourself

Give the Dragon penance

Subdue the Dragon in your tranquil song

Give the Dragon a place to go

Do not mark the Dragon as a counterfeit

Peace unto all sufferers

Let the Planet’s agony be

Let the agony of the centuries relax completely

Die to the Dragon, and the Dragon will die to you

 

The Monk-in-Charge looked lovingly at me, then paused, then appeared to be waiting. He beckoned to the front of the altar.

Without knowing what I did, I reached in the fold of my clothes and pulled a small leather pouch out of it.

“Our future deaths,” the congregation murmured.

“These are our souls,” the Monk-in-Charge said. “We died in the future and you returned our ashes to us. We can sacrifice ourselves, outside of our dimension, because of your bravery.”

I did not know I had been brave.

“The end of your journey is coming,” said the Head-Monk-in-Charge. “There is one thing you have left to do.”

I was confused because I didn’t know I was on a journey, though I had that thought–that my travel had a purpose, that my activity conveyed some extra source–but I had always dismissed it. I had never sincerely believed I was doing anything for a suitable reason. I was convinced I was on a kind of separate track, that I had been off the rail of my own life, that I had been off course, lost but knowing my location, having taken a wrong turn somewhere but forgetting it, observing the true adventurers from the track nearest to me but waiting–perhaps for a burst of my own effort, or some unknown act of myself–that could place me on a true journeyer’s path. For whatever reason, the Monk had a look to him, a solid and imperturbable kindness, a self-assurance, that told me I had been wrong. My journey had taken place everywhere. My purpose–could it be explained? I couldn’t tell a person what that purpose was, but I knew that I had made progress towards it, had neared the accomplishing of it, was doing a superb job all along.

“What is the last thing I have to do?” I asked.

The Monk bowed once toward me, his torso bent, his back sloping in passive nonchalance. He rose again. I knew what he meant. I would do it and complete this.

 

This is the End

I woke outside the Temple of the Snake feeling graceful and lazy. A wakeful morning.  Hadn’t someone told me that..? One of the monks had left a tray for me — I yawned and smoked a single cigarette, the first I’d encountered across these travels.   It was late afternoon and I still felt a pull — the last thing the journey requested of me.  Before my journey could end I would have to find the other.  It was as if the universe had breathed the knowledge into me as I slept – I awoke knowing.  I sought the Garden of Renewal.  I bowed once at the foot of the Temple and felt my mind shed itself of itself as if snakeskin.  It felt not unlike pulling off a scab or a layer of skin from a blister.  I walked into the darkening forest once more.

Somewhere in the mountains, in the mind, in dreams and in death there is a small clearing that mostly escapes the attention of cartographers.   In this clearing is an old shrine, which seems to have lost most of its walls.  The remaining pillars are covered in a musty smelling moss which disguises otherwise white stone with its pungent lavenders and dense purple blacks.  When I step into the clearing I feel my weariness begin to fell away from my body.  I inhale deeply and walk toward the shrine.

Beneath it, the Mother of Owls is waiting for me.

“I must admit,” she hoots softly, “I did not expect to see Sleepy Morning in the Garden of Renewal for many more years.”

Who who who?  Sleepy Morning, I remember.  Sleepy Morning.

“Have you come so far from the Nameless Village as to begin forgetting your given name?” the Mother asks.   I try to tell her I think I have been one other than Sleepy Morning, but I can’t think of how to phrase it properly.  Then I think of the the journey I have taken, and I get lost easily trying to recollect the places, the directions, the iterations.

“It is because you turn into two upon trying to rid yourself of the snake,” she tells me.

She rotates her neck, gesturing me toward a table.   On it a bowl of fat purple fruit and three streaming glasses of a similarly colored tea.  I take a sip and feel the strange warmth enter my body and dissipate my apprehension.

“Now we wait,” the Mother whispers.
I swallow taste and taste again of the pungent tea and sink to my knees beside the great owl and think lightly but thoroughly, sorting through my mind the way a grandmother works calmly on a thousand piece puzzle.  I know the Mother does not cast her judgement on me for having been a snake or for trying not to be one.  I saw the split, I knew then, and see it now for I am still the split.  The thought makes my mind feel like it is coiling around itself — rattler ready to strike.

“Who who who?” The Mother refrains into the evening, calling my attention away from thought to a shadow in the distance.  The dusk light slowly reveals a creature of human head, snake torso, and thin, spidery legs.  Who who who? I watch it approach.

I am Foreign Dragon, the creature says.
The Mother gives him tea.
Foreign Dragon, I think, as if trying to remember the chorus to a long forgotton song.

I seek the Keeper of the End, Foreign Dragon said finally, sipping his tea.  “It wasn’t until I stopped here that I realized this was the place I sought.”

“Whoooo” the Mother intoned into the night.

“Here I can think slowly enough on the past to remember chronology.” Foreign Dragon sighed.  “I can feel from memory those things I once felt.  A journey upwards, for a short while, as if on wings.  Ascension like a strong love or a childhood joy.  The vision of the strange stone gods made in my image, the image I have now become.  I have been far from the realm of the snake.

Where have you travelled?” Foreign Dragon asked Sleepy Morning.

“Across lands worshipping the view from the grass and the view from the clouds.  Through many villages and rituals.  I remember hate rolling through my skin like sandpaper, like dirt in the eyes.  And I found a way to remember I am only one iteration of the universe singing its existence, this time a Sleepy Morning.”

You are Sleepy Morning, Foreign Dragon says.
I am Foreign Dragon, Sleepy Morning whispers back.
Whoooooo, the Mother sings.

Whooo whooo whooo? the soft refrain floats and seems to fill the spaces between Sleepy Morning’s bones until all else is lost.

The Mother cranes her head around backwards and sees her face in the temple mirror.  As she gazes into her own eyes, Sleepy Morning and Foreign Dragon watch as the woods become alive with streaks of gray, brown, white and black wings, swarming the clearing, resting softly into tree branches, bushes, the small stone path.  The owls know who they are, the Mother whooos and the owls sleep.

I am Sleepy Morning, Foreign Dragon whispers.
Whooo whooo whooo? the sound swells and feels as if it fills all the space in Foreign Dragon’s lungs.

I have been waiting for your return, Foreign Morning says.
It is finally over, Sleepy Dragon responds.

Whooo whooo whooo, the Mother sings.

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