“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.