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..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume VI, Issue II

..:: POETRY ::..


..:: PROSE ::..

..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
   Volume IV, Issue II
   Volume V, Issue I
   Volume V, Issue II
   Volume VI, Issue I

 
Prose


from Eucalyptus
Charles Freeland

     

In which preparation might include drilling through hundreds of yards of clay and sandstone. But no one knows what kind of equipment is necessary. They have heard there is something elongated involved, and possibly titanium, though where exactly they heard this they can't be sure. Probably it snuck up on them while they were sleeping. It rode radio waves in through the window. Once, when I was in the canopy and something similar happened, when the wind and the rain turned it into something like a ghost town, I decided to take a stand, to object on principle, even though the bark of the trees could be expected to give way at any moment. It shredded beneath the slightest pressure and the only thing keeping me from plummeting to certain death was the elaborate safety equipment I had installed beforehand. It's an experience I, for one, will never forget. Mostly because I have been blessed with a photographic memory. Though "blessed" is probably not the right word because that sort of memory is something that will keep you up nights if you're not careful. If you don't unplug it once in a while. Or, at the very least, send it out to search on its own for meaningful lacunae, for those gaps in the past that might otherwise seem invented.

 

Immanuel is the first one inside and he makes no sound for fifteen minutes or more, so that some of the more timid members of our expedition fear he has been consumed. Strange how this fear never leaves one, even when one has spent an entire lifetime away from anything with teeth. At boarding schools. Skiing down mountains. Perhaps it is the jungle that re-ignites fears that have lain dormant in us like eggs, and it does so for no particular purpose. It simply likes to get inside the head, to re-arrange things the way we re-arrange our schedules so as to demonstrate our mastery over something that might otherwise seem to be in charge. And more than a little capricious. Eventually Immanuel taps a signal we take, for some reason, to be the all clear. It has a regular rhythm to it and is punctuated by taps at higher volume and insistency than the others. Still, if we were to examine among ourselves other possible interpretations for the meaning of these sounds, I have little doubt we would come to some sort of consensus. Maybe even be able to bolster our claims finally with evidence, with analysis and explication we pull from the recesses of our minds like old shoes at the end of a fishing line.

 

 

 

*

In which she hangs a hand-painted sign on the front door with the expectation that it will serve somehow as a charm, a way of warding off the evil that is part and parcel of the world, that is stitched into its fabric the way misers stitch money into the lining of their clothes. And if this means he too will find a reason to avoid it, to walk the other way when the street suddenly fills up with snow, that's just to be expected. One of those things you know will happen without ever having to put it into words - like the sound meat makes on the skillet. Or the near total lack of interest generated in a book when the cover features a photograph of snails making their way haphazardly across the surface of a map.

 

Only the bones remain. They are in a pile in what appears to be a seat. What was once the control console is now a writhing mass of chickweed and bumblebees. Of lizards scurrying about on their identical errands. Immanuel has discovered a chess board somewhere inside and has brought it forward and placed it between these bones and the bones of someone else and he is encouraging a game. I feel tight in the throat and ask the man closest to me to explain the strange marks on the back of the seat, the hieroglyphics that adorn the walls in places as if they had been scrawled there recently with a piece of charcoal. There are men with walrus heads and women with ordinary heads and the two seem to congregate suspiciously close together as if they are seriously considering what we think they are considering. The man is a specialist in archaic languages and we brought him along as a special favor to his aunt, who used to rub my temples when I was a child and I lost my temper. She was so beautiful then I thought perhaps I was in love with her and I would draw pictures of her on the back of actual photographs of the woman, photographs I had stolen from the family albums they used to keep in a shed. My renderings of her exquisite chin were much more accurate than anything a mechanical device could capture and I think it was this part of her in particular that kept me up at night, that made me want to touch it. The specialist says there are people who live close by who treat all things that fall from the sky as omens and whenever an omen is identified, the whole village runs to observe it. They sharpen their sticks and crowd around the omen and urge it to go back where it came from. Immanuel has no sooner announced both a checkmate and his desire to see such people than they show up as if on cue. There are three or four of them with duck feathers tucked in above their ears like pencils and their eyes such a deep shade of gray, I have trouble determining at first where those eyes reside in the geometry of their heads.

 

 

 

*

In which he has been practicing an extended speech on the topic of certainty, with potions turning back on themselves like bloodhounds and rhetorical flourishes stolen from Cicero. But now that he is faced with a situation that invites the unfurling of this masterpiece, all but demands it in fact, he feels strangely self-conscious, like one of those people who, when grown, still only reach to the shoulders of those around them. Who become convinced that their lack of stature is some sort of curse placed on the family from way back, when there were such things as curses and they were able to accomplish what they were purported to accomplish. Of course, the proof often rested a millennium away. Even then, who could say for certain that the cause didn't exist somewhere closer on the timeline? Like where the mother of the person in question decided to start smoking. Or when the father spent too much time in the sauna. Talking to people he didn't actually know. Bragging about accomplishments even the most gullible must have recognized immediately were exaggerations. In the meantime, the damage was done. There is no reversing stern judgment on our origins, especially when such judgment lies outside our bodies, and before our time. It escapes, in other words, our sphere of influence - which is, of course, never very significant to begin with.

 

Three miles from the outpost, Immanuel seems to have suffered a stroke. Perfect enunciation isn't always required, but still, we'd like to know what the center of the universe sounds like once you witness it. What it will bring to our deliberations and how we will refer to one another once our own names become superfluous. He lies in the scrub cover for an hour or two until a detachment of soldiers happens by with a cot and a satellite phone, but even then, there occurs the sort of comedy of errors you ordinarily witness on stage. Maybe we remember everything backwards, the furthest details coming back to us in a haze because the mind has not figured out a way to capture them at precisely the same time they are making their initial impressions. This would explain why the soldiers all look at us as if we have been born at the side of the road and know no more about the earth than does a caterpillar, say, busily winding its way up and down the same single stalk of the same single flower. Too much recognition, though, creates a situation where you can't trust your own instincts. You throw them out because they begin to look like something torn and battered, something passed down from generation to generation until the original owner is a complete mystery. The sort of person other people - ordinary people - might consider embarrassing. Someone convinced the world is made of foil, that the sun circles it on its way to bigger and better things. Suddenly, I picture Eulalie standing over us, her left leg planted firmly in the ditch, her right foot atop a boulder, and her abdomen disappearing into the clouds. And whenever we try to capture her voice from this place on the ground, we mistake it for other things. The rumble of cargo trucks. The sound of the waterfall when there is no one in the vicinity to turn those sound waves into the representation of something moving, something trying to find its way finally to lower ground. Wouldn't we disown gravity, then, wouldn't we begin to wonder if perhaps everything that happens does so because it has no other choice? Because gravity doesn't allow things to figure out where they are and what they want before it acts on them and turns them into just so many objects with mass and shape and limits and other fairly unimportant qualities of the sort a book or your body might have, even an ordinary rock?

 

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