Saturday, April 26, 2008

Red Light

The bright light of early afternoon has blanketed the one-way city street. There are an assortment of semi- tall buildings and skyscrapers, some are sleek and new, their mirrored windows reflecting the perfect blue sky. Other are smaller, only ten stories high, remnants from an early period of architecture and city planning, the building faces are decorated with colorful tile work, geometric brick patterns, and wrought iron gates. The street is composed of three lanes, and I sit idling in the center lane, waiting at a red light. My hands are resting on the top of my steering wheel, gripping it out of habit. Within the small cab of my black truck, I feel the heat of the day amplified by the windshield. I am wearing a low cut T-shirt, and the exposed skin on my chest is warm and red from the sunlight. To my right is a man in a silver car, his hairy arm hangs out the window, his pudgy hand holds a burning cigarette. The smell surrounding me is a mix of smoke, car exhaust, and asphalt.
To my left is a liquor store, a black man in a black beanie emerges from the store with a poorly disguised vodka bottle in a paper sack. A short white man wearing a gray sweatshirt stands outside the entrance, smoking a cigarette. He looks up and down the street often, squinting his eyes with each inhalation. On the other side of the street is a small office supply store and an abandoned-feeling real estate office. Men in business suits move quickly on the sidewalks, a woman in a knee length brown skirt pushes a baby carriage toward the city center, and delivery men come and go with carts full of perishables.
My car window is open, and the sounds of accelerating cars and muffled ranchero music enters the space. There is a man pressed against my car. He is leaning in my window, his hands holding onto the steering wheel. As our eyes lock, he alternates between a human form, with distinguishable features and then, into a shadowy body with no face. He wears all dark clothes, black pants and a black hooded sweatshirt, and atop his bald head is a black hat. I smell his clothes, dirty and reeking of staleness. His face alternates from one of blackness without any shape to one of olive skin and a vague, stubbly beard. When he has eyes, they are dark brown and piercing, his eyebrows are thick with many long stray hairs turning away from any clear formation. He holds the wheel firmly with no intention of letting go.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Two Islands

It is the light of early morning. Free of any trace of dawn, a crystalline brightness is in place. It is as if dawn had never been, and dusk will never be, and the overbearing presence of noonday sun is but a myth. The sky is an unimposing blue reflected perfectly in the water which holds two sandy isles interminably apart from any other land mass and teasingly separate from one another. They are so close that they are almost one, but the sea finds its way between them as the waves lap at their shores. As each group of waves rolls out to make way for the next, a narrow band of wet sand is exposed, the link between the twin islands. It is as if they hold hands under the water, keeping their bond in discretion. The water comes and goes between them. They accept its constant demand for attention, the way it tickles their extremities and holds them apparently apart. The sea water sparkles like liquid silver kissing their shores and flowing into little eddies. Its motion is gentle. Water creeps to shore in elliptical arms of foam and scattered sand and slips away again without commotion. It is quiet, making hardly a sound as it makes its rounds. Like a gentle breath it whispers in and out.
Ivory columns rise from the soft mounds of sand, the remains of a forgotten civilization. They look as smooth and creamy colored as if time and the elements have never touched them. There is no sign of weathering and yet walls are missing, blocks lay scattered in configurations that dance between the realms of chaos and symmetry, and columns lay in peaceful repose.
On the larger isle the ruins are mainly intact. Open aired temples slope slightly, as if one half of their structures are slowly sinking, being swallowed by the fawn colored grains of sand. Their floors are absent under those same hungry kernels. Nowhere is there a symbol, or sign, or statue to betray an origin. They stand plain and silent, void of explanation, free of personality. From the centermost structure every shore of the island is in plain view, no more than 30 feet away in any direction.
The smaller island is even more diminutive, hardly a sliver. It is placid host to a few fallen walls and two natural rock formations which lay sprawled like creatures from the deep come to lounge upon its scant surface. Dark gray and cool to the touch, these boulders have been shaped by the sea. They hold its precious deposits, tiny white shells embedded in their surfaces.
Silver foamed surf laps gingerly at a little pool that has collected near one of these inert bodies. The pool is filled with stones, each perfectly rounded by an eternal affair with sand and water. Some are of an earthy yellow hue, others as clear as glass. Polished by nature’s invisible hand, they are smooth and shiny. By some means, they have come to be stacked in the pool so that they form a lazy pyramid, sparkling under the water’s surface. The eye is drawn to them, the hand will yearn to touch. Their rarity and unassuming beauty lends them a value that far out reaches currency. Nothing is comparable. Like everything else here, there is nothing that they may be measured against, no sign of time or trend to define them.
The two islands cling to one another, without a past or future, holding their ageless ward; the alabaster ruins and its natural treasures, just above water level.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ash World

There are stairs which climb and bend endlessly. Formed of concrete and carbon steel rebar, they produce a hallow twang with every footfall. The sound lonesomely echoes within the cavernous structure. The concrete of the stairs is flecked with miniscule tan and gray pebbles. This adornment is absent in the flat corridors which branch off from them. Tree house style walkways and halls run along empty walls and plain faced doors. These doors bear no numbers nor any other sign to betray what secret places hide behind their blank gaze. A sickening shade of pasty gray, they do little to stand out against the similarly white hued walls. It gives the impression that everything is bathed in ash.
Even the occasional humanoid figure clipping distractedly along a walkway seems to be this color. They tend to be dressed in the attire of medical professionals, in the sexless pajama like garb donned by dental technicians, nurses, and surgeons. Looking down as they exit a steel door elevator or disappearing down a dark hallway, they move without grace or life, marching purposefully and bitterly in predetermined directions. Their authoritatively passive aggressive auras hang over them as tangibly as a bad smell.
The halls veer off of the exposed walkways feeding into enclosed networks given to a multitude of labyrinthine turns. These halls are long and their ends are never clear, the view ahead is consistently bathed in darkness. Shadow reaches out from every crevice and corner. Without windows or noticeable light fixtures, what sterile illumination there is, emanates meekly from an undetermined source. Around some turns, a dead end awaits in the shape of an empty gray culvert. There are no potted plants, no skylights or windows, no paintings, and no directories. It seems as if the charmless hallways and skeletal stairways may go on endlessly in every direction, an inescapable and well contained world.
Here and there an opening may be encountered, a pseudo door made of sheets of opaque colorless plastic hanging from overhead. They shimmy a little, disturbed by a draft from behind. With their unsettling appearance comes expectations of a quarantine center, or a room undergoing structural repair. This uninviting prospect gives them a sinister presence. The air blowing out from behind them is cold and stale. A faint synthetic odor prevails over the entire labyrinthine tableau. It smells something like rubber or paint, but is insidiously subtle. Like fluoride in drinking water, it links arms with what precious breathable oxygen is available, and by being discrete it slips in with every inhalation, undeterred.
Along with that inescapable scent an eerie quiet inhabits the stairways, and corridors. Elevator doors slide open with a hushed whisper. The rare echoing thump, twang of footsteps stabs at the soul. Beneath it all is a barely perceptible hum, tempered perhaps with an even less perceptible ring, like the noise generated by fluorescent lights. It vibrates from every tangible pore of concrete and steel, droning inexplicably and so subtly it can pass itself off as a trick of a tainted mind. Like a corkscrew, the stairs spiral nauseatingly upward. Into the deepening gray, they rise and descend to open upon further floors of claustrophobic halls, tree house walkways, and row upon row of impersonal gray doors. Many of these doors are locked, or may be opened to reveal a clean slab of impenetrable wall. These decoys are numerous. Like the empty chambers in a pistol engaged in a harrowing game of Russian roulette, every closed door is ominous, because the very air and every dark corner of this place says that something sinister must lie in wait, somewhere within the quiet halls, the endless walls and the silent elevators.

Monday, April 14, 2008


There is a flat field covered in long stalks of dry yellow grass. Sometimes used as a breeding ground for pumpkins, the harvest is long over, and the brittle blades have submitted months ago to the sun and ever changing weather. They have laid down and created a soft bed upon the land, although not a soul treads upon the land. The field is not square or rectangular, nor does it resemble any shape cut or devised by man. A rough semi-circle that stretches to eternity, there is no indication of what lays beyond the horizon…ocean, land…it is impossible to tell…just dry land covered in fallen weeds. The western boundary of the field is naturally created by the jagged cliffs of narrow mountains. They are relatively small and short mountains, the detailed landscapes of their tops are visible from the field, but they cannot be called hills. Their energy is too strong…they are old, they are mountains carved and shaped by the forces of nature, old and strong, deep and silent.
The shades of fall have bathed the field and the mountains. The sky is gray in hue and thin wisps of smoke-like clouds struggle over the high peaks and slowly descend, like white lava spilling over the rocks and treetops. Curving and curling, the clouds snake through barren oak branches, they diverge and move elegantly around solid matter in their path. The northern and southern boundaries are created by rows of enormous oak trees and their leaf-less boughs jut in every direction, looking stark and imposing in the landscape.
Everything…the shrubs, trees, grass, rocks…everything is covered with the muted colors of fall. There are no brilliant colored leaves or glistening hues in the environment, everything is awash in the pale matte shades of orange, yellow, brown and green. The tree trunks are orange, the grasses brown, the rocks yellow, the soil green.
There are two women on a floating bench. They circulate a small perimeter within the field. They stare solemnly, their heads pointed only forward, never moving to the sides or towards each other. Without a hint of smile or passion, they are carried around and around by an invisible force. Their skin is the same yellow as the rocks, their hair the same green as the soil, their clothes match the orange color of the tree trunks; they sit like statues upon their moving bench, an expression of muted apathy frozen upon their skin.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Western Saloon

There is a modern drinking saloon, somewhere in the middle of the southwestern North American desert. Outside the premises is a barren wasteland, there are no houses, schools or people. The only sign of human society in this environment is the deserted saloon. Inside, there are signs of years of use. The wooden floors, made of a light blond wood are well worn from boot heels and dropped beer bottles. The walls still reverberate with sounds, yet a silence has begun to creep in, as if all the dwellers of this space left very quickly.
There are two rooms, although they are only separated by two protruding 2 foot walls, extending from both the southern and northern walls. The small dividers merely give the slight illusion of separate rooms. The smaller space that one walks into from the desert is the bar room. The southern and western walls, nearly thirty feet tall are made only of glass. The heat of the day pours in. The small rectangular room is empty, save for a wooden bar and the five matching wooden stools topped with red leather seat cushions that line it. Behind the bar is a wooden stairway and carved banister. They lead to a small loft space, where the barkeeper would sleep when the last of the unruly customers would saunter home at 4 in the morning.
To the right of the bar room is the gathering room. The room is arranged with clusters of four or five high- backed wooden chairs clustered around a knee high wooden table. There are dozens of seating arrangements in the large window-less room. The only light comes from the windows in the bar room, and the light in the gathering room is cool and diffused, creating a darker stillness within the space. Along the northern wall is a row of dark brown leather booths. Decorating the northern wall, from the top of the thirty ft wall down to the booths are a series of mirrors.
There are seven rows, each row consisting of seven equally sized rectangular mirrors. The mirrors have a dark wood border/frame. Each mirror is 3 and a half feet tall and 2 and a half feet wide. In the center of each mirror is a large image of different men on horseback. This is a commemorative series depicting the men who led and won the battles for the west. The men all glare directly into the eyes of the observer, delivering such an intensity that it appears as if the horse and rider could burst into the room at any moment, bringing the smell of leather, dust, and horse sweat with them. They are all dressed in the style of the times, except the rogue two who wear leather cowboy jackets. Despite these the two wild ones, they all have large moustaches, dark military uniforms, and the posture of one who believes absolutely in manifest destiny.
In some subtle way, the mirrors are also advertising cheap American beer, although there is no overt name or signage. The advertising and message seem to ooze from the mirrors, psychically communicating their campaign without any need for direct linguistic transmission.
Out of the 36 mirrors, there is one…on the last row from the top and the last one on the right. He is an Indian man. He rides a chocolate brown horse and he is also wearing a cowboy jacket although he is practically naked besides this and his loin cloth. His hair is black and long, blowing wildly in the breeze. He stares solemnly out, knowing what is to come. He is only 39, but looks battle worn and hard, his cool black eyes defeat any attempt at subversion. This is the warrior who led his people to battle, defeating the invading white army only once before annihilation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Construction Zone

On the corner of the bustling shopping center, already known and frequented by the local community, an ambitious construction project is underway. A flimsy chain link fence surrounds the dusty site, the worn woven metal providing little more than a psychological barrier between the concrete shopping center and this budding new project. There is a big gap in the fence, making it easy for the workers to enter and exit, but also leaving it accessible to any member of the public to enter the restricted zone. The enclosed area is large, big enough to contain the planned 5000 square foot store that will sit here in the near future. The ground is made of dirt and the 12 inch boot imprints of construction workers poke the dusty surface. A small handful of construction workers are present, each looking identical in their uniform of blue jeans, white sweatshirts, tan boots and white hardhats. Construction has just recently begun, only a dozen metal beams have been put in place to create the foundation of the building, and three steel beams, almost four hundred feet tall stand vertically. Despite the size of the proposed project, there is a quiet calm within the construction site, like the relaxed mood of a warm Sunday afternoon. The small group of men work efficiently with the instilled knowledge of their craft. They move confidently and smoothly, knowing all the necessary steps needed to complete the project. Hardly a sound moves through the construction zone, communication is exchanged psychically or through eye contact when needed, but this is rare; every man knows his role and performs each small task with an effortless ease. Four of them are working on raising a metal frame, the dark metallic frame looks purple in the sunlight and the huge square piece of welded steel rises vertically into the air, forming the skeleton of the new building. With only a couple men, they manage to lift a thousand tone of metal, there are no cranes or mechanized machines in sight. A construction worker every so often descends from the top of the highest metal beam. His toes are tucked into a groove in the small metal beam and he slides down to the earth slowly, like Dracula with his arms crossed at his chest and still wearing a hardhat.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Abandoned Gas Station

It is nighttime, dark and cold, the air tinged with the electricity that comes before a storm. It is a small town on the edge of a highway in the middle of a great flat expanse of dry land. The town is a tiny rest spot for travelers and a recurring source of sustenance for the few local inhabitants. There are two open gas stations, each with a corresponding convenience store. There are a few other stores and a car mechanic shop, all closed for the night. Few cars drive by, and even fewer stop. The traffic light flashes red continuously and the pedestrian lights have all been turned off. The tall dry grass on the edge of the road bends backwards with the force of the wind and some leaves float away towards the outer darkness.
In the little gas station on the north side, an old man slumps backwards against an old rickety chair, his head bobbing up and down with the weight of tired drowsiness. A single man fills the tank of his new red car, calmly surveying his surroundings as he leans against the back door. A large truck is parked on the side, its massive bulk forming a temporary barrier against the wind. A small brown cat scurries behind some large dumpsters behind the building.
In the gas station to the south, a fat woman sits waiting for clients. She reads a celebrity news magazine and sips from a plastic cup of coffee. She looks out to the street every so often and then back to her magazine and the dream world of the movie stars. There is a small sedan parked on the side and a large fat man sleeps soundly behind the wheel, little trickles of saliva dripping off the side of his mouth and down his chin.
A block further down, there is a third gas station, dark and abandoned. A light blue pickup truck is parked on the street in front of it, all its wheels are flat and the lights have been broken. The pumps are rusty and their design is from another era. The windows of the building have also been broken and the inside has been completely pillaged. An old cash register and some dirty ripped up newspapers are all that remain.
I sit on the step that leads to the forgotten main register. I am wearing a thick black jacket, the hood pulled back towards my shoulders, black pants and black shoes and a white shirt. Around my neck is a tiny porcelain mushroom, painted in with many colored lines and dangling from an elastic black cord. My back is resting against the wall and my eyes shift slowly back and forth between the dark cold street and the girl that rests in my arms.
She has a small fragile brown body, black hair to her shoulders and a delicate soft face. Her eyes are turned downward as she presses her cheek against my chest. She is wearing a black skirt, a light brown blouse, and flat black shoes. Her body trembles every so often and mine trembles in response. Her breath comes in loud gasps and tiny little sobs. I hold her head with my hand and softly caress her black hair and her forehead. I press her tightly towards me and she responds by pushing into me, as if she wants to sink completely into my heart and find a true hiding place in there, away from the wind and the cold and the loneliness.
Every few minutes, the wind makes a loud sound as it flows through the desolate gas station and the cold rush sends a collective shiver through both our bodies. She looks up at me as if to confirm that I’m still there and I look down and continue to caress her hair. I nod and her cheek returns to my chest.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Roaring Silence

The room is on the third floor of an office building that is 6 stories tall. It is an office space that is nearly empty and lacking any kind of expected adornments. The floor is covered in a slightly dirty, dark blue carpet. The windows are about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. They open by sliding the glass up. They are all open right now. A gentle breeze filters through the room, flowing from one open window to another. The hallway door is open as well and so are the elevator doors beyond, the emergency lights quietly flashing on and off. On one corner there are cut telephone wires hanging out of the wall and the shadows of desks and file cabinets can still be detected on the carpet. There are long fluorescent lamps above us, attached to the white ceiling, all turned on, all throwing off a soft hum that reverberates throughout the space and resonates with the sound of the wind outside.
On the street below there are no cars, nor the distant sound of them. Across from our window, there are other windows, other buildings. All the windows are open, all are silent and welcoming of the breeze that flows in from the street. There are no pedestrians, no sound of people calling or complaining, no children crying, no hint of rush or conflict, no human activity at all. The traffic lights are flashing on and off for nobody. Many little pieces of paper blow all about the city. I can’t make out the text, but they all have the same thing printed on them. A neon sign is crackling just outside the window and the sound of our breathing acts as a calm soft ostinato to its constant electric variation. The sky is bright purple and there are no stars and no sun and no moon. It is too light to be night and too purple to be day.
He sits on a small metal chair across from me. He is about 25 years old, a bit heavy set, with a round friendly face, thick arms laced with muscle and a round belly. He is wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes. There are some tattoos on his arms and a scar on his lower neck. His face is overgrown with the beginning of a beard and his hair is cut very short, mostly brown with just a hint of yellow. His eyes are clear and wide open and so is his mouth. He breathes in slowly and with some effort. It takes all the will that he can muster to remain in the chair and stay calm. I can see that the corners of his eyes long to look out the windows once more, to confirm what he has seen, to try to visually come up with some kind of explanation, something that will make it all clear and understandable.
I sit on a small wooden stool and I also breathe very slowly and with some difficulty. I am wearing a white buttoned up shirt, black corduroy pants and black shoes. I have a long scraggly beard and very long black hair, tied up in a pony tail. I wear a circular medallion under my shirt, a metal talisman with a tiny pyramid at its center. My arms are at my sides and my hands rest on my lap. My knees are together and I make recurring efforts to maintain them in place. My eyes are also wide open and staring deeply into my companion’s eyes. We both can sense the delicate nature of the situation, the crawling wave of fear and panic that threatens to break us apart. Neither of us gives in to it.
We both continue to breathe, as deeply and as slowly as possible. The breeze lifts little strands of hair over our faces and tickles at our nose. The hum of the lights seems to hint at a deeper drone, something heavier coming up from deep underneath us, something that is too complete, too final and too powerful to be allowed completely into this room, into this space between us, right now. Each time the drone gets louder, his eyes widen a bit and mine do as well. I nod ever so slightly, we breathe together and the drone descends again, fading into the soft hum of the lights. The breeze blows between us again and we exhale, savoring a tiny moment of relative rest.
The drone, the solitude, the bright purple sky, the roaring silence, the little pieces of paper that constantly fly by the window… all like the very peak of an enormous wave that threatens to overwhelm us and take us with it, along with everything around us, dissolving us into the indistinct void from which we were originally formed. We sit together at the very peak of this awesome force beyond our comprehension and we slowly… ever so slowly and gently… take another breath.