CRACK IN THE SKY
1. Dannie and the City forest
Dannie stood silently on the doorstep between two worlds - the well-known and that one lying there right after the turn, deep inside the forsaken forest. He closed his eyes and memories emerged - tremendously beautiful memories. Alex, when they slept in the wheat fields, when his head was lying in her lap watching the dark sky and dreaming with his eyes open, Alex, when they were sitting there, in the parking lot, early in the morning long before the sun rise, willing to start off with no direction, Alex, hardly carrying her traveling bag while leaving, Alex and the nurse with dark skin and light green uniform. Why did he recall on Alex at this precise moment Dannie did not know. Not just yet.
And his legs started moving as on their own will, like well greased robot. Dannie heeled in order to pass under a tree without touching it. He had this feeling that the surrounding was filled with germs, rising spores of illnesses, waiting to sink into his flesh, to start growing inside him until they become alive. Along the narrow and odd path (there is no fucking path! I cannot see it! This is not a path at all!) garbage was spread - colorful ripped bags with lost meaning, rusty kids' toys with sinister eyes, shabby papers with erased content, transparent plastics, curved as the midriff of an old TV. The path was getting narrower and shrank as the forest became thicker and larger - the forgotten forest in the city was about to consume Dannie. But he was expecting this, he was warned, and as he thought - prepared. After all, the mystery was an irreplaceable ingredient of the magic he came to look for. On his left the cars were still roaring as Dannie was gradually climbing down beneath the safety fence of the road. He was in fact sinking. The thought of the contagion dancing round him, filling the air with their invisible menace, made him shiver. The roaring of the cars gradually disappeared hidden in a glass balloon - the real life, now Dannie was completely absorbed by the alternative reality. His footsteps were now echoing, striking like thunders in the dead silence of the City forest. The spirits that surrounded him were ill-boding.
That forest was small, atavism of the time when She reigned over the City. Now She turned out to be another infected and terminally ill child of the City. The bear calves of Dannie touched the grass and this made his stomach turn as if a crooked finger was scratching his throat from inside. Through his nostrils straight to his brain some fetid smell was coming that made the air hard to breathe. His eyes filled with tears and he stopped, slightly bent so he would not touch the strange dirty leaves of the tree over his head. He searched the sky with eyes - the good old sky he knew since forever - but could not see it. It appeared that at that moment the sky was gone - it has ripped, in the same time was shrinking, and eventually it ended covered in a tangle of deformed branches and dusty grey leaves.
Dannie's heart was beating either too fast or too slow. He should not stop walking. For a second he felt thousand beings, fingers crawling all over his skin. He started rubbing his skin; he really wanted these things away. He cursed himself for not putting any long leg trousers. The truth is that he was completely unprepared for what was lying ahead of him - no water in his bag, no pocket knife, no flashlight, no rope, no matches, no tin opener, no warm cloth, no Bible or something. He only got some change, wrist watch, tablet, ID card, driving license, large string of keys, receipt for current account balance and two rooster legs, rolled in a white table napkin with blue butterflies, covered in dried blood stains.
At the very moment when early in the morning right before heading off to work, Dannie opened the refrigerator and took the two, not quite well packed rooster legs, at that moment he realized he was going to actually do it. In the beginning naturally he was extremely skeptical about the news that the woman living under the bridge was able to cure his cancer. For his entire lifetime he was taunted with those sick people beyond remedy who were targets of all kind of crackpots and paranormal geeks trying to offer them the ultimate cure. Dannie used to be completely capable of taking care of himself. And yet, yesterday, only three days after he was told about the woman under the bridge, he left work at four o'clock, went to the animal market (the only one he knew) and bought big colorful rooster that kept looking straight at Dannie during the whole time with its never blinking yellow-red eye. The fucking bird was looking daggers. Right after paying to the short man with wrinkled sad face, Dannie grabbed the rooster and headed quickly towards his car. He felt his fingers sweating and the bird was flapping strong and mindless, scratching his skin and his white long sleeve shirt with its sharp claws. . When Dannie reached the car he opened the back door and tied with one hand the peek of the rooster with white plastic roller (it was not his best decision but at least it was some preparation in advance) and his legs with thin rope. Just for a second he felt like a doctor. Or some kinky version of Norman Bates. People have snapped for less. Slight smile stretched his mouth. The rooster started jumping and waving with his wings all over the back seat of his recently washed car. Dannie swore at the cock and stuck his wings with the sticking plaster he kept in a compartment in the car, in case Terra hurt herself. He then threw the immobilized bird in the back and sat heavily on the driver's seat. At this moment he subconsciously knew that he had believed; he was going to pay a visit at this woman living under the bridge deep in the City forest; and above all he was going to do what she told him to, anything, just to continue living. He pressed the wheel with his hands, rested his forehead against it and started crying with no tears, realizing that his fear of death and pain had finally turned him into a looney, a man who had lost his precious dignity, a coward.
Wriggling through the twisted branches of the City forest, Dannie said to himself that he would not have believed if it was not something that Polski had told him. That was some comfort for his tormented self. After all in that way it appeared that it was about his trust in Polski, not about his fear of death. Polski was his best friend, and the absolute atheist. Just four day ago the two of them were sharing a nice evening in the yard, sitting on the cozy cradle under the starlet sky. Polski had just pushed the lamb into the oven and together with Dannie came out in order to get some fresh air. The night was full of different aromas and once again Dannie felt like home. Three months had passed since the diagnose (Death! Without parole!). Polski sucked on his cigar watching the sky.
"Dannie, I have to tell you something", Polski was obviously digging in his vocabulary, trying to pick the proper words, he wanted to praise. Dannie stopped his eyes on the suddenly prolonged and odd face of his friend.
Since the moment when Dannie told him about the disease (Death! Without parole…), up to that evening Dannie felt that Polski was tense. He thought it was due to the disgrace of the news, but that evening Dannie found out what it was all about - Polski was undertaking a soul crash. The two men knew each other for ages, they went to college together and almost like between lovers they had that invisible connection, their own language, own way of communication, a little intimate world of their own.
"I know how you can be cured.", Polski said gulping dry.
Dannie raised his eyebrows, quite surprised by what he heard. "What are you talking about?" he heard himself saying. "You are not a doctor. And even if you were, I don't think that there is a living human being in this world that can help me, a doctor or not." Dannie was suddenly broken by the pessimism in his own words.
Polski remained silent and in that precise moment Dannie felt him really alienated. It was like his friend was having a bunch of secrets kept so deep inside - strange, fetid secrets that had never before seen daylight. But there Polski was - in that situation, life and death situation, that was forcing him to reveal his dark secrets. Dannie was about to witness that revelation.
"What's going on, Polski?" Dannie asked slowly, staring right in the dilated pupils of his friend's eyes. The young man stood still, tense. "I know how you can be cured." he repeated.
"No one knows." Dannie said quietly and looked at the top of his shoes, annoyed by that awkward repetition. Had Polski lost his mind? After all we are all going to die… eventually. Aren't we?
Polski carefully put out his cigar in a butterfly shaped pink ashtray, left by Kora on the rail of the porch and went inside, dragging his slippers with that scrape sound. Dannie wondered for a second how Kora was putting up with that sound, but then he was frightened by his own thought - he had heard the sound over a thousand times and that was the first time when he found it disturbing. His eyes widened with fear - the terrible fear that his mutating cells all over his body were going to isolate him, from Terra, Polski, even from his own self. Am I going to become a selfish monster, wiping out everybody and everything in his agony days? -suddenly that question cut his heart to the quick. That was the fear of becoming a monster, becoming a human beast… He remembered how the giant forest spirit, whose head ended up in the arms of princess Mononoke, destroyed everything with his own dying self while falling towards the burned ground. It does not matter if you are bad or good; you are going to be crashed by a blind disaster.
"Common, Dannie" he heard Terra calling him, he was called for dinner.
"Common, Dannie" he thought and entered the deep part of the City forest. She became even weirder. The sun remained completely hidden and the town sounded like covered by a big balloon, transparent but engulfing. "It is deep there", the new Polski, the strange man who used to be his best friend for more than ten years, had said. And Dannie felt that it was deep indeed. He was not quite sure if the City forest was really that sinister or it was the whisper of his sick cells and the description Polski had made. Perhaps if it was Dannie from before, he would have laughed over the bacteria and germs menace, over the strange snuffling sounds, over the unnatural movement of the grass and the bushes. Perhaps the man from before would have entered the forest and exited it completely unchanged, perhaps the man from before… Perhaps, but no matter how much Dannie was grieving, he knew that the man from before was forever gone. Different times had come, now Dannie was a walking dead body. Often his mind was playing cruel tricks on him making him forget his disease. Over and over again he had to find out all about it in every fearsome detail. "How bright the sun is today; how beautiful the ringlets spread on the pillow next to me are; how strong my arms are, I am happy" and then his eyes saw the veins that became grey, and his mind awaked and he once again realized that the nightmare had actually become reality. They switched places. The cancer was here, in his body, moving along and destroying it, while the mighty and healthy Dannie was unreal, left there, in the dream.
Finally the forest had engulfed him. He stopped walking. His whole body was itching and he felt like his right ankle, on the inner side of his left thigh, on his left biceps, behind his right ear, in his hair, were bitten by some bugs and that made his skin red and the infected place was pulsating. "Get your self together! Fuck them, you are dying anyways." Since that Day (the beginning of the end! Help me.), in the doctor's cabinet, a lump has stuck in his throat (tumor Fear). Dannie could not swallow it and it made his all body shiver. He could not explain that to Terra. He could not explain it not only to her - all of his friends and relatives became aliens, strangers with that disgusting pity in their eyes. One odd transparent wall rose between him and the rest of the world and Dannie remained in the center. Only Polski understood. Polski, his friend, passed the wall and stood with him there in that circle right in front of the Purgatory. He never needed words to explain what was happening with him to Polski, he shared it with his very being, with gestures, thoughts, mutating cells.
Dannie forced himself to continue his journey through the forest following the path. It has become even narrower and a few small steps ahead he saw a bold spot - the trees were thinning and he could see a little piece ripped grey sky. He had to admit to himself in the name of fairness that the sky above him was the exact same sky from the world outside the forest, but surprisingly it looked so much different - like a background on an alien planet -Planet Death, one sinister place indeed.
Dannie shivered although he realized he was not cold. His flesh was goose due to his reluctance to be there, at that moment. Alone. I HATE YOU! He was hearing the little insects crawling around; something moved the grass and dived in it. Dannie inhaled loudly and noticed that he no longer hear any birds' songs, cars, or any other familiar and typical noises. He was now in the deep. Yes. Polski was right. That sneaky dog. The old crook. Dannie smiled. He tucked his bag near his body, inhaled once again and started walking straight to the hole in the City forest. He was going to reach the bottom. Anyways life is just a movie.
Moving ahead Dannie felt with his tense senses that at some point everything has turned with its wrong side - the branches of the trees were scratching his face and chest while the roots were apocalyptically high in the sky, sprinkling masses of earth. The world there was upside down, turned glass, aquarium that never runs off. At that moment of his journey Dannie has already been clenching his teeth hard and nothing really mattered. He was walking through the forest so confidently, towards the unknown, completely terrified by what the outside world was offering (painful and quick death with no parole), that even the germs and the dirt were gone. Someone set the known world on fire and the only way ahead was into the hole in the City forest.
Dannie just had the feeling that he was wandering endlessly in the branches, when the verdure thinned and muddy and greasy path turned right in front of him. He calmed his heart beating and made a big step ahead. And another one - a bridge appeared on the level of his eyes, while the greasy path climbed down under the bridge, and disappeared into a spot of pure darkness. There was no light down there, no movement - quite murky place it seemed to be. The lump in his throat hardened and he could not swallow properly. Along with the lump an exotic anger grabbed his trachea, squeezing his neck from inside. Dannie once again clenched his teeth and started climbing down the path. The abandoned bridge rose in front of his eyes with its tall and curved electric poles that were turned off long time ago. These poles did not even remember what electricity was, - absolutely useless remains of a decaying civilization. A stone rolled down the path and the darkness below engulfed it. It seemed to Dannie that the darkness below engulfed even the sound. God, why are we so afraid of the dark? And why haven't we evolved the mutation to see the dangers that live in the dark like so many animals did? It looks like a conspiracy against humanity, - conspiracy aiming at the full extermination of all human beings in one go - perhaps a back up plan for the survival of the Earth, in case we completely fuck everything up. Or because of the monsters.
Dannie approached the dark spot and fetid coldness was exhaled. The daylight faintly pierced the darkness under the bridge as he was reaching the spot under. Something kicked him in the kidneys and he jumped terrified. By the force of his instincts he tossed his bag on the ground and moved away from it and from the cold offensive darkness under the bridge. Either his eyes were already sick or the bag was slightly jumping. Fucking rooster, Dannie thought, fucking thing! He felt hatred towards the dead animal and that made him feel even worse - some brainless dead animal was causing such extreme emotions. His eyes filled with angry tears. Moreover he did not want to go under there. Dannie sat on the muddy path that was lading straight to the darkness and left his head in his palms.
-Help me, he whispered despite his certain knowledge that he was not alone, typical feeling for the city and odd in the forest, even in the City forest. Most probably down there under the bridge a bunch of reeking drug addicts and alcoholics were living, digging in the garbage for anything that can be sold or eaten and then they lean their junkie boney backs covered with scratches on the cols walls of the abandoned bridge, there, one forgotten place, godless desert, one filthy scurvy shroud. Just for a second, hypnotized Dannie imagined how the wretched pitiful human remnant lying with its forehead touching the moist wall; its hands crossed over his breast and with that trembling mouth slowly covered by the eternal darkness, it wrapped the remnant and the engulfed it.
Yes, it engulfs them, Dannie said quietly, and probably wants to engulf me as well.