“And what could it have been, but Empire? An ideal Empire with a very capital E, one that transcended time in the reverse direction and stood expansively over everything before anything even was, a little different than the empire we fantasize of now, but only because this Empire is forever a mystery, something we could never achieve in our capacities and something we don’t even know how to visualize, or in what terms to think of. But the embryonic thought of it is still in us, frozen in growth until we die, and it points us in the direction of Heaven and Hell (quite simultaneously), in the direction of the empires that rise among humans and our earth.
So if I begin now to illustrate a scene, and if I explicitly request the most cavernous part of your soul to imbibe it, and the most distant memories you have to react before you yourself do (hopefully stopping you yourself from ever reacting), then I would proceed with the expectation of your complicity in all this, that when you do realize the empires yet buried in the dust around you, that you would promise me a hovel in the corner of all the lands you conquer, that you would visit me twice a year (in the hottest part of the summer and the darkest part of the winter), that at the end you would give me a bombastic parade of might upon my narrow, cliff-shaded avenue.”
But not yet. Nothing should ever be yet. Things have either passed or they are coming (the only two ways anything can be glorious), and to examine things as they are to our senses is to think you can conceptualize the grandeur of a train as it crashes by loudly on its infinite track. Revel in the noise. Drown yourself in it. Give the world something in you to revive.
What character should I give you first? Ironically, everything must begin with one. Ironic because Life isn’t that way. Ironic because Memory is. Ironic because we love both, and we can never decide where to live, and we always end up—in separate periods of our existence—choosing one and leaving the other to the auspices of the hours we entrust it to. It’s like having two houses separated by a great distance, and occasionally (often) getting up and travelling to the other, hoping no destruction comes in our absence. Usually it doesn’t. But usually matters little if it invariably happens, if you come back from time spent in Memory to find Life eroded, or—worse—you return from Life to find Memory razed by a storm. This is the stuff of madness; this is the substance of insomnia. When dreams finally stop, how could anyone ever think to sleep in all these dissipating pieces of eternity?
So we begin with a character. His name is Max. He’s an escaped Roborovski hamster who lives on the Western Slope of Colorado. He sometimes misses his days of captivity: his wheel and his seed treats. He liked the television in the background when he slept, and the soft voices of the boy and his mother that always made their way into his dreams.
But Max also likes to climb mesas and fraternize with the stars at night. He ran away from home a week ago, and now he’s at the top of Mount Garfield. It’s three o’clock in the morning, and he is lying with his nose hanging over the cliff, watching the intermittent procession of cars in the street-lit town below.
Human fancy, should he have it, would tell Max in this moment he is a king.
© Copyright 2016 Mike Debowski. All rights reserved.
Essay / Literary Fiction
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