Aug 20, 2014

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Posted in Arrangement , Art , Business

The Painter





1

In the deep forests of my hometown in southern Slovenia, in a clearing where no road leads to and animals avoid, there sits a tranquil lake. The area around it is boggy even in the warmest of summer days, yet no frogs have I ever found there and not a sound can be heard in that part of muddy earth. You can’t see the lake from above or any of the nearby hills. The trees leading to the place are many and a fog always hangs there, obscuring view and drifting aimlessly governed by no wind from any point of the compass.
To find this body of water you have to follow the slow thinning of trees and stumble between the rotting bark and leaves and winding roots, until you reach a point where, step by step, the murky water rises up to your knees. The dead moss and lichen become sand as you wade through the cold and motionless transparency, to a place where nothing grows and hasn’t done so for who knows how long.
Mud froths outs between your toes with every step, spreading in all directions as the water becomes clear enough for the small lake to be both beautiful and profoundly frightening. For when you reach its bank, you see just how steeply it drops into the black depths no eye can peer into. A prevailing sense of the place being old beyond man and memory awaits there, even though there is nothing to confirm this to be the case.
The lake is full of contradictions like this. It sounds calm and welcoming, yet beckons you gone once you reach that edge and hear a subterranean rumble of grinding stone and see the minute shaking of the otherwise deceptively calm surface. You see the sky above it contrasted by the dark below as you stand on the precipice. The only smell is that of the woodland.
The lake is all I can think about of late. Its influence is evident in all my works. It remains all I can paint and all I can dream about. I wish to go back there and, at the same time, dread to see it again. The memory of it fills me with horror I cannot describe save on canvass. That I cannot recall why I fear it makes the sense of terror all the more singular.

I think about it even now as I paint in my studio. Or rather, I think about the dream I had of it last night, when a voice refocuses my attention.
I hold the brush lazily in my hand, ready for the final stroke on my painting. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it will do.
The lighting in my studio is sepulchral, the sickly bulb above me so faint I can barely distinguish one shade of colour from the other upon the canvass before me.
“Is it done?” she asks from the dark where I can just make out the lines of her shape.
“Nearly, my dear,” I smile back.
She is an impatient sort and knows what “nearly” means. She rises from her chair and hits the switch, then walks over to examine the painting. The wooden tiles creak beneath her feet. Her perfume is wonderfully subtle. 
Light reveals a spacious room. It is a disorganized mess of half-finished works and empty canvases propped against walls with cans on the floor. Over all there hangs a smell as though someone had been painting the walls.
I crack a smile while her face twists into a sneer as she sees what I had made of what was supposed to be her portrait.

I had painted it on a dare.
“Do you still love me?” she had asked me earlier in the day.
“Of course I do,” I said. “I dream of you. I could paint your face in the dark,” I boasted.

Watching her stare at it, I cannot tell if she likes the painting or not.
“It’s there again,” she remarks. “But at least you’ve painted something else than the lake.”
“You don’t like it?” I ask.
“I didn’t say that,” she says. “But it’s there again.”
“You’re an inspiration to me, you know,” I tell her. But she doesn’t believe me. How could she, when all I paint is the damn body of water in the woods?
I can easily say my work is not the finest. However the paintings seemed to have struck enough of a cord of peculiarity for people to buy them. The buyers are mostly strange men who fill me with a sense that my works mean more to them than they do to me. Which is just as well, now if only my dear wife could see it that way. She hates the paintings. She of course won’t tell me as much, but I can hardly blame her. I never use pleasant colours or depict images of gladness. Instead there’s always a suggestive composition of some distant and unnameable horror which cannot be painted, yet is always related to the viewer through some inner alchemy upon beholding the canvass.
There is a peculiarity in all my works. It has managed to show itself again, even while I drew a portrait of my wife's exquisite face. It is an entity of unknown purpose. I can never remember painting the figure into my images, making it feel almost as though it happens between the strokes of my brush. It’s not really a figure, but an outline of one, a shadowy silhouette of a hunched or bowed... someone. And it scares the living shit out of me.
“I bet if I could see your face while you paint,” she says, “I could tell when you’re painting that thing.”
“We can try again, if you want,” I tell her. “This time in the light.”
She agrees and we take an empty canvass to replace the one already on the rack. I leave the main light on, and soon feel my mind struggling to relate all of its contents over the white empty space before me. I find my wanderings in the light estranged to me and notice myself becoming focused more on the sights and less on the feel of the scene. Each stroke seems more clinical and real, depicting with increased detail what I see. I notice an abandon of my usual style of a somewhat undimensioned reality, and my ethereal abstractions get replaced by a meticulous attention to detail.
I paint every strand of Maya’s hair, depict every dimple and all the subtleties of her loveliness, while her eyes are painted with a more tangible nature to them. I look into those blue orbs for a while and suddenly notice they have shifted and are now standing before me. She is shaking me by the shoulders. I’m still holding the brush – it leaves behind dark red strokes over the unfinished piece, it runs down like blood.
I blink. I swallow. She’s saying something but I can’t hear her. The first thing I notice is the look of worry on her face. Then I smell the paint. Her voice breaks through and she says, “Martin! Stop! Snap out of it!” I look closer to see her expression of utter fright. “You should have seen your face! What happened?”
“What do you mean? I was painting,” I tell her.
It is difficult for me to describe the sheer horror in her voice, and I suppose it is only because I must have seen the sight of the thing on the painting before, that I am spared the shock of what waits for her on the canvass.
And it’s not until she turns to see what my brush strokes have created, that she falls down in a screaming faint and doesn’t get up.


2

I burn the unfinished canvas over a pyre behind the house and watch the black smoke curl into the fiery goldness of late summer. The western slant of the sun illuminates the forest’s edge with bright greens and brows. There’s a crackle of burning wood as I listen to the chirping of birds.
I think of what has happened to me all those years ago, as I have done countless times before. Perhaps I had indeed fainted – just like she had today – and fallen into the lake? But how did I get out?
The wind shifts and blows some of the ash into my face, making what happened next all the more questionable. I cannot say if what I saw was real, for it could just as easily have been something caused by the sudden scraping of residue in my eyes. It stood there for a moment, behind the trees – a figure draped in black – before it moved away without sound.
I have seen the figure before. My every nerve urges me to follow it. Goose bumps creep down my neck. The pull is a calling, like a need to escape into the sun after a week indoors hiding from the rain. But I don’t follow. I go back to check on my wife instead.
I leave the smell of burning wood behind and find Maya still unconscious and in the bed where I had carried her to. I dip the tip of my fingers in the glass of water and splash tiny droplets onto her face. She wakes with a start and yells out something incoherent.
“Are you okay?” I ask her. She is clearly not, panting and sweating, her eyes darting about as though searching for some hidden foe. I don’t know what else to ask.
“Tell me you’ve burned it!” she demands. “Tell me it’s gone!”
“I did.”
“Did you watch it burn? Did you see it burn out?”
“No, I came back here to–“
She gets up and hurries out in a rush I can barely follow. Down the steps and into the brightly illuminated kitchen she runs, then out the back door and onto the backyard bordered by the oak and beech forest. She looks down the cindering flame circled by burned grass and collapses on her knees before it. I have never seen her like this.
“What is it?” I ask.
She doesn’t respond as I look over the fire. The canvass is missing and there’s evidence that water had been poured over the flames. The blackened wood is water-slick.
She gets up and looks me in the eye, “Promise me you’ll never paint the lake again,” she says. “Please promise me, Martin!”
“I suppose I…” I stammer my first words then nod, “I promise.” I feel like like a child. Of course I will paint it again, it's not as if I can help it.

We spend the rest of the day in silence, watching movies and trying to take our minds off what has happened. We fall asleep sometime in the evening curled up on the couch.

I wake up to the sound of hushed speech. Looking around I cannot see Maya anywhere, until on the edge of my hearing, I pick up the sound of her whispering voice. I freeze at first. The menacing quality and the tonality if it sends beads of sweat down my armpit.
“Maya?”
No answer.
“Maya!” I yell out and the whispering stops. I hear the song of crickets and somewhere in the distance, there’s an owl hooting.
I would have been content to stand up and search about in silence for her, but what happens next set my mind on edge more than the silence could. The whispering resumes. It is not something I’ve ever heard my wife do in such a manner. Why doesn’t she answer my summons?
I rise from the couch and fumble in the dark.
It amazes me how I can still forget where precisely the light-switch is. 
Illumination should bring some order and sense into the world, I think, and turn on the lights. The room is empty with the backdoor swung open, a cool breeze wafts over my sweat-covered forehead. I shiver in the evening’s cold and follow the sound. I walk for a bit, the soft grass swishing between my toes.
I meet the loss of my resolve at the wood’s edge. I am shaking now, for the tonality of the voice has changed, or perhaps I have simply picked up on the subtle wrongness of it. The whispering isn’t hushed at all. There’s something out there. I can see it moving in the moonlight like a dark curtain. I take a step forth when the inexplicable madness drawing me to follow it becomes physical. A need. My feet follow the shape to some pull my mind is all too eager to accommodate. I will myself to stop, but am powerless to resist my stronger desire to follow. The voice is as the lake: at once known to me, yet freighting with its undertones of total strangeness and peculiarity.
After an indeterminable passage of time, I sense I am no longer following the voice, but He who walks behind the trees. I go between the thinning Oaks, past the shoulder-high pines and closer to the luminous fog. I don’t recall it being like this, but then I again, I don’t think I had ever seen it at night. The veil of moisture moves in the Moon’s rays and I work up the courage to call out again.
“Maya?” I still hope she might answer, but there is nothing and the black shape disappears into the fog. I take another step when something grabs me from behind and rounds me about.
“Martin! What the hell!” she shouts at me. “What are you doing, I’ve been calling out and you didn’t stop!” She explains all this between pants, bereft of breath. “I didn’t know you could run so fast!”
“I was running?” I think this to be most strange of all, for I don’t feel the least bit tired.
“What are you doing?” she asks again.
“There it is,” I tell her and turn.
“There is what?” Worry hangs over her face.
“It’s the...” my words are caught in my throat. The fog is gone and the trees stand thick around me. There’s a distant sound of an electric coil spinning and a smell of moist woodland. At first I simply look at her, wondering what to say. Should I even explain anything? I dare not mention the sound to her or she’ll think I’ve gone completely nuts.
She doesn’t speak, and I spend the next month trying to convince her I’m not crazy.


3

She told me later she had gone to town to get some food and had just come back when she saw me blundering into the woods.
I had no idea what to say to that, and after I told her what had happened, disconcert found its way into her face and stayed there for the remaining month. She later became content I was back to my old self, whatever that was, and said we should go and look for this lake I keep going on about.
“At least this way I can see it too,” she said.

Instead of the lake, however, we find a house. We first see it some distance ahead in what looks like a small clearing. The trees rise up above it, making its roof almost impossible to distinguish in the shade.
“Have you seen this before?” she asks me.
“If I have I don’t remember it,” I tell her.
She doesn’t like my answer, she never seems to when I imply I don’t remember something that by all rights is strange enough one should remember. We creep nearer.
“I know this place!” she says in a hushed tone. “You’ve painted this once too, remember? You sold it to... what was his name?”
“The guy from Sweden, you mean?” I ask.
“Yeah. What was his name?”
“Something Swedish, I presume.”
She snorts as we pass the last tree, coming before the edifice. Its walls are of piled stone and I can almost feel the age of it pulsing from every piece of masonry. It is a simple house, so simple I’m surprised it's still standing. Each grey stone of its construction is in varying stages of ruin and I’m certain a strong breeze might collapse the whole thing at some point. We dare not touch anything. The sides of it are overgrown by moss and vines. A tree protrudes from its centre through the grey stone roof.
“You see this, don’t you?” I ask her and her look reminds of the ones she used to give me years ago, when the two of met at university. We both studied anthropology then, until I later decided to focus on my painting instead. We had been inseparable since, yet as of late I find myself weary of her. Something had been off since the day she saw the face in the painting. “You do see the house, yes?” I ask again.
She arches an eyebrow.
“Of course I see it,” she says circling around the stonework. “What are you saying?”
“Nevermind.”
We locate the entrance and step inside. It takes me a while to get used to the dark as only small bits of light pierce through the chinks and apertures of the stone. The oddness of it strikes me immediately, but to put my mind on what is so spatially off about it proves difficult until a moment after. The house stretches from a small, somewhat lit area, into a dark hallway that cannot possibly exist. I cannot see the end of it. 
To say I am surprised by what we find within would be understatement. I watch Maya as she becomes stuck in place, struggling to process what is standing before her. I know what goes on in her mind, because I feel it also. The scene is nothing special in its composition, it is rather what it implies which frightens us enough to turn back and run from the house as fast as we can.

I had painted so many pieces of the lake over the period of seven years that I scarcely remember all of them. But I do recall that I could not locate some of them. I painted over quite a few, so at the time I figured most of those I couldn’t find lay somewhere between the stacks of canvases, or had been worked over by my own hand. But in that house, against all of the walls and with small candles burning in a half-circle around each in a way that seemed almost ritualistic, were all my missing paintings. And worse, they were all worked over. The figure I had painted upon them was added to, with every small detail improved upon to the point where it looked frighteningly realistic. Whoever had done it was a master, a painter of increased calibre – certainly a better one than myself.
The shapes looked like they might come out of the frames, and it is that notion that kept me running without looking back.

When we reach our home, it takes a while for us to catch our breath. I try to convince Maya it is not I who had done it, since she becomes adamant in her belief that I’m playing some sick joke on her. She says she won’t speak to me until I admit and apologize.
But what she doesn’t, or perhaps cannot understand, is that I am just as confused as she is.
She packs her bags the next morning and leaves. She doesn’t make it far, however. I watch her go beyond the edge of town from atop the hill where our house stands. She comes back in tears. We talk for a long while and, sometime in the morning hours, decide to revisit the house together and confront whoever had made those paintings.
“I suggest we bring a gun with us just to be safe,” I tell her. We don’t have one, so we pack a knife instead, one for each of us.
We trod the woods and to our dismay and further confusion, never find the house again.


4

It’s another month after that before something extraordinary happens. After a discussion about selling our home to move someplace else, we contact a real-estate agent to come and assess the property. 
The lady is pleasant enough and offers a shabby, although fair price for the 50 parcels of land, most of which lies overgrown by forest or low-standing shrubs.
It’s late evening when Sabrine, our real-estate agent, leaves with Maya and me watching her car speeding down the dirt road pluming smoke, when on the edge of my hearing, I notice the sound of an electric coil. I am instantly aware of a subtle shift in my mental state. A fear creeps in me.
It’s when I look about to behold the slow beauty of a turning season that I notice the thing. In the dark-blue sky of the coming night, I see a white brilliance - an elliptical shape. It hangs above the trees. Motionless.
They say that the third eye, when opened, doesn’t differentiate illusion from reality, but recognizes the two as one inseparable motion. I am at this point willing to accept that to be my condition, and that my third eye has drawn its gaze. I have to believe it, because the alternative is that I have gone insane.
But belief itself implies a lie. Those three letters are in the very word. Lie. And you believe that lie until it is proven as true and you no longer have to believe, but know.
At this moment, no matter how hard I try to think of something else, something reasonable, I know there is something above those threes. I can bloody see it! Something not from here but from some other place altogether. It’s not long until Maya sees me staring and looks in the same direction as well.
“Do you hear it?” I ask.
“I’ve heard it before. What the heck is it?”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
“Why didn’t you?” she responds.
I am suddenly shaken by a revelation, looking at the thing. I grasp the truth – I had always painted it too. Painted it above the lake; a black elliptical shape barely noticeable from the pigments around it.
The sound it emits transmutes into a throbbing and then an even louder and more disturbing set of sense-impacts. A tracer appears behind the shape as it moves deeper into the forest.
The two of us hesitate for a moment. Then share a look. I rush into the house to get some coats and follow Maya into the forest. The light remains up ahead, imbuing the tops of the canopies with light.
“It’s all coming true, isn’t it?” she asks me.
“I’m not sure I know what you mean,” I tell her, watching my step and crushing small branches underfoot.
“You’ve always told me that, what we think, we become. You’ve thought of this for nearly ten years now and it’s finally becoming true.”
“I don’t think I can manifest something like this,” I tell her.
“But what if you did?”
I say nothing. There is something in the air. Something new yet familiar, as though I am treading upon the first layers of untouched and freshly fallen snow.
The nights have gotten cold and our breath mists before us.
“You’ll stay by me, wont’ you?” I finally ask her, scared out of my mind yet walking and following the travelling light.
Her voice makes me wish I could see her face in the dark. “I want to wake up next to you,” she says, “that will never change, and I wish to smell and feel you in the morning. I won’t let you drift away, Martin. Ever.”
All at once I am struck with an intense need to confess all my love for her, and to wave her goodbye at the same instant. As though I know this to be our last trail to find the illusive witch that is my sanity. A part of me tells me not to panic, while the other says she will die today. My knees are shaking.
“You remain all I think about even when all I paint is something else,” I begin, allowing my words to escape me. “When the moon sets, you’re all I wish to have and I will love you now and until the day that I die. And when we shall die no more, I will find you behind the clouds.”
I no longer care how ridiculous I sound because the truth of my words feels as real as anything else.
She finds my hand in the moonlit dark. Her grip is firm, bordering on painful, and she leads me onward.
“Ever since you painted him in my portrait,” she says, “he has walked in my dreams, and I don’t know why.”
We say nothing more, stumbling between the grey trees until our minds are struck by something moving ahead.
I think to truly describe the horror of its appearance I would be forced to discover new words quite outside of the human vocabulary. The impossibility of it makes me realize the full extent of what we are doing. The fog grows thicker ahead, seemingly luminescent only as much as the moon allows it, yet strangely more so. I feel a cold wetness between my toes seeping through the fabric of my shoes and our every step is a wet squelch.
“Sodding hell!” I hiss.
“Ssshh!” Maya silences me, as the sound above begins to slow down to a steady, oscillating hum and I realize I have no concept of how long the two of us have been walking hand in hand.
A thing forms on the precipice of my vision, a bending of shadow that doesn’t know what shape to take. It is heavy like my memories, my thoughts and my love for her. Sensations rush by me.
Days where I feel everything at once and moments when I feel nothing at all converge into a single instant where I am paralyzed by fear.
She pulls me deeper into the muck. Water slowly rises to our knees and the light above us trails every movement. I see how my mind has been unfolding inside itself but has now reached out beyond. I hesitate to move as the sheer impossibility of it bids me to stay in place.
“Don’t. I’m afraid,” I admit to her.
“Me too,” she says and we stop. “Let’s go back, I can’t take the sound anymore.”
It’s me who walks ahead this time, beyond the still water turning into black before me and over to the edge of an infinite drop. On that edge, where a sound of something remarkable below dances with something above, I see the oscillating ellipse descend down into the water, blinding me and turning it into steam, choking the area with mist and leaving behind a hole darker than space. There is silence. Then an outpouring of everything all at once in a great crested wave that crashes against the trees and the rocks and washes away the dirt and the muck and the haze of confusion. The sound of doom envelops me, tosses me about – her hand in mine remaining the one singular centre – as I lose myself in a place where all dimensions dissolve in the absolute.

I wake to the sound of her breathing and the chirping of birds. There’s a headache scraping its way along my cranium, but I regret nothing. A red dawn unfolds wetly from the east. We are soaked.
This day I know something has happened both illuminating and inconceivable in its reality. I know one day my mind will comprehend it, or it may not. One day her mind will understand too. But it is not this day. One day we shall speak of this again, when the stars are right. But it too is not this day. One day she will see me and I will see her. But it is not this day. This day I only wish all of these things. This day I only hope. Yet one day that hope will blossom, and that might as well begin today. For it is a beautiful day.


We never found that lake again, nor did we ever search again.

[image by Jarek Kubicki]

Aug 18, 2014

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Posted in Arrangement , Art , Business

Astral Projection



I have dabbled with meditation for years now. However on December the fourth, 2011, after experiencing an episode of intense Satori -- a feeling which lingered for a full three days after -- something remarkable happened to me. I had not planned it and am not closed off to the option that my mind had created all of it, but anyone who has astral projected before will probably know the feelings you have make you believe with absolute certainty that you are somewhere else, that is to say, that you are not where your body is, while, at the same time, you're also fully aware that you are where your body is. There is no duality in this feeling, you feel as though you are in both places at the same time...

I've posted this before in two sections and am now posting it again in full.

As I went over it a few days ago I realized it is just as vivid as it had been when it happened.


I sat for roughly 30 minutes, full lotus, although the passage of time became fuzzy and indistinct.
Suddenly I felt elevated, above it All, yet a part of it at the same time. All was me. And I was all. I tried and failed to pinpoint where I was and where everything else was in relation to my position is space. Existence and energy intertwined, transforming my limbs and body into a blue-red haze which pulsed and convulsed in a visual radiance, superimposed on the blackness which surrounded me. My eyes were closed. I forgot myself and the time in which I moved, I saw only my subtle self, pulsing with life. I forgot I was breathing. Forgot I was sitting. I forgot I even existed at all. 
A radiant, white thread appeared before me, extending outwards from my chest and curving up in front of me, through the darkness. It was comprised of many smaller and white, wiggly lines that intertwined, braided, danced and shifted. I looked upon it. I moved my energetic limbs to touch it and when my fingers coiled around it, I was somewhere else. 
Specks of light swam and flickered within the void, stars in the darkness where I was held aloft. It encompassed me. The thread I had just moments before been watching was now curving downward and extending below me, into the depths, seemingly going on forever and curving so far down that it seemed to stretch on behind me and further than my eyes could pear. I felt like I was standing upon some immense precipice, elevated beyond possibility. I could sense that I wasn’t dreaming all of this, that I was somehow here, in the embrace of the Now, yet also there, back where I had sat down. But there appeared no duality in this, I felt myself in both places at once, in both spots equally myself, yet in each I was in a state that was wholly different. 
I noticed a man standing in the distance. How I became certain that it was a man I could not tell, yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized this entity had no sex. It was neither man nor woman, but somehow humanity in its pure form and at the same time more than just form. I could not fathom how I didn’t see him before. Like mine, his body too pulsed outward from a white, energetic centre, sending ripples of the most beautiful blue and white. And as he turned around, I noticed his form only bore a semblance of a man, just enough so I could tell that it was some kind of a humanoid - or the subtle form of one - that stood way ahead of me. He didn’t speak, his face white and featureless, blazing in outwardly expanding auras of vecotrized explosions. 
For some reason, a thought came to me, I said to him, “I wish to see your face.” He looked at me for a moment, or appeared to have looked at me, then, in a voice that was both soothing and toneless, said, “Why do you need my face?” I felt his face as irrelevant, a mask, and that this pure energy, this form I was gazing upon was his true self, his All. For some reason, I insisted. I said, or rather, willed, “I desire to see it anyway.” As though anticipating my answer, his whole being shifted to stand before me, his white face centimetres before mine. Features formed and lines coalesced, yet when it seemed like a mouth, or eyes, or a nose might reach a state of semblance or begin to properly take shape, the expression was gone, and faded back into itself. I watched this for a while. He then turned and began to walk, almost float away, and to me it seemed natural that he should. As I watched him go, the scene about me transformed and I was instantly teleported somewhere else.


I stood at a crossroads. The ground beneath me gave the impression like it was made of metal, yet everything; the road ahead which forked to the left and right, the wall that extended ahead on both side and prevented me from seeing ahead, all of this was made out of strange, stalactite-like formations.

Everything moved and wavered, and I had trouble telling where the lines of one thing ended and something else began. Everything was endowed with an inner light. A soft blue, with pink lining running through the ever-shifting edges. I saw forms moving from the left and to the right of the walkway ahead. At first none of them noticed me, and I soon discovered I stood in a peculiar way, naked. I stood on my right leg, the other crossed, my left hand over my heart as thought praying. I had no clue why I stood like that, finding it slightly humorous. 
Only as the forms neared the fork in the road, did I notice how strange they looked. They were like jellyfish, or mushrooms, moving about with such elegance it nearly brought me to tears. But emotions weren’t really there at all. It was like everything was just so. Just me and my experience. Nothing to tether me or make me fearful, the only emotion that was somewhat present was the sense of humour. They were all breathing, the beings, expanding their mushroom-like heads simultaneously, as one. A group of five passed ahead of me and moved on, I could see them through the almost transparent wall, yet for some reason, one of them stopped. The others then stopped as well, as though wondering and looking why he had halted.

He looked at me. Saw me. Moved towards me. He didn’t appear unsure at all. He was at least two heads smaller than me, but what I figured to be his head was wide-reaching and mildly transparent. Tendrils of energy raced around him, out of all of them, like gentle smoke rising. I felt his words in my head, somehow understood them as he said, “How are you?” The question seemed odd, but didn't surprised me.

My answer, however, did. I said, “Fantastic!”

More of them began to gather round me, like they had found out I was there by some nonlocal means of communication. They came in numbers and looked at me, marvelling at the strangeness of my form. 
They left after a span of time I could not fathom, only the person I had initially seen stayed behind. I sensed his words as mental projections. Shapes of wavy circles drew themselves in my mind and I could not understand what he was trying to tell me. I tried to answer, but all that came out were rigid forms of squares and triangles. I got a distinct sense he cannot even comprehend sharp edges. I thus made my own shapes resemble his, curled them and made them undulate. He seemed to understand, but simply stood there, while time became utterly meaningless to me. I felt its sudden shift as it began to move forward with intense rapidity. I could not see the timelapse of days, but rather, felt like they whirled by at incredible speed, day, night, day, night, week, month, year, century, millennia, eon.

At some point while this was happening, he disappeared or went somewhere else, but when time as I perceived it slowed down again, he came back. I had no idea why I could tell this was the same entity – or even a he – I simply did. He asked me then, “Why are you still here? Why don’t you move about? Come.”

I asked myself the same question and followed him to the fork in the road. We went to the right, the walls wavering around us, glowing. We went on.

We reached an edge where the wall to my left ended and I noted we stood atop a balcony. We were so high up, so elevated, that I could see an entire city, its tallest spires no more than one tenth of the hight of where we were. Much like the walls themselves, the city was in a constant state of movement, as if I were looking at it submerged under water. Somehow, however, I could still see every detail of it, every street and every structure.The whole cityscape lay within an enormous mushroom-shaped dome. Cauls of some kind ran over the membrane above and, in short successions, turned night into day. This was like clockwork. The ceiling would lighten and grow dark again, as though it were breathing. But the light itself would never wane within the dome, the buildings and the surfaces would draw all of it and trap it within, using it to illuminate everything around me in a beautiful, white brilliance. At times it seemed it should blind me, but did not. I gawked at the sight of this for a while, when the entity beside me began to fly. He drifted forward and up, stopping a small distance ahead and I felt him ask, “Can you fly?”

I smiled at this. I didn’t even have to think about it, nor did I drift towards him, I was simply there, next to him, instantly.

We flew above the city, his head expanding and contracting and I was again reminded of a jellyfish. At one point in our journey, I looked at the being on my right and realized something. I projected, “How can you even see anything?”

“I don’t need my eye to see," he said.

"But how do you see?"

"I perceive with my inner eye.”

“But you have it? An eye?”

“Yes.”

“Can I see it?” 

In response, above the being’s head and, in a way that made me unsure if the eye was even connected to it, the organ drew its gaze. A wave expanded from below and encompassed the whole thing, ending behind it.

What it revealed was the ugliest eye I had ever seen.

It was completely black, like something belonging to a nocturnal creature, with an eyelash that seemed a part of the thing. It cast a frown of the most terrifying proportions. I was horrified.

I averted my gaze from it.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I cannot bear to look at it. It's too scary.”

But then he said, “I have not yet opened it.”

“Then do it,” I said.

Again, like before, an eyelid opened from below the eye and ran to its back, leaving behind what looked like a perfectly rounded mirror. I couldn’t see my reflection within it, yet could tell it was either a mirror or perhaps glass. It would shift its point of view so I could only ever see one side of it, as thought it weren’t even possible to see it in three dimensions, even though I could feel it existed in three dimensional reality.

Then, for some reason, I was overcome with a compulsion to run my hand through it. 
I did this quickly, in a manner of reflex-movement, and my fingers passed right through it. I could feel a strong current shooting through my extremities. I got an immediate impression this pained the being, and we were instantly on the ground. We hadn’t fallen but somehow stretched through the fabric until we were kilometres long, and then simply reformed as the part of us above shot back down. 
Others began to gather round, looking at what had happened, a palpable sense of concern permeating out their bodies. The entity I had hurt looked shrivelled, as though he had been left to dry in the sun and was now slowly being cooked by the heat. He moved lazily, in agony. 
I could sense the thoughts of these beings. They were of a singular mind, each one of them wondering exactly, "What is going on? No one has died before."
But I wasn’t worried. A feeling of omnipotence endowed my every sense of being and I lifted my hands in front of me, touched my thumbs and index fingers, forming a triangle. Waves of creation passed through me and out of me, remaking the being and reforming its body in triangular patterns and lines of generative matrix. The others stood back. As I did this, however, I began to feel a sense like I need to go. As though something were calling me back, urging me to return. I suddenly felt nothing else but a dire need to return.

I opened my eyes and realized I need to take the biggest piss of my life...



Note: I find it important to add that, when I went to the bathroom, the room seemed incredibly, absurdly small to me, almost crushingly so. I felt mildly claustrophobic and by no means could I get over how tiny the room felt...

Aug 11, 2014

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[Review] The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi



"You will become anything to get what you think you want."


For the most part, this reads as though written by a quantum/string theorist on a binge consisting of medium to high doses of unknown psychoactive substances. It is slightly reminiscent of one of many Robert Anton Wilson's jackasseries, if they had been put into a marginally more consistent and coherent whole. Although the cohesion is only there if you dismiss the fact that you have read the last book almost a year ago, and that you haven't got a clue as to what the different "factions" are any more. You kinda get reminded of it and the connections are easy to make, but a glossary of some kind would be great. Although I suppose that would defeat the purpose.

And the purpose of this book is to surround you with "oh shit the future is nuts!"

As far as story goes, I was lost. I had no idea what was going on and why. Okay, I did have a sense, but still. The story is as "out there" as the concepts, the characters, the... well, everything. Once the pieces start falling together you realize Jean le Flambeur is the most awesome thief in the galaxy for a reason.

One of my gripes in the previous book was that his dialogues in particular were very cliché, and I think this has now been improved upon greatly.

The transcendentalistic nature of the created universe in this book is immensely appealing and at times interesting as fuck. It is, however, unfortunate that the book is somehow put-downable. Meaning that this is not something I can devour in two sittings or three. It's not exactly that the book is difficult to read, because it is not, it is simply that after a while it can feel a bit like "sensory overload".

In the end, submerging into a world where reality is defined and altered, where spectral beings living in virtual dimensions rule the living universe and craft it according to their will, can be spectacularly fantastic. Plus, Hannu is kinda boss.


8/10 

Aug 10, 2014

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I walked halfway up the hill, my loyal sidekick, or should I say drugkick, walking beside me, when the drugs began to bend our minds...
I had expected us to make it to the top, but the newly added component now brewing our brain-meat had other plans for us.

A tingle began to scratch at my cortex, its flame blinking in and out within my spinal cord in a sensation unlike a twitch. 
The grass turned in on itself and strands if it began to whisper their secrets to each other. 
A wave of nauseating thoughts gave a sense that the weeds were lying to me, for the green would not share its knowledge with us, even as the two of us pressed our ears to try and smell, taste the words it spoke. Nothing but incoherent musings...

Surfaces began to merge and slide into the sky, brighten and darken, pulse until I could no longer tell if the sky was breathing or if I was. 

Was I ever? 

Had I ever drawn breath before? 

Or had my brain simply kept me from dying? 

No... no, don't allow yourself to be fooled by the drug. Breathe in. Breathe out. Clockwork, inexorable like the Earth's spin.
I slipped into a state where triangles became circles and circles didn't' exist. 
My eyelids felt as though they had never been open to see through the veil drawn across my gaze. 
Corposant light flashed in the sky, drawing stars through the daylight, between the pink nebulae veiling my reality.

I looked into the eyes of my companion, and we smiled, spoke without words or gestures.

Given our lives so far, I was surprised we're not dead yet. 

Jul 31, 2014

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Zen Mind



"To see the mind as it truly is, consider it like you would a tree. It grows and expands. Its roots go deep, hidden and out of reach, and to cast them out or truly examine them, you risk wounding the rest. The question then is, are you willing to take the risk?" 
The Dreamer considers this for a while, lost in thought. His answer, however, comes in a proclamation of conviction. "I was made ready by this very world." 
His guide nods in understanding, smiles. The undergrowth bristles as their footfall passes. In silence, they walk through the trees and up the hill. Despite the slope, their breaths come easily, slowly. The rise is steep and obstacles many, but they press on, higher, slower with each step, until they settle on a steady, calm pace. Golden rays greet and stroke their faces. Light flickers between the autumn leaves. The winds are gentle as they lick the soil and awaken the greenery with movement, excite the smells of mornings. 
Atop the hill, a glade, caressed by the distant spirals of the sun. The divine engine fills the Dreamer with awe, furnace hot upon his face, infinitely moulding the Earth's flesh into an image, into life. He feels its pulse. His bare feet tingle. The two men stand there for a while, basking in the glory of a thing so mighty, so unattainable - like the true workings of the mind. 
The Dreamer gazes up the lone tree swimming in gold and watches as the sun and the tree suddenly become one. No end of one, no start of the other, but both admixed, like an alloy, embracing the light. His guide averts his eyes, looks at him, and the Dreamer knows what words shall follow, for he would ask the very same of the tree before him... 
"Do you ever sleep? Is the time between days sleep for you? Or as the season and its stillness takes you, is that sleep for you? Tell me, do you dream then? What do you dream about?" 
"Freedom."
To this the guide plucks a small, white flower and hands it to the Dreamer. "What do you see?" the guide asks him. 
The Dreamer looks, perplexed, for he knows his teacher wants him to see more than the obvious. But instead of seeing what is truly there, the Dreamer's mind breaks through and depicts solely its sensual perceptions. 
"A flower, brightly coloured and scented," says the Dreamer. His guide looks at him. Wind rustles their robes in tune with the lush green beneath their feet. The tree above plays in the breeze, shading them. "Is that all you see?" 
The Dreamer looks again. Nods. "My eyes see what they see. Yet my mind tells me I should see more." 
"It is not Mind that sees more, it is You. The flower is but an expression. Just like you. An expression of this world. Yet unlike you, it lets things be, it doesn't try and analyse why things are such, why the winds blows and the grass sways. All it ever wants to be and wishes to have, it already is and has." "But I have a mind," the Dreamer replies. "This flower has no mind. No mind to wonder, to ponder, to think and to feel." 
"It is the way of Zen. No mind. But a certain kind of emptiness that is as vast as anything that can be or is. A Mind that is ready. That is empty because it is ready. Even when such a task -- not to ponder -- seems impossible. Then, when there is no mind to dissect every nuance of the world, all that remains is the wonder, the experience, you are free to feel and to think, truly think. Because how your thoughts flow now is conditioned, by your perceptions, by your feelings, by your life-patterns and choices. All of these things coalesce into what you think is the real you, what the real you feels it must maintain for it to be happy. Because to lose that means an annihilation of the You. Yet when you think you are happy, you are suddenly not content in just feeling happy, you want to feel yourself feel happy. Instead of simply Being." 
"How can I be happy then? How can I be free?" 
"No man can remain in a constant state of happiness. It is impossible. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will attain what you seek. A man can only stay calm, blissful. That, in itself, is the source of happiness. Serenity of thought brings happiness, a cantered mind brings happiness, and when these things are one motion, when you cease to search for your happiness and instead simply allow yourself to experience it, you will find yourself free. For you see, friend, true freedom is not without, it is within. You must first free your mind from all the patterns that control you, subdue and inflame you." His eyes water as the Dreamer sets his gaze upon the calm, understanding expression of his guide, bows low and says, "Teach me, master." 
"You must pass through the ultimate gate," the master says. "Enter a bastion guarded by your doubts, your fears, your perceptions, memories, false imprints and conditioned things. It has always been there and until you enter it and see that it's walls are transparent, it shall always remain there." 
Silence. Thoughts bend the Dreamer's mind. A wind waves the treeline for a moment, spinning sounds that drift, sing with simplicity. "What fire must I kindle?" the Dreamer asks. "What source must I tap into to become calm, serene, blissful, happy even?" 
The master smiles, walks the clearing's edge overlooking distant hills and forests... the Dreamer follows. 
"Analogies and riddles, questions and answers," his guide laughs. "You speak of kindled fires, yet, would you ask the same fire how it came to life? No. Its source is already manifest. It is present always, all it needs is patience and something that knows how to light a spark." 
Contradictions, the Dreamer thinks, always contradictions. The evening's calm swallows the skyline, colours turn vivid and the Dreamer's gaze lingers upon the transcendental beauty of the day - a simple play of calmness. 
"Even as such a fire is lit," his guide continues, "The wood burns and the flame moves, yet it is really the mind that moves - interprets, gives the flame life. The spark you seek, the flame, it is your mind, but is not your Mind. The kindle sleeps within." 
"But what must I do?" The Dreamer pleads now. Straight answers continue to elude him and his mind reels for instruction, he feels its search - its quest to find words that would inflame his cognitive processes. But the master only smiles and, sensing his student's impatience, says, "Follow." They walk downhill, past trees both ancient and young, until, at length, they reach an open grotto, lush and hidden, surrounded by trees overgrown with moss. A waterfall streams into the clearest azure. They halt a while, fill their lungs with moist air. "Where is the point where the falling water becomes the pond?" the master asks. The Dreamer thinks but for a moment and states, "The question is hard, but not truly impossible to answer." 
"Tell me then, Dreamer, where do You end, and your Ego begins?"

Jul 24, 2014

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[Review] DEFENDERS by Will McIntosh



There are books which I have reviewed so far for which I "argue" that nothing happens. I wish to explain again as I did in those reviews that things do in fact happen, but are not even remotely close to what I would like to happen in a book that is over 400 pages long. I don't want to read about someone going to a university and doing exams at said university. (I still ended up reading about it, but shut up, okay?)

In this book, things happen. And then some other things happen which are not expected. Then others which are slightly more expected, but still very spacious (?) in the oh shit that just happened department.

[Here ends the part of the review where I try to use the word happen as many times as possible for no particular reason.]

This is without doubt an existentially rich book examining some of the most profoundly disturbing yet singularly realistic questions. The questions aren't actually in the book, which is how good scifi does things anyway, instead they appear by themselves in the heads of those who tend to contemplate the nature of things and stuff. The answers you get in this book are sort of nihilistic in a way and kind of lame when you think about them. Yet not lame because the author is lame or managed to represent the answers in a lame way (although the Lutyen are some of the most meh aliens purely by aspect of countenance), but because, well, the answers themselves are quite lame. But also true.

One answer is simply this: Humans are and will for the foreseeable future remain a bunch of unremitting idiots.

The second answer a bit comforting. Only not very. And it is that we can't really help it. Unless we try really really hard.

You cannot help but be pissed at times at the pure idiocrity of the people in this book. And by extension - when you realize the book is pretty legit when it comes to accurately describing real-world situations (albeit in a warped and situationaly different manner) - you kind of become frustrated with humans in general. But then again, you should be a tad frustrated with us if you managed to look outside your window in the last couple of centuries, or within yourself. I mean really look

If you pause to think (and you should, god dammit) that what is happening in this book is something that may very well occur, and actually has already numerous times - just not with aliens from outer space (or has it) - you may come to the startling conclusions you were already aware of, but tried not to consider because they can bring you to fucking tears. 

"Suppress that shit," seems to be the consensus upon which we frivolously operate in our current global society.

But what if you can't? Well I suppose then you damn well try harder.

The science in this book is never actually explained and the book itself remains one of the least detailed books I have read in a while. The details are in other places, centred around characters and things that actually matter.

Which is good.


The only problem was I couldn't for the life of me imagine a starfish-shaped alien that didn't appear positively goofy in my mind's eye... And I tried.


9/10