In her book “Steering the Craft” Ursula K. Le Guin writes about using different characters to paint an image of a protagonist. Thinking about it, we paint such portraits constantly in real life while the Other across us paints us back. I imagine we are so incredibly rich in expression and feeling that if seven billion people were asked to describe us after a short interaction, each one would describe us differently.
Chapter 3, you are about to read here, introduces a set of characters who interact with Eurydice and in doing so reveal more of her complex and fated persona. In fact, writing the next chapter has taken me very deep into the work. There is a spiritual undercurrent that is demanding my full attention. I’ve yet to uncover the consequences of such a plunge.
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See you at Nightingale Night!
P.S. Catch up with previous chapters.
My sister loved dancing. It didn’t matter if it was the ground she was dancing on, or in the air. I recognized her handwriting on the back of this photograph: The Cabiri, a traveling mythogenesis lab.
I telephoned them. Somebody by the name of JC picked up. Another dead end. I don’t know what I’m even thinking. Running my own dimwitted investigation as if I’ll ever find her. Perhaps it is myself I should be looking for instead.
JC told me Eurydice stopped dancing with them years ago.
More than a hundred seeds spilled across the penthouse of building 8 which took up the entire top floor. As many staff members watched over the seeds. It was her last night as a member of the human family and Eurydice was relieved she didn’t have to be alone with her thoughts. One cannot be dishonest in dance, said the choreographer. Seeds are no different than memories, Eurydice. And we are no different than seeds. We lay buried until triggered to express ourselves. What do we choose to bring forth? Horror? Or beauty? In my seventy years dancing, I’ve never choreographed a black and white performance. A dance is never just beauty, or just horror. A dance is a hollow memory we grow into.
If I knew you before coming here, I might have chosen to stay alive, confessed Eurydice. The choreographer smiled, looking pensively at Eurydice. Like the scorpion, the girl was a nocturnal creature. Shy and withdrawn into her own space of muted joy; safe but also daring inside the nights besieging her heart. Called upon by destitution, Eurydice had crawled out from underneath the veil of proper darkness. The world was burning at the seams, blackness shining through the cracks. Her time was coming.
The poor girl probably doesn’t even know it, thought the choreographer. Like the scorpion, Eurydice was hundreds of millions of years old, inhabiting the Earth long before the dinosaur. The choreographer was a T-Rex devouring the status quo, summiting reason while peeling back her own skin with her teeth. The world loved her – she, the greatest living choreographer who exposed her shadow, night after night. The world fed on her vulnerability, idolizing and making rich artists like her. Crowds needed her to express what the sum of their parts feared expressing. Cowards!
If anyone had succeeded in irritating, seducing and provoking humankind, it was the choreographer. Still, she was an infant in comparison to Eurydice. She had worked with thousands of girls, yet the one sitting now before her possessed a luminance she found unsettling. Not a trace of venom in the gentle curves of this face. Its forever eyes brought on a paralysis the instant the choreographer moved to descend into them. But when Eurydice spoke, her voice released the choreographer onto herself. Over and over again. In a flash of deviation, the choreographer was smoldered by a runaway train. Heated tremors shot up her spine. As if she was a knot finally coming undone at the precipice of age seventy-seven. The choreographer cast a hand across her chest, throwing away an invisible cape embroidered by invisible shame. And free for the first time in her life, free of the suffocating fear of rejection, the choreographer rose form her chair. Shaking, leaning her graceful body into Eurydice, she whispered: I made a promise to always be truthful. Her fathomless presence filled the penthouse. And she danced out of her own Self; and she moved through the forgotten corners of her field of awareness; unapologetic; behold, she was Silence herself. By the end of her defiant performance, all knelt down in ever-yearning stillness, to silently nourish…hollowed memories.
The Seed Corporation had the highest retention rate for their staff. Slow to pick themselves back up, unable to forget, they cherished and revered Nightingale Night - the last night before capsuling. It wasn't rare for staff members to enroll for seeding. One such employee would write:
I hear you calling essence by essence
Together we descend into a vortex of flesh
To gather in a vortex of spirit
Together we labyrinth into ourselves
To gather inside earthquakes of whispered songs
Casting the blue sky black
I stand in the passion of lava
To grow into Me-landscape
Away with you
Oh ashes immortal
Away with you
Unless I Become
I shall always Be
What I am
Taming her breath, the choreographer sat down across Eurydice. To hold and behold the eyes of the girl as her own jewels. You danced like a celestial body, said Eurydice. But there was no taming on Nightingale Night. Flooded with love and desire to celebrate Eurydice, the choreographer stood up abruptly, went to her pod. Hand trembling, she possessed her flesh. The orgasm killed her.
They still buried her.
I left home earlier today to get a cup of coffee, shared a man. On the way back, I saw a grey lump the size of a fist, there, on the sidewalk. I drew closer.
Eurydice listened, as she would have to any of her pupils, on any given day. They would start class sharing their dreams from the night before. From the retelling of such dreams Eurydice learned they were all, so very hopelessly equipped to deal with life. Sometimes they didn’t get to the planned curriculum. They all loved her. She loved them. Disheveled, articulate, sadness crouching down in the far corners of his eyes, the man intrigued her. The melodic delivery in his voice made listening easy: I slowed down, drew closer. And leaned in. It was a rat. Was it dead? Then, I saw her. Cursed fly. Touching down and lifting up from its hunched back. Dead, I thought, and stepped over the creature. Lumped on the sidewalk, giving itself one last embrace. I gazed back as if looking over the shoulder of my own life. The rat. And saw an ear move. Was it the wind? I stared a while longer. Its eyes glimmered. Just so. It was alive. It was alive! Should I move it out of the way? Should I nurture it back to life? Perhaps it has been poisoned. Paralyzed with fear, the victim doesn’t know how to take action. Who am I to make a difference… I started to walk away. Glancing back now and then. A couple coming after me stopped briefly, and then moved past the grey lump. Were they in love? Cursed fly! The sidewalk collapsing into a fist of rage. A cloud dimming the sun. The wind. An autumn leaf floating down, landing at my feet. It was a deep red, a deep red… unlike any I’d seen. I picked it up and kept walking. I promised the leaf I’d go into the first door at the end of my forward, only forward. I promised myself to jump wholeheartedly into what lay beyond.
The man grew silent. He watched Eurydice intently as if searching for validation. What could she say!? She recognized his forward as her own. Despite the warning, he snuck the autumn leaf into the pod. He stared deep into the boundless red. And he became its veins. And he grew drowsy.
You are probably thinking I’m a horrible person, said the young mother. Gentle, electric gaze. She kissed her toddler on top of the head where his hair was still sprouting soft. You probably think I’m a horrible person, repeated the mother. Eurydice guessed rightly she wasn’t expected to answer. The young mother took her by the wrist. Turning her palm upwards, she spoke in hushed tones, gazing up and down, up and down, in the deliberate manner of a priestess.
Happy birthday, papa! The priestess paused immediately, losing herself into the lifeline which painfully slashed the palm of Eurydice. Her voice filled with foretold intention: To find joy, first knock on the gates of Hell. Have no fear, for who will greet you is exactly the one who must greet you. What is your name?
You are so kind. Eurydice. Is your ending ruptured like mine? Is it? wondered Eurydice. Is your beginning questionable like mine? We echo what has been said before. We rearrange words, and our lives, in different patterns, and confuse the result with progress. Do you believe when this is all over we will have something new to say?
Eurydice didn’t know.
Squeezing her wrist, the mother gazed at her palm again. I don’t understand, she muttered. Eurydice noticed the grime under the woman’s nails. With the setting sun caressing the two of them, Eurydice touched tenderly the baby’s neck, running her fingers over a warm streak of light. What made you come here? asked Eurydice. The young mother unbuttoned her shirt, and pulled out her breast. The baby reached for it; she gently nudged his head, covered him with her hair; and smiled at Eurydice. They felled the tree my grandfather planted and my mother watered. The same tree I climbed in to ring the bells of imagination. Its crown was my church. She paused to count the strikes of the church bell. Eurydice heard the baby suck. Sweet, happy song.
I stood at the ravaged trunk and wept, continued the mother. I became pregnant the same night. His father was the tree. Nine months later I delivered our son. My water breaking over the lonely stump. The energy was immense.
Exulting. Emancipating. …Eurydice.
The young mother had forged the medical documents she presented to The Seed Corporation. Far from terminally ill, her child was in perfect health, violating admission rules and government regulations. The papers had passed two inspections. At the third and final one, the forgery was discovered. The mother was brought in for questioning. Her baby was a petri dish conception. The father, a lumberjack crushed to death by a tree. Without making a big deal, The Seed Corporation accepted the forged papers, the toddler and his mother for podding. Saplings were an important part of the forest ecosystem.
A staff member had been observing dutifully the young mother and her interactions from the moment of enrollment. Another staff member was assigned to track Eurydice. In addition to the analogue notes collected by the staff, recording devices listened in impartially. Cameras were used sparingly - it was decided early on that data solely based on visuals was inferior to the data collected from language. The goal was to create a forest utopia, though The Seed Corporation maintained there was no goal at all. Only the process.
Verify Diversity (VD) was one of their corner stones. Ask The Process (ATP) was another. The VD department was home to some of the smartest human beings on the planet. Along with medical charts, the tapes and hand-written notes were analyzed by hundreds of bioengineers, theologians, philosophers, psychologists, artists and scientists. The VD department was structured like a courtroom with a jury. The jurors cycled through monthly. Deliberating and arguing over the forests of the future. Nightingale Night was ground zero.
Eurydice... Eurydice, if I don't make it, will you tell…my sweet baby his mother loved him. Loved him too much to let him grow up a slave. Do you think he will ever forgive me? Remember - she kissed her boy - we are all the rings of a tree. You are no more than me, and I, no less than you.
The baby died feeding at her breast. The mother died forever.
After this weekly sketch, I took the drawing pencil and jammed it through the paper. Then, I noticed the sun setting and took the photo with the sun shining through the paper. This sketch symbolically moves us forward. Traveling through time and space with the sun being our only true witness.
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