Monday 16 May 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 1

Fig. 207. Sigil of the Prince of Exiles.

"What is it you see now? Tell me."

A mishmash of images, smells, feelings. Few words, fewer I understand.

"Tell me."

A machine, roaring, hissing, screaming. Rising above my head into the air, a boatlike hull, wide metal tubes at its side belching fire, wreathed in the blur of heat, sighing cannon leaking final vestiges of toxic light. On the earth below, I am surrounded by burning ruins, smouldering bodies contorted, beyond recognition. I raise a blackened fist. I rage. I cry out –

"Tell me why this happened."

A figure, clad in brightly coloured skins, all yellow-tan sinew, gnarled like an ancient tree, rises to ungainly feet before me, gestures to a different sky - purple, orange, green - with a branchlike, arm, to a flotilla of monolithic stones, soaring above, silhouetted against the sun. I feel a sort of terror, understand vaguely that I know where they will fall, and I look back at him. He is more than twice my height, his face a muzzle or snout, but with eyes that hold my gaze from beneath a heavy roll of flesh, bright, melancholy eyes catching mine, questing, offering an impression of immense age, infinite grief –

"And then?"

It is night. I am standing in a city square. People run to and fro, around me. Panic, dismay. A ball of fire falls from the sky, its trail a rope of fire and smoke behind it. Another. A rain of them. One collides with a spired and twisted tower and the building judders, collapses into two, among screams and the sounds of smashed stone –

"What happens to the people in the tower? What happens next?"

A woman in a light gown of glossy purple silk, graceful, slender, younger than me, shorter than me, her head bald, skin pale, luminous, iridescent. Her ears stretched wide around onyx rings. Her eyes, under heavy, jewelled lashes are cruel, amused, her deep purple lips smirking, her perfume heavy and sweet, enveloping me. Absently, she hooks a gold-nailed thumb in the wide hole in her left ear, and the rings and beads looped around it rustle and jingle. She says something, turns away to regard the glittering lights of a city of ziggurats and floating firefly lamps. I realise I know her name –

"Who is she?"

I am standing on ground, broken, uneven, rubble-strewn, that lurches beneath me; with a scream like a herd of cattle dying all at once it splits. A chasm opens, like a maw, the earth become a beast set to swallow itself, swallow the spired buildings that topple into its maw –

"Where are you?"

I am here in your armchair. The cold ache of weariness across my shoulders. Aging. The leather is scuffed under my fingers. I am alone here, with you, and I can smell the books on your shelves, the polish that was used to clean your table, the flowers in your vase. I can hear the scratch of the pen on the notepad on your lap.

I am about to wake.

[Collected Writings Index