“There are neither skies nor oceans, neither birds nor trees — there are only signs of what can never be perceived.”
―Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Holy Dimension
As I exit the coffee shop, I find air and sky! And suns! There are more than I remember. I count three. I must have forgotten. What suns! I have forgotten the healing power of sun. I labored and loved in the coffee shop so long that I didn't know what the suns had for me. It turns out, the thing they had for me is flowers. I take one of the flowers and place it in my hair. I use another as a boat, and slide across the ground, which is not ground but liquid of some kind. It is orange sea, it is bright pink mystery that reveals the sky and clouds clearly in its gentle waves. I see the pattern of the waves and use pollen to draw it across my stomach. I will hold it here. Maybe I will birth an ocean. Maybe I will let loose my own pink mystery upon the world.
I take my penis out and look at it. She is like a strange bird who cannot fly. "Where are your wings," I ask her. She has no answers for me. I squeeze her out of some arbitrary impulse. Still, she says nothing. I rub her with pollen for now and put her away.
I sail my flower into the air, which is barely any different from the sea or the ground or anything at all. The color pallet here is all oranges and pinks and whites, accented by the darkness of the clouds, which have a near-black purple and seem to be on the verge of delivering me with cool liquid. It has been so long. I have missed this greatly.
A creature in my flower emerges and tells me I am a sinner. I ask it what sin means and it has no answer for me. I agree that whatever it is, I am probably that thing. I have contained so much through the course of my life, though most of it from before the coffee shop seems foggy and untouchable in my mind. I rip off a large piece of petal and split it in two. I roll up each of these and place them in my nostrils. I turn my face to the sun. "I AM PROBABLY A SINNER," I yell at the largest of the suns. A god in one world could only be a sinner in another. I take a breath. I breathe in time with my heartbeat for awhile. It is too quick. I cough, then breathe normally again. The air is delicious. I sail a ways just to feel the air.
I look down from the sky just in time to see an arrow fly toward my head from somewhere forward and to my left. I duck. It misses. As I am bent down, the creature nuzzles my leg. I had forgotten it was there. I press my face into its back and it excretes a liquid from between its legs and anoints my shoulders. I try loving it and fail. Its hands are so small and look like soft black leather next to the orange-brown fur of its wrists. I rub pollen on its nose.
"Thank you," it tells me.
"For what?" I say.
"Oh," it replies.
"Oh," I say back.
We "oh" at each other back and forth for awhile, and I lose track of where we are sailing. One of the suns starts to set.
The large sun goes down and the medium one begins to follow. Its light seems more blue, while the large burns red. The smallest, whitest sun nearly hits the coast and turns around, heading above us again. The light changes colors through the suns' dance and I lose myself in it. If I have ever seen this before I have forgotten. How long was I in that coffee shop? What is my life, even? I touch the creature and it grabs my finger with both its hands. It uses my finger to touch its eyeball. I pet it on the eyeball for awhile as it presses happily on my toenails. I thought I had shoes. I once had shoes. I don't care. I eat a piece of petal. It tastes like the way I want my life to be from here on out. I spit it into my palm, where it turns into a beetle. I can see my reflection in its wings. I look so, so small.
I sleep without dreams. I have no concept of time in this place. When I lift my head I see a sun, followed by a second sun just beginning to crest the lip of my boat's flower. The edge of my flower's boat. The flower-boat's lip and its bright sun take over my vision briefly and as things come back into focus ahead I see what I can only call the Snows. I don't know how I have this name for it, because it is something I have never seen before. It is not what I would normally connect to the word "snow" or "snows", i.e. it is not droplets of freezing water crystalized around a nucleus drifting down from the clouds. It is too warm out for that. It is a thick mass of something that stretches for miles into the sky ahead. The thing it is a thick mass of is not something I can describe, because it breaks my sense of description. I do, however, know what to call it. It is the Snows and we are headed directly into its thickest point. A pure wall of amassed ineffability. As a part-time god you would think this might be my shit, but it is, I am discovering, absolutely not my shit. I am terrified. For a moment there is nothing, then my vision goes yellow. Something unseen touches a flower to my forehead. My feet are sweating. I hear a shattering sound somewhere below me. The smell of citronella. The air is still. A voice at my ankle says something I do not understand.
“What?” I get out.
“Welcome to the Snows," it says. “You many open your eyes.”
I do my best to suss out this new place, this new feeling. I am not in the Snows exactly. It’s more like the Snows are in me. I feel every inch of my body filled, it leaks into every pore, every orifice. I am the Snows. The Snows are me. I know what the Snows knows. I knows it completely. I brush my hair from my face with my hand but my hand is the Snows and my hair is the Snows and my face is the Snows and what results is like a whirlpool in water. Like a stirring of undifferentiated molecules. It feels incredible. Being the Snows is not terrifying, I realize. Being myself was terrifying.
The Snows is powerful. It contains everything, every moment, every thought, every deed, every person, all life and non-life. I feel like I am being hyperbolic in my description, but the Snows is hyperbolic. It is parabaloid. I love it, it loves me, I am it, it is me, etc. It’s like a control room for the universe. I see my whole life. I see myself. I see her kept contained for far too long. I see the ways she learned how to exist in a prison. I see that I put her there. I did not remember putting her there but at some point I must have done it. None of it matters, now. I see that I am to go to her. I go to her. I go to her as the Snows. I love her as the Snows. She is the Snows. We are the Snows.
I lose track. It’s like my mind contains a sharp whine that is blocking my thoughts. My thoughts fade. My thoughts are Snows. My actions are done and undone forever. All is ripple, loop, static. Dream, reality, nothing, never, always, forever, contained, echoing into space.
The creature, who is now in the Snows, who is now part of me, who now IS me and nothing else but me, says to me, “You could become a Child of the Snows,” and immediately I know this is exactly what I want, it is what I have always wanted and there is nothing more I have ever wanted. Sensing my desire, it then says, “it isn’t easy. There is so much you have to do to be a Child of the Snows and it can be very difficult. I have been a Child of the Snows all my life and while I would never choose anything else, there are times I wish I wasn’t a Child of the Snows.”
“I understand,” I tell it, and by this I mean I tell myself, because I am the Snows and so is it and it is me. I know this thing I am choosing is not insignificant. I know that it is a huge obligation I would be taking on, to be a Child of the Snows. I also know that I want it and that this want is something I have wanted all my life. I know this decision isn’t something that I would regret later. I know this is a beautiful obligation. A sacred, holy obligation. I know that there is no time when I wouldn’t make this choice. “I want to become such a Child,” I say into the Snows. My voice comes out a series of vibrating atoms that domino into each other in all directions, Snows against Snows, pushing across the whole of time and space and dimension and other things I don’t have words for.
The Snows turns purple and rains itself. The Snows becomes a cloud and clouds me. The Snows breaks into a thousand children. The Snows requires me to answer questions and I answer them. The Snows asks me to learn and I learn. The Snows rips apart and I rip apart. I and the creature and the flower boat emerge from the ripped apart Snows. From my ripped apart self and we are holy. We are sacred. We are rain. We are children.
Camouflage - Shelby McAuliffe
When I leave the Snows, I find that I have forgotten everything I knew when I was in the Snows. Something has changed inside me, though. I look at my boat-flower, at the creature, the sky, and at certain angles I notice a grain, a series of shapes. It is like what I have known as reality is starting to reveal itself as made up of letters, as characters in a holy language I can’t yet comprehend. I find myself straining to make associations, to understand the immensely complex architecture at work in the creation of the world. Maybe this process of understanding is what it means to become a child of the Snows. Maybe not. I am at a loss for any sure mental footing, and so I decide this is true for now. I need something to feel true.
I don’t know where we are going, but there is a character in the alphabet of that holy language that seems amongst the rarest of building-blocks. It looks nearly like an X, but off-kilter. It catches my attention when I see it on a ray of light or the sound of a bird, on an emotion or a leaf. I rub it with pollen. I decide to follow it wherever I see it. It tugs at something in me. Something deeply familiar that I’ve had since I was very, very young. I name it GRShM.
We continue to travel. The landscape slowly shifts from pink beach to yellow ocean to pink beach again. To forests made of people-sized leaves, to deserts of hard green stone, to cities so full of fog that I am only exposed to the smallest pieces at a time before they evaporate back into oblivion. The living creature speaks to me as we travel. It tells me stories. Sometimes it is hard to understand the stories because all I can see is the holy language. The story becomes all shapes and no content. Other times I can’t find the holy language anymore and I want to cry. Those times I feel like I am losing the reason for my being. I feel like I am and will always be the terrifying self I was before the Snows.
When we arrive at our destination, everything is made of various permutations of GRShM. I have become better at changing my eyes, at switching between an understanding that allows me to function in the world as a part of it and one that allows me to see the language beneath. On one level I see a flat field of red grass for miles, interrupted only by an immense black stone cube easily a thousand times as tall as me. On the other? GRShM GRShM GRShMGRShM GRShMGRShMGRShM. The flower lands and I run through the grass. GRShM GRShMGRShM. I approach the cube. GRShMGRShMGRShMGRShM. I touch its surface. GRShM. I lick along its flat side. GRShMGRShMGRS hMGRShMGRShM. It tastes like I am home.
return to ISSUE THREE