Now for something completely different.
Once I had this idea of writing a story about the Afterlife as a mall. Furthermore, it was based on the Buddhist conception of it. Kind of like Andy Weir’s The Egg except that reincarnated souls are selling their material experiences for soul cash. If they buy and sell enough to rake in profits, they can buy larger stores and go up the chain of transcendence, eventually selling more abstract things rather than material memories. On the other hand, if they can’t pay their rent, they’re forced back into the karmic wheel. If they achieve considerable debt, they’ll get sent to hell to work it off.
So, I tried writing out this idea as a scenario for a Yuri visual novel, where this human girl would drop into the world of spirits for some apparent reason and stay at this tawdry sex-shop equivalent of a soul-bartering shop. That is, a woman (or feminine soul) who sells erotic and sleazy memories to other sleazy souls who can’t be bothered to escape the karmic cycle.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I didn’t think I had the writing capabilities yet to do up the full story. Because that would require a ridiculous amount of prose and outlining the full mechanics of an Afterlife – as well as (what I was planning) several mini-novellas inside that large novel which would explore the concept of Haecceity -what would happen if there was an inherent property separated from the material body that actually denoted a thing was a thing? My plan also required that I write a lot a lot of Wallace Stevens level poetry in order to denote events that occurs on the more abstracted levels of the mall.
So this idea is in deep freeze for now, and I have a couple of such ideas in deep freeze too. Maybe I’ll return to it 30 or 40 years later. Until then, all I have is the completed introduction of what could have been.
Without further ado:
A Girl In Jiang Court – Prologue
Eternity is in love with the productions of Time.
A monk once sat underneath a tree, as you normally hear monks do. His disciples sat around him in an outward circle. He felt the momentum of the circle draw inwards, expecting him to speak. The monk raised his eyes slightly, and caught the bird flying across the sunbeam, creating a streak of black across the pure circle of light, like a stroke of calligraphy. Whereupon, he said:
“Everything in Life is a dream. Everything after Life is a dream. Death and Life come hand in hand as lovers do. Everything is a Beautiful Dream.”
If you had been there, you probably would have seen the wave of disappointment surging outwards. It was a thesis that everyone knew, and it was, in fact, the cornerstone of their belief. It was kind of silly for a monk to say something that everyone knew.
The monk, without looking at any of them, continued:
“Just the other day, when the sun was slowly curving downwards, I saw a young girl walking down the road. She was quite well-known as a prostitute. I greeted her with a smile, and she greeted me back. Her eyes were glistening, and playfully, she hung on to my arm and begged me to follow her. Her lips were full and her eyes were large and white. Her body was full figured like a ripe peach. So, I followed her. She brought me to her home where she had three children, each who did not know their own father. She fed me an honest dinner and led me to her bedding, where she told me to lie down. Afterwards she placed her arms on my chest, and felt the rising up and down within me. Then, she showed me her desire and we spent the night together. She refused to accept my money. A little distance from her home, I found a pond to soak in, and I bathed myself in the rising morning. It was there that I came to that realization that I have just conveyed to you.”
He returned to silence. He could sense their shock, indignation, and the spread of their reaction. A few seconds later he spoke:
“I have taught you so many times, but only now you are listening”
(Of which: Form is Singing.)
Impulse rises swiftly,
Sense begets sensation,
(Like the door, the room, the house,
The stair which met you, rising)
(Like branch to tree, spreading)
Like Beauty swiftly spoken
(Whereby curtains swirling
The Grand Process in motion
Magic Theater, Open)
And whence we found Abstraction
(Pulling: Twisting, Turning
Apple, Pears, and Grapes,
Orange, Plums, and Peaches)
The relevance of Meaning
The garden of our labors
Cotton made from Verses
Aloes pressed from Reason
Nothing raised from Nothing
All Life is Subtraction,
Sorrow softly fallen
(But Love will spring again)
Creation vastly churning,
Milk-sea, curd and whey.
All will fade away.
(But Love will spring again)
0 – Prologue – (Of which: Form is Singing)
At the end of every fiscal cycle, I’m sent to Hell.
Somewhere in the imperceptible logic of the Jiang Court, a person is keeping records. I’ve experienced foreclosure more than twenty times, so my file must be a scroll that rolls out into a dragon’s tail worth of audit information and sad-making statements on my karmic resolution.
I know this because, almost every time, I’m thrown into the dockets, where I’m surrounded by the sad-making karmic statements of so many souls like myself.
Indeterminable eons pass. I spend my time stacking scrolls, gossiping with crooks, and being scolded by grumpy demoniacs when they see me slacking off.
The administrative logic of Hell is finely calculated. There’s not enough time to rest fully, but not enough work to be completely engaged.
Somewhere out there is a person planning these things. Sooner or later every ounce of a moment expands into so many other moments, recollections, dreams, fantasies, and recursive reflections upon recursive reflections.
It is said that when a person experiences Life as a limitless streaming narrative, every single point attaches to every single other point.
A writer once wrote about how Immortals would become slugs on the ground, or bottled whirlpools of memory and knowledge, bent into useless shapes.
This, he figured, was because life in endless continuance tends towards the same singularity. Everyone is similar to everyone else, though the paths leading to that realization are vast and multi-variable.
But, working here, and I, being Me, am still Me.
When I get out, I’ll slough back at my dinky little store of tawdry curiousities, and then I’ll be forced back into the karmic lottery, and then I’ll go straight to Hell.
And the head clerk, seeing me again, will tap his desk with a little tut-tut, and go:
“Personality is an exercise in Futility.”
And I’ll reply:
“Futility is an exercise in Personality.”
And then I’ll meander.
The shelves are limitless pathways, into lives upon lives upon lives. I will never know them.
Each scroll opens into a single perfect Mandala, expressing everything that they were and will be, but the scroll only opens to a certain limit. You can spread one of these down a length, and you will see the entirety of a landscape, and the premonition that curls itself into a spool. A roll of indeterminable encounters, mishaps, failures, victories, and eventualities, waiting for traversal.
And I’ll tell you about the time I found my scroll.
It was quite ratty. Obviously whoever was taking care of this place wasn’t doing it well enough (but then I remembered that it was me).
It unfolded into a thing that was simultaneously diagram, streak of existence, poem, remembrance, and lemma.
But it also expressed itself clearly as a location – a state of soul into a state of space.
The air opened up into a field, an empty field.
No signage, no rest-stop, and not even the modern comfort of a water-closet.
Just a field. Nature’s way of saying ‘let things be my way’.
Nothing was growing here but the ankle level grass.
And it gave me the strange thought: Someday a tree will come. A seed, or sapling. The first of trees.
Roots will grow into this field. The leaves will sprout to the sky.
Rabbits will leave their burrows. Foxes will play their fiddles.
This, soil, which was mingled with worms, and black beetles, and underneath the grass an infinite complexity of chaotic relations.
And even the grass was a loose web of weeds, small petals, and stalks of different proportion, fighting, pushing, against one another.
Comeuppance ho, a wave of nettles bearing sharpened pikes, while swifted by folded wave after wave of green blade, and the flowers were enfolded cannons blooming napalm buds.
A land is a war. A tree is a tyranny.
I trampled all over the field. Crushing the weeds, grass, and nettles underfoot.
The only tyrant should be me… said the natural coward.
“The Ice Queen rules in the west. The Dragon King holds north-wards…”
I pointed to my right. The limit. Beyond the end. Premonition something.
“And thataway, is the World.”
Someday a tree will come. Someday the tree will signal the first tree of Eden.
Someday the Earth will spiral into decay. Someday the Universe will flounder into the last vestiges of entropy. Someday the sky will darken and frogs will grow into sentient beings, waging war from the mudflaps.
Someday you’ll know all these things.
But nevertheless, when we come to know these things…
An empty field. Lacking shelter. Unending in all directions.
When I came back to the store, it was closed-up and gloomy. Stores are like that. You imagine them in their heyday. Bright lights. The crowds coming to and through, browsing, thinking about this or that, and perusing a so-and-so curiosity, and inevitably the current state develops the stink of opportunity cost.
The storefront was plastered with every kind of foreclosure notice, and logos of bureaucratic de-establishment scripts, and tacky post-auditing boundary charm.
I took off my necklace.
It was a golden scarab with a large bauble of a red gem dab-smack in the middle.
I pressed the gem in. The current state of the store comingled with my idea of the store, and became my idea of the store.
The door unlocked. I turned on the light. Dim velvet mixed with the neon creating the quality of wine musk. Echoes of Memory on the forefront of dreams. Sugary thoughts mixed with sensual desires.
A tawdry lair of curiousities. Temptations bartered cheap by a low-rate soul.
Tallie: “Welcome back, you shithole.”
The dimly lit interior had various mannequins, scattered about, in leather and various types of poses. They were bawdy and over-fashioned.
Little leather gaudlets made from the fiascos of wild days. Scented aromatics oozed from the froth of unrequited loves. Consumptives born from the abrogation of flaccid moralities, underlined with the distillate of raw dirty infidelities and hedonistic escapades.
Time was at a standstill for me.
I imagined myself in a circular stretch. A mortality. “Time was at a standstill for me” would have appeared to me as a sober platitude.
And, within that mortality, I would have feigned a standard. I would tell myself this and that thing such as “your life is just beginning” and “Transcend, for something impels you to something!”
In a particularly enlightened period, I would have immediately plotted out a stable course of self-delusions. I would have read health magazines, and spent money on a day-planner. I would have told myself, “Do it, for your life depends on it”.
In that humble ignorance, I would not have realized that everything was already everywhere it was meant to be.
I would not have realized what, was, was, simply, now, a truth that was obvious to me.
“Time was at a standstill for me.”
I would have thought, within that mortal circle, that I was enforcing a regime, as some kind of splendid will coming from the deep recesses of my ability.
And on one of out so many by-chances, I would have maybe managed to set up a trajectory that gave myself the illusion of comfortable change.
Nothing can make me what I am, and nothing will make me what I am, other than myself.
Rushed up on the stars of these platitudes, I would have bought myself back into the complacency, of merely another cycle.
And in these kind of stories, there were no miracles.
Good writers are very sad people, because the good ones can only follow the inevitable logic of the story, whereas the bad ones come up with flourishes of action and occurrence to bolster logic towards their own enforced way.
But suppose that I was the subject of a very bad story, which would, although being un-aesthetic, at least guarantee my happiness.
I didn’t care how badly I was written.
You could make me into an archetype, or a crestfallen ambiguity of slapdash parts.
You could even carve me into a mopey salad of romantic fluff and pandering emotional vacuity.
Yet was I supposed to believe that my scroll was already subordinate to that single premonition?
The edge of the field, and forever through the grass. And forever and ever, the mossy smell of ankle-length grass and biting nettles and furiously decaying insect parts.
I hated that. Was that who I was? I didn’t want to think that.
Tear my scroll to pieces. Limit my infinity – an infinity of continuous self-entanglement until I became a churlish demoniac lumped into the bowels of a suffocating administration.
The oppression of logic that resulted from my lesser Corporeality.
The limitless cascade of lives, forming a Mobius strip that seemed to vacillate outwards, but was, in actuality, stuck between a conspicuous entrapment of its own parts.
Every life I led, led back to me, myself, I, the Futility of Personality.
Every life, which I was painfully aware of, because I was unable to destroy the knowledge of my completion.
For I would have wished a demon come to me at my darkest of nights, and granted me the absolution of that amnesiac infinity.
I would have wished that, although I did not know, I could feel, the throbbing compounding itself over desperate infinities of ignorance.
But since I knew I could not live the fairy-tale life made by a lackluster architect of stories.
I was my own architect, but I wasn’t as well.
Everything led back to me, but seemed to pinpoint to something deeper.
The unbearable heaviness of being.
Could I have ever conceived of myself as raising a wind to leap over the significant bounds of a higher logic? Where I could have freed myself from the insipient criminality of my nature?
Time was at a standstill for me.
The blood-beating in my every porous fragmentation, every succulent life I had lived, that merely seemed to tighten the chain even more, was overwhelmingly thrumming.
I was stuck between Angel and churning ooze.
But my little alcove was a fool’s paradise, bartering wares of little but minor ignominy.
And my customers were sickos and crooks.
And either way seems to end up somewhere-nowhere.
I rested my head on the counter like sleep. It was to create an illusion of escape into my own self.
I rested my head there thinking of everything I just thought of. But I knew that I do this every time I come back here, and so this too will pass.
So I thought about making new candies, and draughts. All sorts of things to peddle to these souls like little children.
But, for some reason, a song was playing in my head.
Something was rising inside me. Something vast, unknown, imperceptible. Like that wonder beyond the edge of grass in that infinite field.
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.”
“Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.”
“Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.”
Thus it is sang, Song of Songs. Of which the tautology marks the vein, of which it is wonderful, and of which it is profound.
And they call him who cannot be named King of Kings, and in the Conference, Simurgh is the Bird of Birds.
What is wonderful must be repeated, for what is wonderful, bountiful, or vast, cannot be contained on first lips, and must be striking. Lips that sound gongs. A clamor. King of Kings. Song of Songs. Majesty of Majesties.
The entirety of Love speaks thus, that what must be said, again, again, sunder forth, in knowledge of that which is unknown. Come, know it again speaker.
Accost it again.
In the night where came forth the majesty.
Lyca: “The night came forth in majesty.”
Where surely it was written
Lyca: “Where surely it was written”
Tallie: “Where surely it was made, in poetry or phrase”
Lyca: “And the end onto itself”
Tallie: “Was Logic quite unspoken”
Lyca: “Was the notion quite unreasoned”
Tallie: “Was morality begot, forgotten.”
What cometh again Love. We are glad to rejoice in thee.
Lyca: “Where madness was made master.”
Tallie: “Where meldt the pealing laughter.”
Lyca: “Where sufferance was supported.”
Tallie: “By the amplitude accorded.”
Lyca & Tallie: “That rises up to meet me. That bears me down to thee. That arcs the bolt, the notion. Breath, abeyance, ocean. Love in escalation. Avoidance, denotation. Celestial abdication. Gods fell down, stars exploded, heaven shifted motion. Earth well wound and rounded. Stark night bare and mended. Heaven stars and splendid.”
Should the millions and billions of lives within me move, in accordance with the trajectory of my soul, and me picking, picking like so many fruits, the choicest worthies.
Should the millions and billions of lives within me move, in accordance with some of whatever choice liquers flowed from the continued fountains of particular experience, of me in Time, and my arrangement thereafter.
Should I speak of every moment coagulated into a sphere, that expanded exponentially, each circumference drawing itself, radiating outwards, scaling the whole continuum of me,
Where I would experience the whole of my multi-life like a spinning ballet, of princesses and princes in concentric circles,
Each regality donned with the tiara of a particular emotion.
Each encounter starred with a lyric.
And even the simplest of moments, being flourished in tandem, as so many silked side-dancers to this eternal ballet of my life’s entirety.
And even the shiniest moments, out-put like prima-donna colourations swirling between the curlicues of consistent epiphanies; of dancing to meet a splendid mark.
Would I never be able to compare, the Majesty.
Accost it again, listener.
Like so many lanterns. The dimming lights within the store. The fire.
Accost it again, listener.
Time seemed to take a breath, and made a niche in the air.
I was resting my feet on the table, eager to endure silence, unaware of the abnormality.
From that center. That spread itself into a net of vein and artery. That formed thin muscle wrapped around slender bone.
A brush of red lingered before flowing into hair that wrapped itself over.
The song draped over the sleeping girl, who was left in sleep, while the warmth emanated from her chest and belly.
I took off my coat and draped it around you. It was instinctive.
The cloth materialized into fur around your shoulders.
You couldn’t speak. I picked you up and took you into the back. You sat there.
“What’s your name?”
“Come on, I don’t bite.”
“Or you can write it.”
I drew a notebook from my pocket.
You shook your head, in that effort, to enmesh. To personalize. Whatever inside bearing meaning.
The innate one-to-one relation.
That relation revitalized. Lyca. The arc that enfolded. The tautology. Lyca.
The world was – Magical Theater. A crystal play. A kaleidoscope. An orb divining many colours. A Faberge egg. A snowglobe.
These are dust clouds. Eternity is in love with the productions of Time.