After crawling from the river of oblivion yesterday, I spent many hours on the gray murky bank crying, coughing, sputtering, and passing in and out of consciousness. Through a dense fog I was vaguely aware of the angry hordes still churning on the other side, their weaponized hatred perpetually ready to strike. Occasionally I can make out smoke and fire from the torches and a whiff of sulfur stings my nose. I cannot return to my previous home in its current state; it has become unrecognizable and toxic.
This morning I wake with the stamina to examine my new environment. It is as vast as the future, but the landscape shifts and shimmers before my eyes. At some points a stark but passably comforting vista; plain, denuded fields of green grasses. Blue skies amid thunderclouds. At other times a cracked, caked, smoking wasteland of scorched decay. Amalgamated variations of the two play like a melting film reel before me when I try to focus. I remain passive for now and let it choose its own shape, understanding that it will continue to morph indefinitely.
As the sun comes up I venture not too far from my encampment to a towering wall of unknowable height. I can pass to the side of it, but the peak rushes away into swirling silver clouds. Its smooth surface is covered in colorful glyphs. Apparently it acts as viewing portal, and I invite myself to explore the glyphs. They too change persistently, but it becomes easy to distinguish themes.
While it offers many alternative pathways for evolving outside of my scrappy riverside “den” (I have discovered a nearby cave. The darkness and closeness is soothing, but I worry constantly that the walls will crumble in. I cannot remain there long), the escarpment itself is terrifying and compelling in its content and scope. Depictions on the face of it represent the past, present, and future. Curious and hungry for assurances, I explore.
One scene shows gatherings of refugees who look like me. It is from the Before, capturing them in various stages of evolving horror as they learn of their fate. As I once fled from that reality, I turn my eyes away again and look for new images. Another glyph depicts a young, feral-haired white man wearing a grungy “Bernie or Bust” t-shirt. His teeth are long, yellow and pointed, gnashing as he waves his hands at a group of women and people of color. There is a word bubble above him. “This is all your fault.” The refugees are still crying. Their eyes are wide – I can see the whites of them and their terror is telegraphed directly to my heart.
Farther up the wall there is a drawing of a black man with tiny eyes and a pinched face, holding a cross in one hand. With the other he himself is in the act of creation; scribbling out a picture of a caveman in a loin cloth with an assault rifle. The caveman is dragging a woman by the hair as he chases a dinosaur. Amidst a lush tropical landscape, other dinosaurs look on and there is a rusting sky-blue Dodge dart parked near a Brontosaurus. The dinosaur is running toward a pit. In the pit is a bonfire fed by myriad books, including the works of Galileo, Darwin, and Orwell. Nearby, over-weight children holding school lunch trays eat McDonalds French fries and look on as Neil DeGrasse Tyson reaches into the bonfire, apparently wresting the books from the laughing, dancing flames. The man’s crudely-drawn creation is one-dimensional and lacks depth, as though the world within it were flat.
The title above the entire scene is “President Trump Names Secretary of Education.”
Tears threaten yet again. I look back at the tiny circle of matted-down brush of my temporary camp, and then to the welcoming dark of the cave. Familiar, but lonely. I search one more time for an image that might offer a shred of cold comfort.
Farther down the wall is a panorama. In it, there are several fires burning from upturned oil barrels. People, men and women, once again who look lost like me, are huddled around them. In the center is another bonfire. This fire is full of vanity and intention. It is hypnotic. Women are flinging their bras toward it to feed the hungry flames and the sparks fly upward to a pitch-black sky littered with glittering stars. Next to the inferno is an immense, leaning pile of red, white, and blue placards that say things like, “Juntos se Puede,” and “Do the Most Good.” Tears well up as I remember these placards from the Before.
The crude signs have again become a source of light and warmth. The wild things dancing around the fire have dark eyes that are alive with passion, purpose, and righteous anger. Those gathered at the fires on the outskirts wear clothes as tattered as their souls. But with sticks, knives, or hands, whatever tools they can find – in the ground at their feet they are sketching out plans. I can barely make the plans out. Their shape is undefined, but the strokes with which they are drawn run deep and bold.
Of all the glyphs this is the least painful to behold, but the most fearsome. I recognize the intemperance on the refugee’s faces. I know the inspired insistence and the thirst in the burning eyes of the twirling women.
It is all too much. I scurry back to my den. I huff and puff and wail and finally catch my breath.
With a broken pen I begin to scratch out crude shapes that are meaningless but promising and pleasing. In the cool slime of the riverbank I’ve buried what little provisions I could carry when I fled my home. Five red and white striped tubs of ice cream. I slide the mud from their various tops and crack the lid on one labeled, “Stranahan’s Whiskey Fudge.” I consume it as a zombie would the brain of Sarah Palin; out of compunction and complying with instinct and habit. It offers only crude sustenance.
As I eat, I peer off into the gloaming at the panorama on the wall. I can barely make out the shape of the wild women and the bonfire, and they call to me.
Below, actual footage from Dratwell Manor, 11/8/16