e x h a u s t n o t e 2015
Surrounded, now. Each joint freezes with a seal of bloated skin. My breathing has become long and drawn out – the chest rising and falling in slow motion – the pace of a walk through the desert looking for water – thud……thud……every inhalation taking a matter of hours. And finally my chest halted, ballooning into the air.
We found this exhaust covered in the brightest gold flecks, like it had been dusted with the sun. It seemed to still be radiating heat, so I pulled it across the ground and kept it close to us for the duration of the night. I suppose it became and emblem for the sky meeting the earth, a treasure from our lost quest.
The shell around me became both armor and a border between myself and what was yet to come and what had already passed. It became a marker for the intense loss of definition between the graspable real and the probable fantasy. At this point the bonnet was probably protecting me from myself. As if without that layer of metal tissue, I’d realise what was going on.
Couldn’t get the songs out of my head. Tools for survival. Didn’t even notice their repetition. I wonder if anyone else did? Don’t think I care.
As the night rolled on, I got a bit hollow inside. I formulated a set of ideas in my head about the coming future. About what it was we were looking for, and whether the unbearable dissatisfaction of not finding it was as bad as the realisation that if we did find it, we would die. The ideas I thought about were mainly associated with the stronger feelings I was beginning to have for a particular member of the group. They were becoming prioritised in my head, even though I had sworn that I would not let that kind of emotion emerge again. I swore it to myself, to all the deities around my neck. But the deities had changed over time. They had been replaced, and each one nodded to the person I was becoming more infatuated with.
It is tough feeling shell-shocked twenty four seven. It really takes it out of you.
Floodlights were tearing through the black sky. They were reflecting on chrome bumpers and catching on jewelry. The whole place was submerged in a weird tint of icy blue. The texture of everyone’s skin appeared fluid in some way, a quality making us seem more garish then we already were.
“Do you have them?”
I felt a voice travel over my shoulder blades. It went through my heavy coat, and it took me a moment to turn around and compose myself for the person I knew was standing behind me.
“I’ve got them. You’re a little late though. We’ve already started.”
His face did not respond, however I felt as though he was internally wincing. I couldn’t even tell if he was making an expression, as the floodlight reflections were so bright on his face. He looked like she was made out of glass, his coat out of slick white marble.
“I was held up on the bridge. You know it takes over forty hours to gain access to these worthless sections of land. Why anyone bothers coming here I’ll never understand.”
I could now feel my own facial expression becoming tighter. With my back to the lights I was casting a lumpy shadow on the ground. The gold round my neck was the only thing defining me.
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He moved past me and towards the crowded arena of light. I didn’t turn to watch him go.
When our faces were turning into obsidian, I remembered a time when I was a child. I was climbing a very steep muddy hill and was not wearing the correct shoes. I slipped on the wet earth and grabbed hold of nettles and brambles that lined the path to stop myself from falling. The pain wasn’t the thing that struck me; it was the worry of whether all these little bumps would ever go away. The numbness was shocking. It is the same when obsidian takes over. You wonder whether the intensity will ever ease up. It doesn’t; you become used to it. You never really get to grips with what is controlling what.
She stood with her back to me. On her skin it read, “People can be as darked out as they want to be.” Needless to say, people were.
I got given this chain and I’ve worn it since I was young. It used to look really heavy and big and kind of stupid round my neck but now it fits just right.
We got to the end of the land as the sun was setting - the horizon was a crimson line, punctuated by the occasional dark mass of a boat. The rays crept backwards into the folds of the sky, like reversing waves, and our colours went from vibrant to dusty in a short space of time.
Still getting bouts of anger with regards to letting myself find someone that I like this much. It’s always a matter of urgency. He said every moment must be intense, but when this is so, it is possible to yearn for the mundane.
It took me an hour to realise that there were no floodlights, that in fact the moon was the thing creating the blue tone on everyone’s faces last night. After I had this realisation I felt foolish and completely inept for the job I had been given. In the morning there was a sharp, hot wind that kicked the granite around our feet.
“I really hope this gust is a breeze by the afternoon.”
We walked side by side, carefully avoiding puddles of what looked like black ink that had collected on the path. There were few animals, and the woodland that lay to the left of us was swollen and throbbing with humidity.
Music is always a possible embodiment for what goes on. Or perhaps it is an embellishment.
“Diamonds. For the children.”
It lay with us – a great heap of matter. A big deal of matter. Adrift without any real understanding of the importance of the situation. Overcast. Unable to make a decision. Twitching, stagnant, overdue. A planet in space, an island in water. An ache in the body. A sum of its parts and a part of everything.
“I wonder if it will continue to chase me through my dreams?”
“I’ve got to admit I think they thought something was watching over us.”
“I know. I didn’t have the heart to tell them nobody knows we are here.”
Days were episodes, hours were channels.
The shore was molten. As the waves lapped against our feet, I asked her about why she had wanted to come here.
“This place always held a strong desire in me. It’s the kind of land that tugs at your muscles and your bones – if I started walking in a straight line, anywhere on this planet, I would end up here. It’s got me by the throat.”
I reminded her softly of when we first started the journey and how bitter she was to be here.
“I was angry because I didn’t feel ready to give myself up. Our first meeting here was full of deceit. It wasn’t just my attitude, it was everywhere, in the leaves and all the grass – something had to become unhinged in order for us all to realise who we were here, and where here was in us.”
I agreed; I couldn’t hold back my tears. Sand cushioned me as I cried, and then I began to laugh. The salt was azure and became gemstones in the escaping light of dusk. It always felt like dusk now; icy blue tones turn to rusty orange on all of our skins.
The skin was gold, the body charcoal black. Teetering on the verge of magnificence and undeniably beautiful. Where had it come from, and more importantly, where would it go?
I had to collect certain things on the way in order to remind myself that there was a past to our voyage, otherwise it would seem endless and we would understand it resentfully instead of likening it to an unraveling of the world. We had to consult our mindsets daily so as to not go completely mad, or perhaps sober up to the situation at hand.
Dragging feet now; all behavior seemed misappropriated. From bleak to wonderful in a blink, from ocean to desert – I could hardly cope. Fleshy deposits all over the land, and what for? Who asked us to be? Not the ground. We brought about an atmosphere and I tried to breathe it in but it was hard, tough.
Broken heads lay all around. Gaping, hollow wounds, like portals. It was as if you could get inside. They were broken vessels and the sounds of the earth echoed inside them.
The jaw was loose, the mouth unkept. I saw that my own appearance was mottled, however I could not feel a thing. We all had a changed complexion. When I spoke, my voice was completely flat, and it was an effort to get the sound out. As the words left me, they evaporated. Dust was heavier than sound.
I know the air, I know the waves, my heartbeat is in rhythm, but still I am not used to the place.
I’m on my way.