Wednesday, May 25, 2016
The girl in white
In a dry stream bed he awakens, awash in a warm comfort that seems to press down on him, beckoning him to drift back off despite the cold and damp surroundings he has found himself in. His eyes scan from brush to sky, the cocoon-like thicket of twisted thorn and vines a net hung low overhead as light cuts through the maze. He listens for clues, still not awake enough to investigate further by sight, and grows evermore curious as the expected chatter of insects and birds is absent; in its place a low and constant pulse-like echo. While it can be heard clearly, he instinctually knows it is distant, a far away beacon unlike any sound found in nature.
He sits up slowly and rubs his eyes, despite a body which fights to betray his will and remain down on the cold ground. There is a softness to his surroundings, like a watercolor painting where edges and colors bleed into one another. He sits between steep embankments on either side; exposed tree roots, silt, rock, and dry dirt layered on top one another like a decadent slice of natures cake. The streambed stretches ahead to a bend about 30 yards away, cut off by a large fallen oak tree, its old trunk charred and grey. The faint smell of smoke reaches him just as sight sharpens to confirm the billowing expanse of steam and ash from beyond the bend. The smell is sweet and sharp, unlike the natural tones of wood and brush.
He is driven to his feet by curiosity, the circumstances so peculiar that fear has not had the chance to creep in. Where is he? How did he get here? As he slowly paces forward he struggles to pull memory; something, anything that can provide context, but comes up empty. His one and only memory is opening his eyes moments ago in a strange grey forest, as if this place had willed him into existence. As he inches closer to the smoking bend ahead he finds himself stopped, feet planted and resolute. By the time mind catches up with body he sees her - a figure lurking ahead amongst the trees.
They stare at each other for a beat; for how long he cannot be sure, as time itself seems confuse in how it should unfold. She is young - a child, her white sun dress billowing in the breeze to reveal muddy bare feet contrasted by toes freshly painted in a youthful pink hue.
"Hi there," she squeaks, her grin wide and playful as hair cascades from her face in sections, appearing wet with caked mud and dirt. Although far away, her voice is clear, like a whisper in his ear that blocks out the constant pulse sound which has been growing ever louder as he approached.
"Where are we? who are you?" He murmurs, voice low and gravely, like the first attempt on vocal chords rusted from neglect.
"Follow ME!" her words trailing behind her as the flash of her white dress streaks off into the woods, away from the smoking oak tree ahead.
His constitution has returned, the dreamy slumber lifted from his body as his surroundings sharpen into focus. Her glowing white dress trails off through the dark grey palette of gnarled trees and brush. With one final inquisitive look ahead at the smoking oak tree, he takes off in pursuit of her.
"Wait!" he croaks, "Where are you going?!" His legs become aware of a screaming pain as he scrambles up the embankment and trails behind her into the dark forest.
The trees echo with her laughter, as he increases pace, ducking through brush which claw at his skin like tiny, bony fingers. After a short chase he comes to a clearing, colorful and alive with pastel flowers and grain which ripple in the wind like waves. The girl skips ahead in the tall grass giggling as he haunches over to catch his breath.
"Hey!" he gasps, "Just hold on a minute, will you?!". The girl doubles back, skipping around him in a wide arching circle, all the while laughing in the innocent way that children do.
"You can't awake till darkness breaks, so lets play games together!" She sings, her nursery rhyme cadence like that of a hop-scotch melody sung at the playground. The low, pulse-like sound is louder now, harder to ignore. "You can't awake, till darkness breaks," she repeats while hopping around the meadow, her demeanor refusing to confront the strangeness of the circumstances.
He looks up at her, then to the pastel colored foreground; soft and fuzzy, like a scene painted by George Seurat, each swaying flower a colorful bouquet of pointillism. She holds her white dress in each hand like a sail as she glides atop the floral canvas, repeating her mantra, louder this time. "You can't awake, till darkness breaks...". He looks past her, up into an amber sky; clouds painted in romantic realism as if by a masters' brushstroke. "You can't..." she sings, voice almost a shout...
"...Awake," he whispers, cutting her off. "That's it!" he proclaims, "I am DREAMING!" Relief and exhilaration in his voice. The girl has stopped skipping, her smile and playful gaiety replaced by panic as she returns his gaze. "That sound... it must be my alarm!"
"No... please, you don't understand," she pleads, the levity in her voice now gone. She glances at the Forrest and then back to him with haste.
"Yes, I'm in a lucid dream, it all makes sense now," he says, as if to himself. His prideful discovery is cut short by a tug at his hand. The girl, her white dress caressing his feet, is now pulling at his arm, tears welling in eyes wide and searching.
"You must listen to me - do not wake up... not yet!" She weeps.
"What... but why?" His concern growing by her saddened demeanor.
"You're not ready... I'm not ready yet!" she pleads. Tears roll down her cheeks, dried dirt from her face turning dark and red as it rushes towards her chin. "When you awake, I will no longer exist, and I just want a few more moments here before I give all this up." She gestures towards the flowers, the Monet-like sky and the green meadow where a hopscotch course lay pieced together by pedals as bright and vibrant as sidewalk chalk on a pavement.
The Forrest which outlined the warm meadow in an ever-darkening contrast of shadows, now seemed to creep in all around, corralling the light into a narrow path that lay ahead.
"What's... what's going on?" He gasps, the look on her face solidifying panic in his voice.
"It's started," she whispers, "There is still time for you," she speaks, pulling him towards the lighted path.
"I...I want to wake up now...I'm sorry!" He shouts, the pulse-like sound now engulfing the sky.
"It's ok," she smiles, her kind, playful eyes speaking in absence of sound, "I forgive you John". His name - YES! His name is John, and he is asleep, and now he wants to end this nightmare. "Follow me, do not stop, keep going until you see the light!". She lets go of his hand and, like a bolt of electricity, leads the way as darkness closes all around.
In an instant they have cleared the meadow, which is absorbed into darkness as his feet leave the grass to pound against Forrest floor, its purchase hard and unforgiving like cold, cracked blacktop. As he plunges deeper, the Forrest swallows all light, the only constant being her white figure which glides across the dark like an apparition. Fear drives every step, the pain in his legs return instantly upon leaving the meadow, a sensation which should not exist in a dream, causing his confusion and panic to claw at his skin like a thousand tiny glass cuts. The white dress ahead now glows, its clarity persisting despite the absence of light in the void ahead. The pulse-like thumping is now a drumbeat in the sky, like warnings sent out from an approaching armada. His heart matches its rhythm as both reverberate off trees, which now seem to uproot and take chase behind; an army brought to life by the beating drums. Their slick, black branches slashing against the ground like steel chains against pavement.
Just as the white dress ahead seems too far to follow, its glinting beacon growing fainter with each passing heartbeat, there is a brilliant burst of light. John leaps, all around him is illuminated for a brief instant that holds long enough to see a tunnel like passage directly ahead, which his trajectory has set him plunging towards. With footing lost, ground seemingly absent, he tucks his body into a ball as he tumbles through the thicket, steel and glass-like thorns slashing his forearms as he free-falls through the unknown.
On the cold, wet pavement he awakens. His senses heightened; the unmistakably sweet smell of antifreeze mixed with oil and smoke enter his nose, causing him to wince. The sound of a constant, pulse-like roadside defibrillator beats in his ear, along with the scream of a fire trucks high pitched horn somewhere close by. His eyes manage to part as the sharp red and blue light from a fleet of service vehicles stab at his retinas. He struggles to keep his eyes open, the onslaught of lights and sounds competing against the sudden awareness of pain which covers him like a led blanket.
"John," a mans voice calls - stern and matter-of-fact, "John, stay with us buddy..." A pen light shines in his eyes as faces hover above, scanning and probing his vacant stare.
"He's going back under," another voice shouts somewhere off to his right, his tone more urgent than the first. The pulse-like sound now whines to a hum, it's near inaudible tone like that of a dog whistle being blown inches from his ears. The chaos of sound and light begins to fade away as pain is snuffed out by the closing of eyelids which can stand no more. Darkness returns and he drifts away.
His eyes are peeled back with a jolt, electricity engulfing every cell in his body as muscles contract, pulled tight to the point of ripping as if he had been submerged into icy waters. While his eyes face upwards towards the sky, it is not stars to be seen, but rather memories, which come flooding back in his brain like ripples returning from waters edge.
Night. Headlights searching ahead through dark Forrest road. Radio broadcast cut short by extreme weather alert. Rain. Darkness. The illumination of his phone below. A text message. "I love you." A smile. A flash of light. The sharp crack of timber followed instantly by the gunshot of thunder. An oak tree crashing on pavement. The jerk of car breaks and the sudden swerve in trajectory. A bend in the road. Screaming tires. Headlights kissing oak as car skids by. A driveway ahead. A figure. Impact. Darkness.
When sight returns he finds himself surrounded by bodies. Their faces stern, but hopeful - triumphant even. "On three, ready? One... two...", he is weightless, the carnage of smoke and debris visible now as the team of men in blue parade him through the wreckage. He travels backwards, floating along a path of glass, oil, and sweet smelling green fluids. To his right, the smoldering cluster of fallen oak comes into view and grows sidelong in his peripheral, its trunk disappearing off into nearby forest. To his left the remains of a car - now reduced to a twisted ball of steel and smoke.
The entire scene now pieced together in full as the men stop at sirens' source to adjust him for departure, his axis tilted as they heave him upright like Dracula arising from his casket; arms folded tight and secure under gurney straps. Directly in front of him a mailbox which has been cut down, laying splintered on a driveway next to the colorful outline of a hopscotch course, drawn in pastel chalk. A man hovers just beyond, his cameras flash illuminating a white sheet which rests loosely over a small figure. Its pure, bleached sun dress-like fabric covers all but two tiny feet which peek out from underneath. As he feels himself being hoisted up and into the waiting ambulance, he notices the final detail; bright, youthful pink toes, their hue a contrast against the grey, dark night. As doors slam shut and he feels the lurch of tires gripping pavement, he forces his eyes to close, tears bleeding down from his cheeks.
Artwork credits in order of appearance:
-Oryan (available at signature galleries Waikiki)
-Richard Oliver (available at signature galleries Waikiki)
-Walfrido Garcia (available at signature galleries Waikiki)
For artwork information contact me at Jocka@signaturegalleries.com