The Wall and the Ball
As Abe looked up at the great square wall, he scanned the alcoves variously containing idols, symbols, humans, creatures, plants, odd stones.
How would he know what he had exchanged for his precious and final resources?
He should not have replied, “ You choose.”
Then he heard from inside himself, “Here.” On his left was a vertical square column. On it, next to a small alcove just off the floor was a gold label inscribed “Abe.”
In the alcove were three objects. He squatted to see them better. Two dim figures and a ball, the latter on top of the others crowding the space and it….
He fell back on his rump and looked up at the alcove at eye level.
He saw the head of a pharaoh. The headband was alive: a cobra swaying slowly, swaying, hissing…swaying, hissing…swaying, hissing, swaying…..
He was looking down upon a crowd of prone people praising him as the One God. Then the knife, as always, slit his throat and his blood rained on all.
“Give that to me!” Two hands were shaking him by the shoulders as he sat on the floors tiles. He strained to look behind him—the assassin?—he saw boots, a black uniform.
“I said, ‘Give that to me!”
Abe looked down into his cupped hands. There was a ball.
“That’s one of the sacred treasures of The Wall! It’s a capital offense even to touch it. Now—“
Suddenly, the earth began to shake. People surged and screamed.
But Abe tried to shout to the guard over the clamor. “Officer! This was one of my gifts…”
But the guard was staring up at the Wall and backing away.
Abe turned to replace the ball in its alcove but crystal scarabs fell upon his back showering him with glass, gold, and perfume. He looked up.
The Wall was swaying toward him.
Still sitting on the floor, Abe back to slide rapidly back across it until he bumped some into some vast mound that jabbed, cut, soaked, burned, howled, sang. It was swelling with rubble, glass, brick, adobe, rusted iron, gold, rubies, and…and…
Women and men, babies and ancients in robes and in uniforms and in rags, pinned under the chunks and shards of the Wall, cut, mangled, amputated, beheaded, spurting blood, exposing intestines, shuddering, still and still
In the thickening smoke and dust, he could see no more—not even The Wall.
Abe heard the whisper in his ear again, felt a tremble in his palm, and looked down. There was the ball. His ball. He held it before his dimming eyes.
Inked around its surface was the body of a chick, wings on the top, claws, on the bottom, beak and eyes on one side, tail and rump on the other. Between the feet was printed: I am…
There was an explosion. Its force flung Abe.
Soaring high, falling into unconsciousness, Abe felt the ball tremble in his hand and still again heard the whisper. “Warm me.” He did.
Unh… ow… i… red… red? A meadow… dead tree… red sun… everything’s red. Mars? Hell? Am I dead? All those dead people, all that blood. Have I got all my parts…?
“Whoa, Nelly! Dagnabit, I’m a woman!” And I’m an alto.”
A bass profundo bass vibrated within him: Not Nelly—Abby.
“Don’t tell me….”
Right. It’s me. Your ball. Hatched, my dear. And this is—really is—the first day of the rest of our life. Now get yourself together. There’s a fountain under that tree. Go get acquainted with your reflection, wash up, and get a good, long drink because we hitting the road. Oh, yes, and eat.
That apple on the tree.
Abby looked skeptically at the dead apple tree. “Are you kidding me? Isn’t this all a little too Biblical? And isn’t that supposed to be my line? Btw, I don’t like apples.”
Then starve, Abby.
Abby sat up. She felt shocked, anxious, but very good. She took a deep breath of the red air. Very, VERY good. She looked about her more carefully to get it all in focus.
Everything was a shade of red: she was in a red meadow centered by a shattered and leafless tree about which grew red grass itself surrounded by a woods in full leaf under a clear red sky. At the foot of the tree was swelling crimson fountain, which had just overrun its small bank of round pink stones and, as she began to walk toward it, began to flow in the direction of the rising sun.
Abby stooped to look at her reflection in a still area of water. “Hey, me, you are drop-dead beautiful. She examined her upper body. Who needs clothes when she’s stacked like this. She smiled and then, pulling her curly mane to one side with one hand, scooped water up to her mouth with the other.
“My god, that’s good!”
An apple fell to the grass by the fountain. She inspected it a little suspiciously and them gingerly nibbled it and swallowed.
Abby grinned. “My God! That’s grand!” She marveled at the unaccustomed limberness of her body, the abundant energy that coursed through her, and, as she looked about her self, the clarity and detail of what she saw. She felt like a goddess.
“Now follow that brook in the direction of your shadow.”
Beyond her shadow and under the brightening light of the morning sun Abby now saw a brook had widened and was flowing between two banks of pink stones into what seemed to be an vast orchard, behind each tree rapidly appearing others, all bearing a burden of bright red apples. Trees on either side of its sides, the brook flowed quietly under the latticework of their linked shadows.
“Where are we going?”
To find your other gifts.
As Abby walked parallel to the widening brook in the light red shadow and deep silence of her surroundings, there flickered within her the shadows of memories of vegetation other than apple trees, of creatures other than herself, of an old man, of a great loss.
But there was just this. Here. Now. Brook, stones, needles, trees, apples, brook, stones, needles, trees, apples….a step for each word…..brook, stones, needles, trees, apples….time passed….brook, stones, needles, trees….time and place vanished into silent bliss.
Abby looked. The brook had widened to a river, itself emptying into a pale green lake, at its mouth a scattering of white boulders. Upon the stone a bearded young man sat, his hair a mane vivid orange curls which seemed to have rekindled the red sky with their vivid fire.
Now she heard a thin beautiful sound and this, this she could remember: music.
“Marvelous!” she exclaimed.
He started. He stood, spinning toward her and he stood on crooked hairy legs, knees bent backwards. He uttered a sound, Ba-a-a-a and leapt, with a clatter of hooves, to the next boulder, and the next, and the next and then back into the orchard.
“You have scared him. You must get him back.”
“Look , he left something behind him. Get it.”
Abby waded into the cool lake. By the time, she had reached the boulder, the water had reached mid-thigh. She heaved herself onto the boulder and picked up the object.
It was a stick of hollowed apple wood with three holes drilled into it
“Blow into it, Abby.”
A clear pure note arose and echoed in the lake as a luminous orange vapor emerged from the instrument and expanded into an orange mist that stretched to the banks of the lake.
“Call him back, Abby. He is the embodiment of the first of the two Wall Gifts that you will reclaim during this journey. He has much value to offer you.”
She blew a second note and suddenly saw his face emerge from the woods. He grinned. He had horns.
Just now, the goat-man was grinning from the forest. Just now, he was here: behind Abby, before her, above her, around her, within her. She filled with orange, he filled with red, they began to fill with a third color, something next. He spoke within her, like Ball but in a different tone—a high tenor, so high it was almost her voice but definitely, seductively male. As he sang, he tapped one hoof. “In silence are seven sounds for you and me. With the applestick we can make three.” He took the applestick from Abby. She now saw that the stick had three holes on its top surface and that as he blew into one end and, with a finger, covered the hole closest his mouth, a note sounded. He covered a second hole and produced a second, higher sound; and covered a third to produce a third. “Now close your eyes.” Again, he fit the melody on the applestick to the next verse of his song: “Where the brook breaks into the lake Tumbled by rocks is a round white stone. See it now. Bring it now.” Abby opened her eyes. A white stone was on the white boulder. “In white are seven colors for you and me. With the applestick we can make three.’ He bent down over two small hollows in the boulder and blew orange into one and red into the other. “Us.” Into a slit at the end of the applestick, he wedged hairs plucked from his beard. Dipping it into red, he painted her image on the boulder and dipping it into orange, he painted himself with her. They were making impossible love. Rinsing the brush in the lake, he bent over a third hollow in the boulder. “And baby makes three. Your second gift. Look. The third color. Yellow.“ A deep alto rumbled among the apple trees. Abby heard wood splintering. With a great splash, three trees fell into the lake. A tall, heavily-muscled woman stood on the lake’s bank. She wore yellow armor and carried a large, bloody animal on one of her broad shoulders. She wore its skin. “Greetings, mother. I bring gifts.” Abby knelt by the edge of the boulder, cupped water into her hands, and splashed it on her face. “What the what?”
Abby opened her eyes. Kneeling at her side was her daughter, Em. That was her name. She lifted her head, she saw the goat man at her feet, unconscious.
There had been a color.
Em had swum out to the boulder, pulling behind her the dead animal, its white pelt cleansed by the water. She heaved it up onto the boulder. “Here we go, Ra.” Ra? The goat man cringed backwards, for the animal was a goat. “We must swim to the shore. Hurry!’
As Abby made it to the shore, she tried to stand but could not. She looked back at the boulder. The animal was dissolving into an indescribable color, a color beyond color, one for which she could find names beyond names, no names at all.
Then Abby fell into the color.
Now she lay on the shore. She sat up and looked at Em. She was not a woman. She was a girl. A big girl, a very big girl. With freckles, orange freckles. And muscles. And a yellow sword. A yellow appletree sword. And how did she know its name? She looked at things about her. Each glowing and calling out within the thing itself—a word, its word, it.
Poor Ra. She reached down and patted him. And Em patted him. And his eyes opened. “What the what?”
Em rose. “Come. Leave the lake.” She helped Abby rise.
“Is it dangerous here?”
“No. We have to go to the shrine.”
“What’s that and why?”
“Because they told us to and now we are about to become us and he….”
Abby heard within herself a voice—a voice from the past, before the wall, before its fall. “Dagnabit! Get it in gear, girl!”
Abby looked around at her family. We all heard him.
Abby got it in gear.
The Green Man
Led by Em, Abby and Ram headed sunwards. At first, the couple simply attempted to keep up with the long-legged blonde, but then Ram noticed the regularity of her step and began to improvise a four-beat cadence count on his applestick. Ram fell behind Em and Abbie fell behind him. The long shadow of their column pointed back to the meadow of the ruined tree. As they progressed, Em’s yellow gradually enriched the overarching green of the orchard while Abby’ red glowed in its apples. Ram’s music echoed among the branches like bird song. Each of the three began to feel a pulse, which became a beat. Ram shifted to a three-beat cadence. They now marched as a unit, the first beat continually falling upon an alternate foot. The beat now was like the throb of a single heart. At that moment, they heard a baritone voice: “Rest here, friends.” They halted and searched for its source. Suddenly, Emmy pointed straight ahead. “There!” As the other stared intently, the form of a tall, burly green man manifested among the green sea of trees. “Your names?” They all replied at but no one could seem to speak clearly: “Ab,” “Ra,” “Em.” “Abraham?” A basso profundo rumbled from the group: “Abraham!” A soprano echoed, “Abrail!” “A little gender confusion, I see.” The green man sized up the column. “I see you are halfway. In other word, “All the way here but not there. Do you want to continue?” In four-part harmony, they replied, “Yes.” “Good. Come here, Em.” He took her a step away to a stump, alongside of which leaned an applestick ax with an emerald blade, which he handed her. He knelt by the stump, laid his neck on its surface. “Way haul away, girl.” Em chopped off his head. Green blood hosed the stump, nearby trees, overhanging leaves, and Em. Then, the Green Man seized the fallen head by its hair and stood. He held the dripping head high like a lantern, and it spoke: “Unit, fall in!” They re-formed in a rank in front of him. He stepped to his right to stand by Em. “Right face!” All became a column. “Piper!” Ram blew into his applestick and bagpipe music came out. “Forward, harch.” The Green Man led them sunwards deeper into the orchard to the tune of “You Can’t Always Get What You Wa-ant…” Their feet formed a trail of bloody mud pointing back to the meadow of the ruined tree.
Shortly after it had left the orchard, the column halted at the base of a mountain. The Green Man now spoke within them simultaneously:
“I have brought us together to take over this Divide to another plane—up.”
The mountain was smooth and white, its surface the white stones of the meadow, the lake, and the orchard. Their climb created a zigzag trail of switchbacks, at first marked by the Green Man’s blood.
The Goat Man began to play a dissonant and irregular melody on his applestick. Green plants began to sprout from the column’s bloody trail. Among them were red, orange, and yellow flowers. Next came bushes and trees, some with new kinds of fruit, some with nuts, some leaves, and increasingly with needles—all in a myriad of sizes and shapes.
From the path, which remained bare, a wave of vegetation swiftly encircled all visible ground and there took shape a mountain forest, which, a certain height thinned, and gave way to a meadow of flowers and berry bushes.
There the ground became level.
The Green Man called a halt and pointed ahead.
There perched upon a great white rock was an aged woman clad in a cerulean blue robe. She gestured to the Green Man, who approached her and knelt.
He rose and handed her his head.
The Crone placed it on his shoulders. “Heal.”
The wound disappeared. The Green Man turned around and smiled and returned to the column. Blue flowers sprouted around the boulder and entered and spread through the green grass to take their place among the red, orange, and yellows already there.
The Crone turned to the column. “Heal.” The last sense of division disappeared among its members. It became a being, a young woman with blue eyes flecked with green and blond hair streaked with orange. All blood evaporated from the meadow and suffused her flowing flesh.
The Crone cackled. “Blush, April. I prophesy that you will soon wed.”
Here Comes The Groom
April blushed. “You know about weddings then?” “I know what all of us know. Because I am all of us. Right?” “Right. Just checking to see if any fine tuning was necessary.” The Crone patted the boulder once and it became an opening leading into the mountain .” Follow me, dear.” After the first bend in the path was there impenetrable darkness until the Crone snapped her fingers. Then luminosity intensified behind them projecting their shadows in front of them. As they came to a second bend in the path, the Crone’s shadow beckoned them to follow it. Thus they proceeded, their shadows now their guides through a labyrinthine turns until they entered a vast cavern. The light behind them intensified and magnified their shadows gigantically. They halted their owners. Then they flitted ahead, went, each a separate cavern. “Where are they going?” asked April. “They’re looking for the groom, but they’re not going to find him. Even my shadow is an idiot. Unless Indigo remembers to come out to us—and he’d forget his own wedding!—he’s where night would be a desert sun! When they within sniffing distance, they simply disappear. Couldn’t hit their butts with both hands. A companionable voice rang echoed behind them. “Hey, guys! No, behind you. Where night becomes a desert sun.” Turning, April saw close to her, so close, the remarkable face of that which she had never see and had always known. “April, they call me Abraham but I prefer ‘Abe’”. And he wore a white tuxedo—with a white bow tie! “Come this way. We are going to meet the rest of the gang at the Beach.” And with these words, they were at The Beach. The wind whistled. The ocean rumbled. And the rest of the gang wore funny hats, blew applestick pipes, and threw rice. Through the story, central character has been succeeded by a new central character until now the Groom appears.
The Green Man’s voice boomed above the clamor of the others: “Man and wife! I now pronounce you man and wife!”
Indigo embraced and kissed April. “I want to give you this. We made it together.” He held out to her a wreath of six entwined colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and indigo. “We are about to go on a honeymoon. Wear this as a bridal crown.“ He placed the wreath upon her head. They embraced and kissed again and then accepted the embraces of the other five.
Ram then beckoned all to follow him along the shore until they reached a shallow cove. Buried partially in the sand was the hulk of a boat. On its bow were faded letters spelling “Abraham”.
“Let’s get this up and running.” Under his direction they had soon replaced deteriorated planking, set up a single mast and attached a single sail, and installed a tiller.
Finally, Ram printed on the bow: “April”. He then designated the crew members. He would man the sail while Abby and Emmy would row. After he launched The April, The Green Man would handle the tiller, the Crone his navigator.
April and Indigo, passengers, sat forward, facing the morning sun, their shadows shading the crew. The day was a beautiful spring day with a light breeze from the west. The blue sky and the blue ocean were a single color. Only The Crone spoke, whispering an occasional suggestion in The Green Man’s ear.
Indigo spoke softly in April’s ear, “We will be this close all our lives. I will never leave you. But I will never intrude. When you need me, I will be there instantly to guide you. But otherwise, do as you will.”
April suddenly turned as she heard a rumbling sound behind her. She saw a second lightning bolt zig-zag toward the island, which had become dimmer under the darkening sky.
Just as the thunder at the April’s stern grumbled into ominous silence, color blazoned high in the horizon at its bow. Indigo whispered in April’s ear, “The rainbow is the celestial twin of your bridal wreath.” April placed the wreath in her lap and compared the two. “They are even in the same order.”
April’s brow wrinkled, “There is a seventh color.”
“Violet. The color behind all. The color before red. The color behind night.”
The rainbow disappeared. Light disappeared. “Night?”
“This. The end of color.”
Lightning circled the April, illuminating the crew. Winds increased intensity. The boat tipped and bucked. While they struggled to maintain their stations,The shadows of strange creatures began to pass around and under.
Abby pulled even more energetically at her oar until it suddenly snapped. Stuck in the oarlock, the jagged stump spun to impale her stomach. When Emmy rose to help her, a sudden heave of the boat pitched them both into the mass of shadows beneath it. There was a frenzied frothing and then stillnesss.
Immediately, April felt herself fall into inaction and weakness. As in a dream, she watched the sail fill and billow, lifting Ram into the air, where he dangled and bounced for a few moments like an ornament before he soared off into the night, taking with him all possibility of possibility.
As The Green Man rose to take Emmy’s oar, a wild swing of the unmanned mast’s boom swept him backwards into the water, taking with him the tiny Crone.
Indigo smiled. “One of those moments…. Go with the flow and wait for me.” He staggered to the stern and dove cleanly to where they sank.
Stunned, stripped of all resources, April sat in the bow, riding the boat’s pitch, which gradually lessened as did the lightning. In the last flashes of light during the calming of the water, she lifted the wreath off her lap and gently laid it in the water, a memorial. She watched with dull surprise as it drifted out a short distance and began to slowly circle the boat, like the last planet its dimming sun. The circle grew smaller and faster, twisting the ocean with greater and greater power until it sucked April down into the darkest and deepest depths.
Suddenly, her skull was seized and agonizingly pierced. She opened her mouth to scream but salt water filled it and she began to choke. Yanked from the boat into somewhere, she felt a sharp blow and coughed out fluid, inhaled deeply and on her exhaling began to scream with all her strength. Bright light stunned her. Blood blinded her. She wept and wept.
“Congratulations, mother! It’s a baby girl!”
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