Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Aftershock Episode 018: "Palace Of A Kingdom Beyond"
The wreckage was all we had left. My brother and I had lost the notion of building towards a better life. Pounding the dust with our boots every morning became as important as everything we ever dreamed of. We were there, nothing else mattered. What can drive a man to wake up every morning and go on with it life if he cannot dream of transcending his limitations? A part of the answer waited for us in Staten Island.
Since the quarantine, Cliff had been haunted by visions of Evie that followed him days and nights. She didn't care wether he was asleep or not, my brother's late fiancée made him live in the constant stress of her apparition. Don't get me wrong, he didn't transform into an H.P Lovecraft story character overnight, but fatigue and anxiety progressively got to him. We took turns to drive since the unknown plague spread out in the streets. This time, for the Staten Island drive, I proposed Cliff to lay down in the back seat of the jeep while I would drive and Maria would keep me company in the front. With St.Cuthbert's Guard roaming around in the neighborhood, we had to take turns to sleep too. Sacrifying one for Cliff wasn't a problem either.
I didn't like sleeping anymore. I used to blisfully fall on my bed from exhaustion every night and dream of a better life. As soon as my eyes closed, my mind would wander into states foreign to human existence. I would become bigger, better and stronger than myself, Cliff and everybody I've ever known. In my dreams, people needed Marcus Whimore in their lives. I was the cornerstone of their blooming intellect. Reality might not have been that endearing, but those dreams kept me going. They kept me springing from my bed in a good mood every morning to face days full of clients, bills, orders, family meals and children anxieties. They were a very important part of my existence.
Since the plague has struck my whole life down, I had yet to have a dream. Sleep became that pitch-black state of nothingness in between two moments where I could fight for my survival. A deathlike state of incubation. That's what my daily euphoric oniria had become. Like Cliff, gradually, my enjoyment of day to day life has dwindled and transformed into something very different. I wouldn't call that a disappearance, but I would go as far as saying we both didn't recognize who we were anymore. Different men for different lives. Different minds for a different world.
Then there was the people that started drifting into our lives like souls in a purgatory. First Uncle Leibrandt, who seemed vulnerable like a kitten when we somebody threw him into the door of my commerce. Even after he tried to separate Cliff and me inside the walls of Durango Mental Hospital, I'm not exactly sure about what he meant. What was it we got back there? Cliff seemed to have been enlightened somehow, but I stayed in the dark, that pitch black, obsessing dark that has been shrouding me like the jaws of a carnivorous plant. What was my part in all this? I had my eyes closed, like Cliff told me. What did it mean? Closed to what? I had seen the same creepy things he did during those crazy weeks. My beliefs of reality were shattered the same way his were. What wall was there left to tear down? Was there any or would I have to guide my brother throughout the solid obstacles he didn't see anymore?
Then there was Maria Magdelena who litterally fell from the sky with her Jesus story. She quickly fell asleep too during the traject to Staten Island, leaving me alone with myself, my doubts and my eternal anxiety. It's a demon that never left me, never fell asleep, never clocked out of it's shift. In the back of my mind, waiting for me to make a mistake and feel comfortable was alienation. Why this feeling? Why now? Despite the fact that Maria is clearly imbalanced, Cliff and I would be risking our lives again for her. What else would we do in this time where we could count on no one?
Something told me she didn't lie. Something told me that this tale, no matter how entertaining and rehearsed it could have been, cam from her heart. Maria's eyes mirrored a fragile psyche ready to fall into its darker regions at any time someone tried to dismiss her or put her aside. She was a needy being despite this impression of feline power that she gave people. What was there to do except than helping her? Maybe the reason why Cliff and I went to Durango's was her. Destiny has been working its weird ways since the world was plunged in darkness. Maybe Gabrielle Worthington just wanted us to get ahold of Maria in order to save herself.
Gabrielle didn't seem to need saving. I didn't see her for long, that's for sure, but her strange throne room was still a vivid image in my mind. Like a royal court with only jesters and no kings. Back in medieval times, the carnival was a sacred time. During a week or so, everyone would wear masks, so the king would be a fool and the fool would be a king. There would be no way to differenciate both. People would make fun of the court, insult the king and his people without any fear of retribution. The plague sure felt like a carnival to me. Great truths were told, walls of perceptions were torn down with great enthusiasm by the low and the opressed. The kings fell from their throne and the jesters rose to power. Gabrielle Worthington was holding on to something. I felt it. Like a bolt of lightning going through my body. Gabrielle was the queen of the jester's court.
I was right. I always doubted, for all my life, the meaning of right and wrong, but not this time. The image of the jester's court burned inside my retina. The metaphor made sense as long as anything in this new vision of the world did. St. Cuthbert lived in a monastery in the middle ages. Durango's Mental Hospital used to be a monastery also. Cuthbert earned his saint status by curing the fatally ill. The monastery, in St. Cuthbert's lore was a place where science and empirism were not exact, the place where the order was doubted. The monastery became the jester's court. The king's court invaded by the opressed minority. Power had been transffered. Transubstatiation had been made. The plague was a new miracle pulled out by St. Cuthbert.
This theory aligned itself in front of my eyes like I was reading a book. Rarely, my thought had been so clear before. I smiled, Maria stretched in the bucket seat next to me. Right in time, she synchronized to my period of lucidity with an accuracy that could only be explained by this new order of things that St. Cuthbert created.
''Are we there yet?'' she asked like a children.
''Almost, tell me Maria. What is exactly that place where Jesus was having his cartographer internship?''
''I don't know man, it's an old place. Jesus was a fan of architechture, he was yapping all the time about this building. It's an old loyalist place, a piece of forgotten history he kept telling me''.
''Do you know the name of it?''
''It's near the water,it's named Royal Geographic Society or something like that.''
She said that and the massive building appeared in front of me, like in a Hollywood movie scene. The place was almost as big as Durango's, but it was made out of stone rather than heavy wood. The name of the building was carved near the roof in three dimension. The place had a considerable age but looked a lot better than mental hospital. I moved into the empty parking and placed the car backwards, ready to leave in a hurry in case something wrong would happen. Last time, getting out of Durango's had been a travesty of an escape. Turn, stop, turn, stop, turn...now at least, we would be ready for any eventuality.
Something felt odd about Royal Geographic Society. The place looked too good. Psychologists that took care of Auschwitz survivors said they showed a complete apathy in front of violence and death. The same can be said for the survivors of The Great Plague. Royal Geographic Society was the first place I've seen since then that had no cars with bodies in them in their parking. No sand on the ground, no corpses lying in the front grass. This place was still tended in a very organized way. The building looked like those of before The Great Place. Even the survivors weren't that tidy and organized.
I glanced at Maria in the passenger seat. She looked like a little girl coming back home.