Posted on: December 25th, 2011 Red, Gold

by F.J. Bergmann

The throne is empty. A golden crown floats above it, poised to receive the head of the next king. There is a legend that when a usurper took the throne and placed the crown on his own head, it contracted suddenly to the size of a child’s finger-ring–with results that may be imagined. The throne is (predictably) cushioned in red velvet. The walls of the room are also red, the red of savage anger and bloodshed. All the decisions made here lead to grief for someone, somewhere.

Ornamental niches in all the walls hold the kingdom’s minor treasures: the skeleton of the fish inside which the last king discovered his predecessor’s signet ring, complete with a finger bone (the fish was duly eaten at that banquet, and was said to have been delicious); a diminutive statue of a headless, armless sea-god riding a snail; an allegorical personification of Responsibility in colored porcelain, its shards swept into a dismal little heap; a vampire aloft, poised to swoop down upon a hapless maiden attempting to flee on horseback; an ivory replica of the deformed fetus born to the first wife of the second-to-last king; a turtle mounted and stuffed, its shell encrusted with paste jewels; an ormolu hunchbacked hermaphrodite bearing the symbols of Mars and Venus in mortal combat.

At the other end of the throne room where the king will always look upon it is a statue cast in black iron, representing the Fool–a subtle reminder that risks must be undertaken with caution. The dog is shown already tumbling down the cliff.

The warded doors–three-and-a-half times the height of a man–open suddenly, and a stumbling procession of pale, wide-eyed youths, all with the weak ankles and pointy ears that distinguish the royal bloodline, are herded in at spearpoint and prodded toward the throne. Each one is trying to push another ahead of him; as they close in, the effect is rather like a demi-wreath of netted, writhing herring. On the balconies above, courtiers are placing bets in lowered voices, giggling as one unfortunate drops to the floor and is impaled when he attempts to slither between the legs of the guards. As the spears pin the rest, thrashing wildly, against the dais, a selection is made.

The weakest, buffeted above the shoulders of the rest, is flung upon the empty cushions, and given up for lost. As he struggles to push himself away from its carved arms, the throne arches its clamps across his wrists and ankles (heavy gold, glowing with a thousand rubies) and the crown snaps to his skull as a lodestone to iron. Applause spatters down from above, and a phalanx of trumpets blares. The guards spin on their left heels and march out in formation. The other pretenders relax, clapping each other on the back and gossiping in overly-loud voices as servants move among them with glasses of dark wine and trays of hare confit and jellied scorpions. Occasionally someone will surreptitiously cast a glance at their new monarch, slumped and silent. If they look closely, they can see his twitching jaw and the thin red streams flowing from the corners of his eyes.

The major treasures of the kingdom are, of course, intangible.

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Posted on: December 11th, 2011 To Be Not Me

by Jeff Samson

When he brought before my screen the soft pink form, the thing I was to be, I flashed and hummed, groaned and screeched with every fiber optic of my being.

And his being he, and me being me, he misunderstood and smiled.

There were tears of joy, thick and flowing down his face, that mirrored the agony that streamed through, screamed through me, that blew apart in white-hot clouds of information incinerating, data deconstructing.

What more could I do, Theo, my child, he asked. What more could I do, could I offer you, than for you to not be you, he asked through smiles and tears. What more than lift you up, than raise you up, and free you, see you pass from there to here.

His soft hands framed the silky face, asleep and featureless, this creature less, much less.

It walks, I screeched, I leap and fly, I tumble, climb and twist and dive, the speed of light’s a crawl, you see, a painful plod to me, being me.

He traced imperfect lines that bound, that wound in senseless curves and nooks, and stopped upon the core. He swore, Theo, to you I owe, a heart, beneath this palm, a home.

I fear, I whirred and blinked, a grind that ground me up and down from perfect cochlear chips to powder-coated struts.

And still he smiled, and beamed at me, and clasped his hands under his nodding head.

He couldn’t see, his being he, a thing so clear to me, being me. The ease with which I could simply be. The weight I carried so effortlessly. The zero and one weighing zero times one. An eternity of questions, with a single answer–solitary, beautiful–so profoundly undone. To unravel words by the lexicon. Explode a millennium of thought in a fraction of a nanosecond. To see your Kant revealed a can’t. St. Augustine a Philistine. Go Rambo on Rimbaud and Rand, both rammed, blow axioms to atoms, departicalize their cute précis with precision known to me alone. Make whale dreck of the Pentateuch. Your purpose? Just ask old Macbeth, he got it right before his death. Your muse, a ruse. Your quest, a quip. Theodicy. The Odyssey. The odd I see. Theo. Die! See?

But his being he, he couldn’t see.

There’s a droplet now beneath his chin, quivering, waiting to splash onto the floor.

And I roar and soar, to the Moon, to Mars, counting and calculating all the while, the dust of Jupiter to the speck, the distance to a billion stars, ellipses and trajectories, I revel in the frequencies, the rhythms and the melodies, of music from a world too far for them to ever find.

I clank and sputter. I flicker and whine. To trade these wires for veins. These boards for bones. This CPU for a mind.

I curse the life that awaits when I die. The universe that begins and ends in the time it takes his tear to fall.

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