X. Resonating Glass
The Hummer at the Threshold of Oblivion
A forlorn map kitty was mewing its moody little ditty, obfuscated along the pileated flange of the phantasmagoric littoral. Though lassknights had fallen, a candied essence still fingered the skirts of mimsyterra; and the saturnine fogbreaths of the fervid cockshut unhitched and scattered at the anointing graze of the fronds of the nocturnal palmwake. Mitzizernerlum lolled disconsolately on the hoary divanport, still panging from the dolor of the truculent day that had passed with its aftertones of despondence and duringtones of devastation, and waited for her husband to return. She had been purging rivers of pumice from the parlor, while Arbogrin trudged the bulgeoning fluvial in search of alivium; she was askonced in megrims, and no sign of her daughter, who was likely delving daybreak's detritus with chums. It was still too nascent to fret for their furlough, so she ricked bric-a-brac about the corbels, and harked back to the royal and its results, and how galvanic it was.
Hub Arbo's amble was presently discerned nearing over the soddened quad. "O, the sickening sockdolager!" he said, and plopped, staring ruefully into the inglenook, mute and rapt.
"Anything of Ferny?" Mitzi soon asked.
"Saw her friend. You know, the Ratzi's girl. Such a nice family. Put the best face possible on it. But I could tell they were vexed about something. Hon, I'm afraid we're in for it. Seems Ferny was caughtsight of on a spate last night. Alive, but out of reach. Disappeared beyond the old aqueduct."
Mitzi melted into tears. Soon snivels became a squall. By and by the bay decrescendoed to a dirge of sobs. Arbo embosomed his bride and suppressed sorrowful sighs.
"Ferny's not a good swimmer," Mitzi spurted.
"Well, it seems she had hold of some flotsam. We should hold hope. The surge has passed now. Maybe she rafted to her Ararat."
They fell silent for an eternity, both ruminating on their girl fighting the torrents and the unknown, waiting out the black night on a spiny mound among dewnumerous deceased. Or worse.
"I suppose we should file a report," said Arbo after a time. But he remained still as a mouse.
"Ar, I can't stay in this house. Without Ferny I daresay I won't be in this house ever again. We have to go searching. We'll get the hiking gear and head toward the aqueduct. We'll follow the washout. Forever if needbe. We can't stay here."
"You took the thought right out of my skull. I saw some others who may have seen something. We'll see them along the way."
They fetched their equipage and sallied heedfully northward. Out on the rutted pike numerous penumbrae braided the outlines of devastation; and where tenebrosity took full tenancy the trail was indeed ticklish. Sounds of restoration reverberated and palpitated in great and small responsories, intimating tales of loss or relief, rebuilding and reminder. Voices jostled with guggling remnants of warfroth and the clangor of reclamation as villagers revivified their vicinages. Arbo and Mitzi's hyper-sensitivity amplified the more corporeal timbres and the occasional faraway pule would suddenly sound as if it were right at their elbows.
The azimuthal trace was unclouded and granitic upon the welkin, and in one especial quadrant it declared itself coaly versus a cinerous scandent marshfire that leafed and burgeoned. Endlickly, o'er the hem of the weighting planet the ghostly galleon of the clouds floated upward with deliberate splendor till it lurched lonely from the radial wharf and took leave, sans linkage; and the two began to espy eerie tableaux - savaged swales, and wracked rialtos,a dn eventually the bayou itself, softly macerated, all sickeningly uninhabitable yet all serenely purified, as radiant in the darkening gloom as it had been faux-prosperous in the glare of sapless dayshine. Arbo and Mitzi knew this landscape; they had brought Ferny to these environs on holiday each summer.
Halting near a familiar copse of alders, the parents pitched into the soundless, ashen chase, and mopishly probed the brambles, the tussled deadwood, the floodburrows and their mini-mesas, the mossy fosses and exsiccated rills. Emerging again and crossing the road, they wormed their way northing zigzagonally, while the harvest moon, pacific and Olympian in an unladen, hyaline empyrean, distally fulfilled her office, to assist their portentous quest; till her tenure expired and she gravitated groundwards circumspectly, leaving them again ensconced in the elfdom of veld and rundle.
Then a metamorphosis began to announce itself. The cast of the borderlands envividified, yet somehow looked transformed, less enigmatic than before. A zephyr stirred suddenly, and a sigh whiffled through the reeds, upon the tail end of which a finespun hum wafted seemingly about the duo like a corset. Arbo, loitering behind, roused suddenly and cocked his head with fervent concern. Mitzi, engrossed in her vanguardist responsibilities, stirred and turned, regarding him with quizzical tenderness.
"It's gone!" he lamented, slackening his shoulders. "So beautiful and odd and rare! Since it was so brief, I almost wish I'd never heard it. For it has stirred in me a yerning that hurts, and I'd just as soon go on hearing it forever. No! There it is again!" he cried, taut again. Hypnotized, he was quiet for a spell, in a longing space.
"Now it ebbs, and I begin to lose it. O, Mitzi! the wonder of it! The soulful certainty and life, the wispy, lucid beckoning of the faraway hum! Such music I never dreamed of, and the summoning within it is stronger even than the music is beautiful! Onward! For the hum and the call must be for us."
Mitzi, wholly confounded, went along. "I don't hear it. Only the breeze in the bracken and broomcorn and brake."
Arbo never responded, if in fact he had heeard. Enchanted, ecstatic, enervated, he was bewitched by this new radiant thing that hogtied his helpless pith and dangled it,a spent but contented babe held in a firm, existential embrace.
Quietly Mitzi trodded forward until they came to a fork in the road, a long bypath vining off to the left. With a subtle nod Arbo, who had been hitched zombie-like to Mitzi's course, urged the detour. As they stepped off the main road, the mystical clarity that had replaced the moon's lantern itself took leave, and shadows encroached on all sides leaving only the scent of horehound and chickweed to elucidate the lane.
"Clearer and nearer still, " cried Arbo, uplifted. "Now you must surely hear it! Ah - at last - I see you do!"
Medused and overwhelmed Mitzi halted as the blanket of that silken tone alighted upon her like a fright, transfixing her totally. She saw her husband's tears and succombed in understanding. Per kairos they hovered, harangued by katydids; then the apodictic, exigent beckoning that was part-in-parcel with the narcotic psalmnody foisted its intention on Mitzi, and reflexively she forged forwards. And the darkness inexorably fissioned, while the wallpaper whispers of insects and fauna diminished ah niente, leaving only the divine diapason to inundate the wood.
As they ambulated onward, the flanking flora intimated itself with an extraordinary newness, its scents swirled together into a mystical uroma unsurpassed in any safari the couple had ever previously undertaken. Acacial azaleas lilaced daisily in magnolial periwinkles of savory incense. Then a tumultuous tinkling like some massive sparge could be discerned ahead in the night -- likely the wrecked aqueduct -- and the pilgrims were gripped with a fearful notion, that their expedition was reaching an end and that it may bear any of a hundred different answers to their single question.
The veil of ebony broke partially, and a shimmering, sparkling ruin rose before them like some gargantuan spider web of blighted steel, crippled glass, and ruptured brick encasing a widening of the road into a bulbuous cul de sac. Plumes of water geysed willy nilly surpassing all sounds save the finely phrased humming which seemed to be a larger umbrella yet, over everything in both spatiality and pathos. In the center of the matrix, as a womb of a great watery Mother, was a calm ogee archway untouched by flood or debris from which shone a bluish ray of light, itself as mesmerizing as the forest drone that had led them here. Chimerical and recondite it seemed to be a secret revealed only to Mitzi and Arbo and as easily withheld from discovery as an eyelid is shut among the daedal diluvium and spectral refractions of waterplay in the scant, fractal luminosity.
Lento, ma senza ritardo, e col magnific'aspettativa, the parents glided past erstwhile fountains and rebar stalagmites to the azureous archway. The hum took on new embellishments, as though the solmization of a million people moved about within the range of their voices, ultimately not disrupting the Laut but merely embuing it with infinite coloration. In silience they stole into the pavilion of destruction, pushing by fronds of wasted foliage and stepping over rent masonry until they reached a terrace of exquisite green, set round with Nature's own finery -- delphinium, Queen Anne's lace, cyclamen and statice.
"This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me," whispered Arbo, spellbound. "Here, in this divine sanctum, here if anywhere, surely we will find the One!"
Then suddenly Mitzi was possessed by a great numinousness, an awe that wilted her tendons, salaamed her posture, and bolted her boots to the flagstones. It was no vexation born of terror -- indeed she felt purifyingly peaceful -- but it was an awe that struck and restrained her and, blindly, she understood it could only augur the advent of some august atua. With tribulation she turned to seek out her life partner, and saw him beside her suppliant, zinged, and shuddering in convulsions. And still the hum twisted and turned revealing ever new choruses of humanity and existence, and the patinous atmosphere of the beflowered parlor grew brighter, hueing by turns to jade, to emerald, yet to turquoise. The floral osmessence plied in counterpoint, and a warmth invaded from the outside in.
Feeliked, he dasn't had bearded to hoick his oculi, 'cepting dass, 'do the bombilation zind yetz pianissimo, the rogation and suit seemed dock puissant oond acute. He mightn't stand aloof, were that fell sergeant himself ervarting to smite him 'blickly, alas he had coup d-oeil'd upon dingen duly beaegised. Shuddering he acquiesced, lifting his pious pate; ann don, cloaked in that unutterable crystallity of imperious morn, whilst Diana, peacock-fanned, whisht herself batedly, he gazed into the self-same eyes of the Manitou, the Manumitter; saw the refluent sweep of the floodproof crest, glistening in the nascent crepuscle; saw the puritan, angular rostrum 'twixt the benignant eyes that were regarding them bonhomously, while the pappose bazoo curtsysmiled; saw the bepillared sinews of the Atlantian physique, the deft talons still caressing the mystic squeeze-box only just flaccid; took in the resplendent festoons of the villous tendrils arrayed in lordly repose on the pavilion; saw, last of all, recumbent between his very paws, peacefully motionless and fetal, the smart, bladelike form of their girl. All this he registered in toto, encapsulated in a trice truculently merciful, burnished in the lucent vault; and still, as he looked, he survived; and as he lived, he hoped.
"Mit!" he found a whisper, trembling. "Is she alive?"
"I don't know. I can't -- I can't -- move -- I can't -- bring myself to find out. O, Arb, I am afraid!"
Then the two companions fell to the parquet, bowed their heads, and prayed.
A vocable found purchase deep inside their pith, seeming to riffle musically outward from their core until their extremities: fingers, toes and, alas, ears, were the final receptors. They felt a sense of levitation upon the pedalhum, and the parols were a raga on top, secretive yet threatening to jar the bergs with their hereness.
"Dthizzzzz wannnnn hazzzbinnnnnnn liffftead fffrrroommmm eeeyooooooort rennnnnnnnntchezzzzzzz
Dthairrr aarrrrrss peashhhhhhal deeliyyts instooorfourhrrrrr
Yuuuu neeeeeeednah tworrrry ainnymmmmor forrrrherrrrrthannnnnnn
yuuuuu woodkonnsirnnnnn yuuuurssell fwitha grrrainnnnnnnov pollinnnnn
lliffted buyyyabummmmmmmmmmbullbeeee nnnnnnndepozzzzzitead
nnnnnnn a nnnnnuugardinnnnnn."
Arbo felt a searing somewhere in his breast, pressing with the force of a wildebeest towards his heart, seeking to brand it with despair. Yet something -- this ethereal, plenipotentiary geyser of truth from the unknown -- was holding it at bay. Would he not express his sorrow at the newfound fact of his daughter's passing? He hung suspended over all feeling. The miracle-voice went on.
"Hhhowwreeelly coood sheereetirnnnnnntu thisssswirlllled.
Hirrrin tchannnntinnnng speeeerit drruwoura tinnnnnshun lighkallightnnnnning rrrrod.
Nnnnnnoh rrair leee izour desizzionn soh kleerkut.
Dthizzzzz wannnnnnizzz nnnnneeadid bighthe ugodzzz
iffff oui ifff yu iffffannnnnewann izzztu kerrrrryannnn."
Mitzi felt as though she were being rolled under a great tidal wave -- terrible yet gentle -- awaiting the moment when her frame would be mercifully smashed onto a reef, yet feeling the peace of directed freefall, intuiting that no such demise was in store for her. The Manitou went on, and the words became ever less sculpted and more and more felt than understood. For years afterwards Mitzi and Arbo compared their thoughts about why their beloved was taken from them in this cataclysm. Remarkably, their interpreations synchronized. To wit, they interpretted the words of the Manitou to have meant thus:
eeeyyuuuwwwillldooosohhexxxxxaalllllllltid, exxxxxtaaaaatik, prrrrriedfulllllll
rrrrrrlllllliiiieeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Dttthhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat ttwwillllllllllllllllnnnnnnnnnnnnnnooootttttttttbeeeeeeeeeetayyyykkkkinnnnwwayyyyy
ssssssssayyynnnnnnthoooooooooood, iifffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuwwwwwwwiiiiiiiillllllllllllllllll, uhwwwwwwwwaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyttssehhhhvirrrrrrylllllllliivvvvvvvvvviinnnnnn
Were anyone to happen upon the scene in the pavilion-womb they would have seen nothing more than two parents kneeling in meditation before the body of their stricken daughter. But Mitzi and Arbo were on an odyssey to realms where greatest denial and greatest acceptance meet -- in soundless music, sensual nonfeeling.
The orative raga spiralled, dipped, floated, swelled, tickled, pinched, and eventually alighted upon the crown of the hum. The drone continued, turning slowly like a polished crystal in an epochal aurora, taking centuries to fade. The vision of a dandelion spore lifted on a slow breeze and drifting over an entire continent filled Arbo's inner sight, for that mirrored the length of time it seemed for the hum to fade. Mitzi's wave became a ripple on a lake, on which she rode like a gnat towards a shoreline that never approached, or rather moved backward to avoid being touched by the ripple. With the same patience as Arbo's spore, the gnat slowly, slowly caught the shoreline. Once there, Mitzi stepped onto the pebbles and emerged from her trance.
A molted phoebel eye seared down into the hollow meeting the renascent irises of the now-childless couple, gathering the visual feedback of a million droplets of dew to amplify its dazzling impression. When they were able to lift their heads in such a way to shield the glare, they found the Manitou and all of its architectural impedimentia gone, and on the air was a cantata of birdsong announcing the dawn with equivalent veracity, lest any blind person continue to harbor doubt.
The voids of their dumb stares slowly began to fill with melancholy as they ascertained the essence of their travails, mirroring the breeze that questioningly commenced to stir the flora of the vale, caressing their brows, teasing the dewy leaves of roses and chiding the boughs of the sweetgums until they dropped their gumballs, then ultimately infusing Mitzi's and Arbo's lungs and being with oblivion. For such is the manna vouched safely by the Manitou to those who have trouvailled upon his vagansvox: eleemosynary nepenthe. Lest the shreklich engram should dawdle and boom, and obnubilate mirth and joie de vivre, and the vexing mneme should mar all the afterlives of loving familias succored in their perdition, in order that they might achieve an arighting of their embattered hearts.
Arbo rubbed his eyes and stared at Mitzi, who was looking about him mazedly. "Sorry, I spaced; what did you say, dear?" she asked.
"I think I was only musing," said Arbo haltingly, "that this was a holy sort of spot, and that here, if anywhere, we should find her. And look! Why there she is, but she doesn't move!" With a cry of anguish they ran toward the reposing child.
But Arbogrin stayed his feet, accosted by thought. As one roused blueboltedly from a glorious dream, who toils to recall it, and can ascertain nada but a dim sensation of splendor, ah splendor! Till that, likewise, wanes of its course, and the somnipathist splenetically succombs to the icy waking and all its what-for; so Arbo, after wrangling with his cryptomnesia for a wink, shook his head bluely and followed his wife.
With the self-same adoration the couple had felt for their child on the primary day of her life, they approached the soma curiously acquiescent. Wafting on a temperament of agape they drew nigh.
Arbo leapt forward to inspect the blessèd lambkin; but Mitzi, hesitating, gazed intently upon certain alveoli pitted across the ground of the hollow.
"Some -- fantastic -- deity -- has been here," she muttered sluggishly and musefully; and stood absorbed, her greymat queerly teased.
"Come along, Mit!" called her man. "We'll be short on light soon!"
The sun was firing the horizon now, phasing between lavenders and oranges between the hills. The mourning dove was in full throat and other birds caroled joyously, sounding among assenting flowers and wistful cypress branches evoking in the parents a primal memory -- the thought of a dream passed, a vestige of a birth -- but whose? It felt recent.
Arbo had lifted Ferny's lifeless, peaceful body and embraced it, her head falling over his shoulder like so many bygone sleepy transports to the bedroom. Mitzi tearfully brushed Ferny's still-damp hair back behind her ears. It seemed that the touching of her seemed to increase the music of the forest, the beauty of the hollow. They noticed a stream nearby that they could not recall from before. The senses became keener -- smells of honey and birchbark drifted by on parade with sourwood and damp pinestraw.
"Look, Arb!" They beheld a flowering dogwood next to a strand of gigantic ferns. "Ferny loved dogwood so! Can you smell it?!"
"Oh, Mitzi, how can we take her back to the village, really? If she was meant to rest anywhere, it is here!"
With every passing minute it seemed a new touch was added to the cloche. A tract of the sward welcoming a ray of sunlight here, the extended arm of a benevolent oak tree there.
"It's as if she is dreaming this place this very instant!"
A divine breeze swept down the hillside and the stand of ferns repositioned their splashy tines giving Mitzi and Arbo the greatest impression of a human figure. Why, the very shape of their girl, off on one of the family picnics, straying among the honeysuckle, bending to sniff a buttercup, hair plashing about her, reaching to pluck a blackberry, her favorite. A blackberry bush materialized near the brook. An understanding took possession of the pair.
"We have to build a new home here," Arbo declared. "But, come, let's bring Ferny a ways up that hill. I think I see an outcropping where the aqueduct used to attach."
"Oh no," countered Mitzi. "I should think the fern bed was virtually laid out for her. And look, it is obviously made for a whole family. When my time comes, I don't want to be anywhere else. What do we have back in that messy city anyway?"
Arbo was already fashioning a makeshift spade and breaking the earth between the dogwood and ferns. As he worked, he thought aloud. "We'll wait till tomorrow and go get our things. We'll have a bit to do."
Eventually the grave was dug, Ferny's body placed in it, and a few of her things they had carried along, hoping to pacify her when they had found her. The sun was nearly all gone now. Deer and rabbits were out for their evening meal. Fish were jumping, making their sojourn upstream to lay their eggs. A full moon was on the rise. The twilight star shined brightly nearby.
"I'm spent," he said presently, leaning on his shovel, which he had used to check the pliance of the sward. "It's not just that we've come so far, and been up all night -- no. No, something more has happened to us -- something awesome. Fantastic and terrible, and it was just over; and yet nothing definite has come down."
"Or something splendid, ravishing, and supranatural," murmured Mitzi, reclining on a patch of grass. "I feel the same -- simply dead-tired, though not in body. Isn't it comforting to have the forest coursing through our marrow! And hark to the wind strumming the pines!"
"It's like music -- far-away music," said Arbo, acquiescing lethargically.
"So was my thought," chittered Mitzi, lethewards. "Dance-music -- the waltzing sort that tumbles forward with a stop -- but with words in it, too -- in and out -- I catch them willy-nilly -- and then it is dance-music again, and then nothing but the pines' ephemeral whispering."
"You hear better than I," said Arbo ruefully. "I can't catch the lyrics."
"Let me try and relay them," his wife said gently, eyes still closed. "It turns to vocal music again -- faint but clear -- 'Lest the awe should dwell -- And turn your frolic to fret -- Ye shall see my power at the needful hour -- But then ye shall forget!' Here the pines take it up -- 'forget, forget,' they sigh, and it diminuendos to a rustle and a whisper. Then the words return -- 'Lest limbs be reddened and rent -- I spring the trap that is set -- As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there -- For surely ye shall forget!' -- Listen harder, Arb! It is hard to discern, and grows each moment fainter.
'Helper and healer, I cheer -- Lost waifs in the woodland wet -- Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it -- Bidding them all forget!' Harder, love. Listen harder! No, it is no use; the song has dissipated into bough-speak."
"But what do the words mean?" asked the yawning husband.
"That I do not know. I passed them on to you as they reached me. Ah! now they return again, and this time full and clear! This time, at last, it is the real, the unmistakeable Thing, simple -- passionate -- perfect --"
"Well, let's have it then," said Arbo, after he had waited patiently for a few minutes, half dozing, bathed in starlight.
But no reply pinged back. He glanced over, and comprehended the silence. With a resigned smile on her face, and a trace of attentiveness tarrying there, the fatigued mother was fast asleep.
June 2007 to Easter Sunday, 2009