Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
– Edgar Allan Poe
Imagine a silent sea of pure cobalt.
Islands of yellow sand and luxuriant green; scattered jewels on a mirror.
The horizon shudders in a haze that confounds the eye. Imagine a silence more lonely than sleep. Imagine the interior of a dream.
Imagine muted sounds that imply silence – waves over coral, gently sucking at pebbles. Curtains of leaves shifting like uneasy ghosts.
Great flowers growing in clusters, or hanging in juicy clumps. Clouds of pollen falling from one level of undergrowth to another in a rush, leaving vapours to float on the clogged air.
Snakes, bands of affluent enamel, glide unseen across branches, eyelids unmoving, tongues flickering.
The ruins of ancient temples rise from the surface of the sea, crumbling visions of antique impotence. Lichen-smeared carvings crawl over arches, pillars, walls and towers – fighting an exhausting battle against other vegetation, transmuting everything into a rich, green dream. Forgotten gods grin derisively beneath the droppings of birds who care nothing.
On the sea floats a lonely boat.
A small boat with crumbling gunwales. A rope dribbling into the water. It grates over submerged masonry, drifting listless in the heat finding first one current, then another.
“How is he today?”
“I can’t tell. He moans sometimes.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“Nothing – or perhaps.”
Imagine the petals of black flowers covering the bottom of the boat like shreds of midnight.
He looks at the sky.
He looks at his hands.
He leans back, hair trailing in the water, and laughs soundlessly.
“Well, how is he today?”
“I think he is sleeping.”
“Draw the blinds. I hate the moon. It never speaks to me.”
“As you wish.”
“And you are not to talk to him when you think you are alone.”
“As you wish.”
A wake of petals.
Moving among the ruins the boat is suddenly engulfed by the shadow of an arch, long-hidden by thick creepers that have, somehow, moved aside. An entrance.
Imagine a half-submerged doorway. Picture a dark tunnel beyond. A silent sea of pure darkness. Air saturated with perfume that confounds the senses. Shadows of uneasy ghosts caress the walls.
At a flight of steps he disembarks. He walks up towards a dust-laden glow.
“Well? How is he today?”
“I do not know. He is not really sleeping.”
“Draw the blinds – you know I hate the moon.”
“As you wish.”
“Does the moon talk to you when you are alone?”
“What does it say?”
“Nothing – perhaps – words like that.”
At his feet a scrawny figure sprawls in the dusty light. A corpse burst open. Gems cut into globes and flowers spill out – scattered jewels in a mirror. As though from a great distance he can see a boat in the mirror. Worlds in jewel globes.
In the centre of the hall is a glittering Tower of Babel; a wrecked chandelier. Nearby sits a female figure cradling a child with a bird’s skull for a head. It croaks harshly.
The female grins.
He takes a knife from his belt and laughs soundlessly as, with the blade, he slashes his own throat.
Gems cut into globes of light and flowers spew between his teeth. His body dissolves into slivers of mirror glass.
Outside, a small boat, crumbling at the gunwales, dribbling a rope into the water, grated listlessly over drowned masonry.
The sea is silent.
The horizon quivers in a haze, confounding the eye, transmuting everything into a dream of forgotten gods. The birds care nothing.
Imagine a silence more lonely than sleep.
Imagine a dream; the interior of a dream – lonelier than silence.