Anagogic Tales

Rob Crawford

Will the dream arrive or will it stall on the distant mountainside, drifting balloon with diminishing fuel? Not like the colonists get much of a say, dancing in barns while the enemy fans out his attack. The devastation in the outer reaches is unknown here, amid wine and smiles. I hope someone remembers us in the dim basket. The dream is what we need, but will they be able to bring it home again? Surely if it returns, if we live to see it rise over the blue hills, the enemy will be disintegrated at once like kicked dandelions…

Whilst the meadows decay in the scorching heat of August, far off past clattering leaves, they were caught out in the mild tornado, hearing all the happy laughter across the frontier town. Margaret would be waiting in the bunker with a pile of eyeball-colored candles and a harmonica. Now that was enjoyable, a little music before bed. Timeless questions will rendezvous with their every answer on the other side of time. Maybe Tim grabbed the guitar before leaving, they could hope.
Yes, hope there always was.

Geoff implored the landscape to be more like a cityscape. His diagram of invisible particles had blown away, out of the cave and down to the sea. Those unmarked graves belonged to pirates, he concluded. Mutinous pirates—that’s why they were there. He himself’d been blindsided by some leviathan and stranded with a few of the deckhands. They’d adjusted quickly, relieved of their strenuous duties and free to invent new forms of town planning, all things as they desired. The captain’s know-how had bought him a certain amount of time, but how much time? Would they come after him who aboard had begrudged them even a drink while the servants washed his linens? How he missed his beloved London!

I wanted to find the isthmus in the nondescript haze, but every way that led onward seemed to bar entry even as it proceeded more completely into fog. The entrance from within the dense wood would continue to elude me, I knew, until the proper moment. In the meantime, we moved through dirt passes, over moss- and grub-friendly stones, crossed over crests of sparse and hale trees where the sun falls, or along shaded depressions choked by brittle leaves and cones.

I remembered the isthmus, pausing on a precarious log wet with dew. Or an exceptionally detailed drawing of it, rather, that hung in my father’s shop. It had been sketched with a nuanced touch revealing the anonymous draftsman’s undisclosed passion for the remote, supposedly mythological locale to the perspicacious and sensitive attender.

Among the prints stacked on the floor and drawings in boxes it but captivated a part of me with longing, until my factory job was unexpectedly terminated. My colleague, Sir Thaddius Gormsley, agreed to sojourn with me shortly thereafter. He went to check the rest of the traps we set last night and has been gone for some time. One day over breakfast he proposed an intriguing consideration, that there might be a similar pair walking around the isthmus in pursuit of the forest. An interesting idea, one must concede—that even as our efforts are directed with such determination on departing here for there, a shadowy double of ourselves may even now, with equal conviction, be seeking the reverse way.

She placed the folio on the table and opened a large ancient sheet carefully, as if just opening it might break the crease after being folded for so long. Women were circling, smoking, talking of Gustav Klimt. It was found in a book kept in the museum’s storage site. In the background was a moody and barren landscape, like something out of Hound of the Baskervilles, or Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The whited papery wings of the moths conveyed an unspeakable fright.

Hot weather entangled the apprentice in his proceeding—twenty years of scholarship extricated by the eroding humus of worry. But what learning crumbles before décor arrangements anyway, the ex-student defiantly pondered amid the draperies in a van. So his mind had felt a harsh clanging deep within. So his life had exploded outward into the quotidian preoccupations he had hoped to evade. But he was not magic after all, nor exempt from this bind. Not that it was so horrific, scooping heaps of eggplant fabric priced by the square yard onto his shoulders in the summer heat. Much better than the summer welter that had broiled his gondola mind with its hot unforgiving glow, fierce sun that melts by his stare.

Yes, she had melted his brain. Peggy had infested herself in there sometime in late May, and now he was a goner, John thought, spreading the cloth over a table in the dust-roiled foyer. A coffin would be laid there later in the day, shining like a new Rolls Royce. That morning he had walked over twenty or so feet of dispersed flagstone, and the early crisp smells were so rare and treasured for him that a song nearly bubbled to his lips in that safe glow…

His father’s warm gravelly voice called from outside, telling him to get the rest of the supplies. Jack was infected with a deadly undiscovered disease, a distant variant of leukemia, but did not yet know it. Hiding in the basement from the creaking floors above were several spiders, curled tightly upon themselves, which slept in utter abandon. Maybe Peggy would like to go for hotdogs at the fair later that afternoon. He wouldn’t put it that way, but a hotdog sure sounded good. At the school dances you couldn’t even dance close together without a teacher putting a ruler between you. But since graduation no one cared about anything like that anymore, as long as you made some money and in a legal manner. There had been many layers of rules he had needed to follow, and it was like he had hit the last one! It felt a touch unnerving but exciting. After he had finished arranging the room in preparation for whoever died over the weekend, necessitating this set-up on the Fourth of July, a Monday, though he had hoped to have it off, he would walk down the hill to ask her.

Jack brushed his teeth that night. Being a mortician was all he had ever known during his threescore seven years’ life. Serendipitously, his father’s line of work had matched his ambitions precisely. Who are we kidding, the man wished to have been a mathematician but was no good at numbers, and now it was too late anyway, with the business and taking care of the kid. The boy was out of school though and working, if only around the old house, but maybe he’d find something at the hardware store or an office in the city. Soon he’d be making his own money and moving out and maybe even getting married with that Peggy gal, who knew. All the same, soon he’d be on his own, and then some cutting back might be viable. Yes, he might just cut back a bit, he was old enough for it, wasn’t he? It was tricky, being the only undertaker in Cochran County. The aging population was increasing if anything. What was he going to say, I’m making some lifestyle changes, so just haul your deceased fifty miles by wagon out to the sunrise-reflecting highrise skyline of York? He mashed his weary face into the pillow and could feel its tiny feathers against his cheeks and forehead. The room was invisible in the dark except for a patch of gray on the far wall in an irregular shape from the window. Nobody else was worrying about it tonight out in the slumbering town though were they. And he liked it anyway if he had to, maybe he could take that number theory course at least. What was that, faint edges of what looked like a gigantic staircase out in a field and then was gone. Someone turned on the lights, and his mouth tasted like blood. He looked around and saw a million wet blades of grass and balloons tied to the ground swaying in the wind, white and all colors. The tears shed upon him their dependable sympathies. Hard shadows for hard times, from those repeated blowing memorials, from but a small window, then, before everything opened.