Monday, April 17, 2006

first class ticket

What did you feel, then, when you received your letter of acceptance? Relief, perhaps. A lot of joy. Validation, certainly. You were given a ticket to board a train to a whole new world. A land where the self-motivated, those brimming with incentive, go to live out their lives in luxurious comfort. A land where one does not walk directly upon the filthy ground, but just a little above it. A world populated by the elite.

You had collected in your notebooks the bits and pieces of information about this world which had trickled down in the fragmentary tales relayed round the campfire. Tales of these unfamiliar lands with their strange geography and even stranger flora and fauna filled your mind, thumping in the great hollow of your memory like an ancient drum. Booming. Reverberating. Repeating forever.

And what was the song which could be written over top of this age-old rhythm? What unique melody could ever be imagined to accompany such a beat? What harmonies to put over this? Well, that was all to be decided in the following years of your residency. During that time you would be allowed to choose which instruments would fill out the orchestra. Which notes would be played. Where the verses, choruses, bridges, and solos would go. Keys, pitches, and timbre would be yours to play with. You had complete and total freedom - well, perhaps not completely complete or totally total. There was the minor issue of the time signature, after all; that could not be changed. That drum's been banging out 4/4 since the beginning of time and there is nothing a tiny person such as yourself can do to shake things up. Greater people than you have tried.

The dark, wet foliage wraps itself around my bare arms as I trudge slowly through the tangled undergrowth with the patient, rhythmic beating of an ever-distant drum lagging a little behind the racing of my aging heart. I'm thinking about the entrance to this labyrinth and how I'll never be able to find my way back, and I'm thinking about the exit and how I'm not even sure anymore that one exists. All this, while entertaining the paradoxical thought that perhaps somebody could have been considerate enough to tell me there was no way out of this quagmire. Once you're in you can never get out again - that's all they needed to say.

'A land where one does not walk directly upon the filthy ground, but just a little above it.' I read this line from my notebook, and look down at my own feet now. My feet, pressed into the rotting layers of dead leaves on the ground. My feet, standing on an entire generation's worth of decomposing organic material. My feet, not directly upon the filthy ground, but just a little above it.

The rain starts again with a roar, and huge drops of water batter the canopy of trees above, a cacophonous clattering, the legs of a billion tiny insects on the move. My brain tells my feet to move forward, to push me towards shelter before the water finds me - and they begin to move again, perfectly in time to the beat of that infernal drum.

My feet, marching in an endless parade. My feet, growing more tired by the minute. My feet, lost in the middle of it all.

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