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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes

The Undiscovered Country
• Oswaldo Jimenez
The scene stays with you when the after-image of a bright pair of headlights, heading straight for you, make you to blink. Blink once, twice, three four times, more times than you could easily keep count. The ghostly afterimage of the twin bright orbs projected mysteriously into your eyesight makes you blink again and again, and again; too many times, you think. Instinctively you tilt your head to keep your eyes focused on the double-yellow that marks the wet, dark, and shiny asphalt of the winding road. The road below remains a blur while The ghostly moon, queerly, shines above. The moon stares down at you, impatiently, indignantly.


Can you see it? Can you see the moon? Do you see Its silver light; bright, and sprite, shifting right and left, keeping eye contact with you despite the road’s many twists and turns? Yes, yes, yes, there it is! shining from behind the silhouetted crooked branches and dangling leaves of giant trees.

You’re drifting. The speed at which you’re traveling needs to change. Instinctively you ease the pressure on the gas pedal, then lightly tap the brakes, with the same leg, the right one, to bring the car under your control. Finally, you press hard on the brakes. Too late! The car stops abruptly, but stepping on the brake had not a thing to do with it. You don’t know what you’ve gotten into. Or, better said: You are tangled in it, up to your neck. Don’t you deny it.

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.” It’s all you remember from the poem, You wander the significance of it--the fragment of the poem--or the fact that its footprint has remained for decades imprinted somewhere your brain. The words reside beneath preoccupations, machinations, conflagrations, divinations, mixed with all the crap that comes with daily living. Blink, blink, blink; try not to give it any emotional energy. You know that whenever that fragment from Mr. Gray’s Elegy resurfaces, it means trouble.

Clearly, trouble. You can see it on the pale face of the moon as it, the pale old moon, stares down at you; impatiently, indignantly. You fear the uncertainty of it all. You’re only human, you think, plagued by common and uncommon thoughts that surface in the night. You fear each and every night when fragments of “An Elegy Wrote in a Country Churchyard” resurrect as if unearthed by an ancient human organ (i.e. the brain) trying to remain alive. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day comes to the surface of your thoughts, like bubbles from a bog, with their stench of literary composition and natural decomposition. The words are ancient compost spreading through your mind to fertilize your fear, and mar your thoughts with the stench of gaseous odors from deep inside the earth. The stench of fear grips your mind. Fear evolves from etherial to palpable. It crinkles your skin but mostly, it takes over your weary mind.

Thump, thump; thump, thump; thump, thump, blood pumping through your heart. A familiar sound; so familiar, you ignore it. You don’t even notice it until it makes itself the soundtrack of your thoughts. Drip, drip, drip, drip drip, the sound of raindrops tapping on the ragtop just above your head. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, the sound of windshield wipers keeping time like a grandfather clock, fools you. It reminds you that there’s no such thing as independence of thought. Your mind is vulnerable to the learned rhythms of life. Life is frozen as you sit upside-down behind the steering wheel trying to steer your mind back to the present, to reality: you have stopped your car in the middle of a winding and deserted road, flanked by lovely, dark and deep woods at either side. The clock on the car’s dashboard, which fails to make the tick or tock sounds of an old clock, silently marks time with its greenish digits that look like ancient glyphs of some unknown civilization, they mark half-past-midnight ( 12:30 a.m.)

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day... what else? what else?

Thick fog. Think fog. You never saw thick fog behave this way, except that one time when you were camping in the woods alone. You’d pitched your flimsy tent, far, far, far from the edge of the woods because you wanted to feel secure, free from any contact with another human being. You’d given yourself permission to smoke the last cigar you’ll ever smoke. You needed the secluded protection of the lovely, dark and deep woods, to sin again. One last time. You’d promised yourself: one last time. It was then and there that you saw fog behave like a living being: slithering, sliding, floating, mingling with the dying light, bonding with the creeping shadows of the twilight, smoldering beneath the decay. You saw the fog. It behaved as if it had a soul, like errant specters yearning for a home. You’d sat frozen exhaling smoke between your lips, trying not to make a sound. You’d been afraid the fog would notice you sitting there desecrating its hallowed ground by just being around. You were afraid they will take over your body. You felt the damp smooth fog caressing your skin; rushing up your back, touching your face, enveloping your body like ribbons of smoke, briefly stopping to stare into your eyes, waiting to see if who would blink first, trying to see if you would give yourself away; studying you, trying to decide if you were friend or foe. The smoke from your cigar was the perfect camouflage, then all went dark.

Lights out! It’s dark. The shiny moon is gone. The little pools of water dotting the wet pavement no longer behave like quick silver. The moon in bloom had marked their doom, they’re gone. You notice the landscape drenched in blinding darkness. Blinding because you can’t distinguish where the woods begin and the road ends.

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day..” What? What? What? you think. What does it mean? what does it mean? You close your fingers to a fist and punch the narrow edges of the steering wheel. Punch, punch, punch. What does it mean? What is it that you want? Of course, you’re now addressing your mind: What do you want from me? It’s simple, you think. Somewhere in the deep, reptilian caverns of your brain there is a thought that’s dying to escape, it wants to live; surely you can’t blame its rigid purpose, survival at all costs. Survival of the fittest, its mantra. What do you want? You feel as a fool addressing your mind as if another self within the self, inside the car with you. You’re not alone anymore. The “you” that lives the reality of the moon, of the rain, of the woods, and the smell of rain. The “you” that hears the tick and tock of a stately clock that no longer exists. The “you” inside yourself, ethereal and impossible to tame. You try to think, and think, but your mind plays back with fearsome force the first line from Mr. Gray’s Elegy. You’re in a state of rage. You want answers now.

Can you tame your greatest fear? You think to yourself. Though, now, you’re not alone. You think again, “I’m not alone,” but you know you are. The other self you’re trying to appease is no one but your own self. Yourself. The only self that can take over anytime, anywhere, without permission. It wants to express itself. It only knows how, by using the vocabulary available to it, the learned words and phrases that it can hold, and piece together to make sense within its world.

To make the self outside itself aware of the clear and present danger they both face, it speaks: “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day.” You know it is addressing you. It is trying hard to make contact with your conscious mind. But you fail to understand its intentions, there are too many obstacles. But you hear it, over and over, you can almost see it in the darkness of your mind in the shape of flashes and afterimages, just like the ghostly afterimages of the twin bright orbs mysteriously projecting into your sight that had caused you to blink rapidly, again and again.

What?! You hold your throbbing head between your hands, you shake your head, you shake your head, twice, thrice, and more, trying to unravel the riddle. You rest your forehead on the steering wheel and wait. You don’t know what you are waiting for, but, feeling the solid steering wheel pressing against your forehead, gives you hope. You feel it, it’s real; the solidity of the steering wheel pressing your forehead is comforting. You don’t know why, but it gives you hope.

Hopefully, you think, there will be no more sounds. No more thoughts. Nothing. Emptiness. Darkness. You like it so. Empty, dark, devoid of sound. You keep your eyes closed. The darkness is comforting. You take a deep breath. You remember that you can breathe. You’d forgotten that single fact: that you were breathing all along, that your lungs were inhaling and exhaling without any effort on your part. So, you take another deep deep breath, and it costs you nothing. It feels invigorating to breathe. It calms you down. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. Take a deep breath. Now you’re a little too conscious of breathing; it becomes exasperating, now you have to think about breathing, in and out. You were not preoccupied of breathing before. Now, you have to think about it and it suffocates you. You’re out of breath. You need fresh air. You try to roll down the car’s window, to stick your head out and take several deep breaths, but, up is down, and down is up, as you sit strapped inside your car, upside-down.

Your nostrils fill your lungs with the thick, and nauseous fumes of smoke, rubber, oil, not the damp air from the deep and lovely woods. You don’t feel better, better, better, you are so preoccupied with breathing, that you can’t. Now you notice pain. It’s pain that you notice inside your chest, not the pangs of love or desperation, not the constricting pain of suffering or worry, of knowing you may never see the moon again; this is real pain, of muscle, bone and bruises. “She was morning and I was night time and one day woke up to find her lying beside myself” Can you see it? can’t you just see it? The moon; its silver, bright, and sprite, light? You are the sun I am the moon, you are the words I am the tune, play me. No longer the words of the bard, Mr. Grey, where are you? You think back and try to remedy the situation but your mind is no longer playing fair. You are there and you are not. You are upside-down. You are strapped, still sitting in the comfort of the expensive leather interior that molds to the contour of your body and is equipped with adjustable lumbar support. You woke up from a dream and it was gone.

It was not a dream. You are not in a dreamscape. You’re drifting. It is not a dream like the one you had last night when you were in your bed and dreamed your lover was not next to you.

Can you see it? Can you see the moon? Do you see it's silver light, bright and sprite, shifting right and left, keeping eye contact with you despite the road’s many twists and turns? Yes, yes, yes, there it is! shining from behind the silhouetted crooked branches and dangling leaves of giant trees.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day... what else? what else?
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main... And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.

TRUCKER- “I never saw him! I swear officer! His lights were out! His lights were out! Who in their freaking mind parks his car at night, in the middle of the road? Who? It’s not right officer, it’s not right, I tell you! I never saw him! Who the hell stops his car in the middle of the night to watch the woods fill up with snow?

TROOPER- “Crazy! I’ve seen it all! Yet, any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
© Oswaldo Jimenez November 2012
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