Open Boxes – Part Four
We spent the first day that we were together in that cracked and tossed dome. An upside down world suitable for four beings with shaken existences. With the various hole and leaks sealed it was like a terrarium that had been mistaken for a snow globe. We didn’t talk much – what was there to say? The world we’d been born into so recently was already half destroyed – our lives were to be limited by the span of this frail, inverted prison. Having never been born before I didn’t know what I should, or should not know. All I remembered was the darkness, screaming and then being trapped in my box. Hardly an auspicious beginning. Lights flickered on and off, illuminating the room from below, and through the wreckage. Odd consoles and dials flashed above us, signalling some failure or other. We retreated, and huddled into the space we’d made with our boxes, their umbilicals hanging from above, except for our first’s which remained severed.
Without thinking or planning, we reached out instinctively for each other. Hand in hand we waited for something – anything to happen. We needed a sign for what was expected of us, what we were expected to do – who we were expected to be. We sank into a resting quiet, on the verge of falling back into that deathless silent blackness which had preceded our sudden emergence. Dim phrases and dreams haunted me in that semi-sleep. A sense of purpose, drilled in, sealed and salted away, waiting for a day like this. The sight of arches and a scattered spray of stars, overlaid with the reflection of dials and gears. A vast white door swinging closed on huge hinges; a wheel in its heart spinning till it locked with a clang so loud that it thrust me out of sleep and gasping, back into wakefulness.
We woke each other, or all woke together, a reflexive clenching pulling at each other’s arms. We snapped to like a cluster of dandelions ruffled by a breeze.
“What’s a dandelion?”
“Their seeds are flung out and carried on the wind.”
“Children blow on them.”
We slumped back, and into memories that might be ours. A wall so high the crenellations scored the edge of the sun; the frothing roil at the base of a waterfall; a ladybird hunting for aphids on the leaf of a rosebush. A cube, spinning and expanding into a wireframe diagram, focus drawn along its edges in a rush of acceleration and chest-crushing changes of direction.
“We are so very far from home.”
“This is our home.”
“We have never had another.”
“We were never meant to have this one.”
Grass thrusting up out of dismal grey earth, the strobe of day and night as it twists and punches out of itself into the air. Smoke, in a vortex, whirling and billowing over a torus held immobile as the strands of smoke weave past it. An ancient rock, standing alone in a field of bright red poppies; it shakes, falls in scarcely perceptible degrees, gently crushing the flowers and passing through the ground, rotating on its base until it rises once more, stained with petals.
The Moon, grey and imperfect, and beyond an incomprehensible emptiness; faint, old lights hinting at an unreachable past. The Moon cracks, splits opening between craters in a cascade of shapes. From the spreading cloud unfurls a figure, two arms and legs, painfully attenuated, hands and feet mere slivers of white, thousands of miles long. It arches itself, the Moon’s detritus fallen out behind it like a cloak of dust. It reaches for the glowing blue and green sphere suddenly revealed – its impossibly long fingers rake against the planet, tearing through the green and blue, spilling it into space.
We wake, and do not go back to sleep.
After a time it feels like we have slept, that it is time for there to be light and motion again. We tug our hands free of each other, regretfully, apologetically. We share a need to free ourselves of our shared dreams, whatever it is we have seen inside ourselves. As if agreeing with our timing, the lighting that comes from one side of the dome suddenly brightens, twitches briefly and comes on properly.