Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth connection

In honor of Earth Day, here's a short selection that says something about our cellular memories of a closer connection to the body of our Mother. This is an excerpt from my story "A Partial Catalog of Harold's Major and Minor Epiphanies," originally published in Chronogram magazine. Its protagonist is a recurring character in the linked stories of my collection, The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility.


Harold sits in his cubicle, typing. He is documenting the functionality of Release 2.3.1 of the Transaction Log Utility. A month ago, when he was still Manager of Training and Documentation, his afternoon would have felt infinitely more vital.

The soft gray walls muffle the keystrokes of the programmers and analysts in their cubicles on all sides of him. There is a low susurrus under everything, the processed air circulating endlessly. The windows on the far wall cannot be opened.

Harold’s eyes are locked on the screen as black letters string out against white, under blue and gray bars. Earlier, they grouped sensibly into words and sentences, but now the digital characters have regressed into absurd hieroglyphics as his fingers continue to click in random repetitions of featureless sound on the beige keys. The string of senseless symbols just keeps on rolling out, rolling out. His eyes glaze. His fingers slow. His head nods.

His eyes pop open, his fingers pick up again, another string of gibberish, then a fading, a letting go.…

Stars trail in slow motion across a vast night sky. Giant gargoyle silhouettes of gnarled stone wheel across the diamond field of stars. An owl hoots nearby, invisible. Coyotes yip on a distant ridge, the cries of aliens heralding the crescent moon just creeping over the ragged horizon. Sand grits against his skin, the flesh of his cheek. He lies on the ground, sweating, heart pounding like a fist. He knows that he has just been dancing, bare feet in the dirt, whirling madly to a savage drum, naked and shouting under the glittering stars, until, exhausted, he has fallen to the earth.

Harold snaps open his eyes. His fingers twitch. On the screen in front of him, centered in the monochrome field of lines and squiggles, is a gray rectangle containing words that slowly, dimly enter his conscious understanding.

Error. No help is available here.

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