Spring Cleaning

Dear Diary:

It’s been a few weeks since I bought you and I haven’t even opened you once since that first day. I’m so ashamed. I’ve just been so busy I haven’t had a single moment to myself.

Where to begin…

Research is promising. We’re still in the very early stages, but I’m confident. More confident than I’ve ever felt about any of my academic work, actually. Considering I had a 4.0+ average my entire life and graduated valedictorian from every school I’ve attended, that’s really saying something.

Mason has been driving me to work. He is the Director of Security for the company’s Leiden office where we work. It’s very quaint, carpooling. I get to see more of him. Although, his whole reasoning behind driving was to free my brain up for thinking about this waveform theorem. It’s like I’m being pulled by two magnets. My career on one side, and my husband on the other.

But that’s not exactly right; in this case, my husband is actually standing on the other side. And I’m standing alone, fighting to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Why can’t I let go?

I need to get lost in this. And don’t think it hasn’t been going well sweet Diary. It’s been life-changing already. Still, some distant voice inside is suddenly urging me to savor every moment I have with Mason now, while I still can.

Something did occur to me today. If there is a way to generate a frequency that crosses an unknown spectrum—like the one our consciousness passes at the moment of death—we would have to isolate it. I have no idea how that’s going to work, but I’m chewing it little by little.

One more thing. I talked to Dr. Soliman about this today. If we can identify the frequency where sound interacts with another real dimension, we need it to be tethered. There’s nothing to gain from blasting vibrations into a void. It has to be testable; retrievable, somehow. That’s going to complicate things.

Mason and I have been doing some Spring cleaning today. I found a box full of old paintings I did during college. Then I did what I always do: spread them across the floor so I can see them all at once. No order to it, no method. Just pure, perfect chaos.

Mason hates it. It’s been a fun day.

I’ll try to write more often, Diary. Twice a month is just embarrassing. And you still need a name, I haven’t forgotten.

Til then, with love.

 

 

Amara

THAT

Not who. WHAT.

The creature before me is more shape than substance. It is humanoid in design alone; beyond that, it is not hyperbole to say this thing is not human, rather an amalgam of flesh and anachronism.

Its face is protensive, split endlong into five separate, distinct slices. Each slice is a poor simulacrum of the last; the faces protrude from the creature’s cranium, wriggling within hairy, wrinkled skin-pouches distinguishable by inattentive, jostling eyeballs. One eye per pale, translucent sac; this is the only symmetrical aspect of the formation.

The eyes roll freely about in their cystic pouches, careless. One or two of them notice me, the rest observe the soupy white tunnel surrounding us.

Everything about its skin is veined, pitted, pocked, and boiling. In stretches, its surface is blue, gray, brownish pink, maroon, and greenish white. Several parts of it look ready to burst.

It has many arms and legs, although it uses few for locomotion. Some of the limbs are equipped with singular, finger-like appendages gripping seemingly random objects: a bow, a shape resembling a giant bird’s beak, an apple, a chain, a seashell. The rest seem to be reaching, feeling, experimenting; occasionally one of the limbs bends back toward the body sickeningly, touching the head briefly then going completely limp, as if chastised.

One of the limbs—one of the few with anything resembling a hand—holds an egg. The egg is taller than I am, grey, and covered in hair and veins.

The creature has three mouths that do not move when it speaks. It speaks incessantly, at length, and apparently telepathically. It lurches slowly, deliberately toward me, commanding the space between us with vile jibberish. It accosts me in every imaginable language. I don’t hear this in the usual sense; instead, I understand—with my mind—that it is communicating with me.

“Disingenuous! Claw. Cloaca. Sialogogic. Cavitary, prolapsed fractally. Pungent. Du du du dubious! Prrom. Glangla, thrripthra qtwokkog, id est, edis rehto eht no retteb era sgniht epoh tsum ew?”

I

 

does it

 

 

want me to

speak?

 

 

 

“Hello?” The word dies on my lips.

The creature flails; all of it moves at once, as a crowd.

Limbs I hadn’t yet seen fray apart, themselves becoming limbs of limbs. Treelike, it seems to unfold. Parts of its torso web and split, poly joints unhinging to reveal smaller nesting ungulae.

 

The creature blinks

its whole self

at me.

 

It moves with alarming speed. It was there, and it is here. Before me. Upon me. Over me. Its shadow becomes my own. I am consumed by

 

 

f  e  a  r

 

 

“Smize?”

I open my eyes one at a time. The thing is inches away from my face, leaning over me. Its body sags toward my own.

Simultaneously trying not to scream or vomit I mouth, deafly: “What…where, am I?”

“I is crossing.”

 

Okay, I understood that…

 

“Crossing what?”

“Xxtulmmmnaaa!”

“Ah… oh. Uh….”

“Smize. Prree-toh.”

“OH-kay…”

I’m backing away. Warm mist rolls across my neck and shoulders. Wisps of the tunnel wall lick at my arms, back, and legs. My body revolts, electrified. I step sideways and fall onto the soft tunnel floor, which erupts in a cloud of flumes around me. Drunken, writhing ballerina tornadoes twist up from the floor and dance away.

“What do you want?” I say too loudly, as I try to shimmy away from the creature. “Don’t come any closer.”

All of this happens silently before me:

All five of the creature’s eyes alight on me, glisten, swell, then burst at once leaving five dark, wet holes. New eyes grow and fill the gaps. It begins to convulse violently. Its vesicles shake. Limbs retract into the torso. The more massive appendages absorb the smaller ones. A sphincter on its side loosens, puckers, opens. Bony arms reach around to place their treasures carefully inside the new hole. Faces push outward from beneath the skin around the creature’s neck. Tortured, gnawing mouths stretch forth, then retreat. The skin becomes chameleonic, awash with hues of red, purple, brown, pink, green, yellow, blue, and uncountable colors I cannot name, swirling as oil on water.

A moment later the creature completes its transformation. It is more humanoid than before; less treelike. It stands on two legs, naked and sagging and grotesque before me. The five new eyes seem to hang awkwardly from a head that is upside down, dangling from a neck that is too long, too bent. A sharp, pointed nose protrudes above each eye. Above the noses are five gaping, smiling mouths. I see teeth, black and gray and grinning.

The mouths move in unison: “Betra?”

I nod furiously.

“Nethgirf ot naem tndid.”

I blink. Once, twice, thrice, frice. It is still existing.

“What shmize I go by?”

Name. It wants to know my name.

“I am… ah…” fuzzy. I am something. What was I? Before I was here.

“Mmmahh,” the creature mocks my vocalization, pleasantly. All five of its mouths smile. A thin arrow juts out from a bleeding knot on its foremost arm, the end of which is curled into a blurry mess. It doesn’t seem to notice.

“Are I go toothy city?”

“City?”

“City.”

The creature stretches its cleanest arm, pointing at something behind me. My body refuses to let me turn to look.

“Sa. Betra.” Staring. Both of us. My skin goes cold. The fog seems to spread away from me. One of the five mouths curls in a snarl. The creature’s skin darkens. The eyes begin to widen slowly as it opens its mouths

I turn away

and in the distance, beyond the circular end of the tunnel, I see the long, dark outline of a massive structure plummeting toward me. Scramble to my feet. Knees shaking. My pants are wet. I’m suddenly aware of how tight this clothing is. Everywhere my skin feels suppressed, suffocated, swollen.

The hairs on my neck stand on end.

IT’S RIGHT BEHIND

I spin, bringing my hands up to stop it, but the creature is walking away. Quite far away, actually. The egg balances on a woven basket on its back, bumping up and down with each step it takes. I watch the egg grow tiny in the distance until the tunnel mist swallows it all together.

Then I breathe.

Turning, I see the creature. In front of me.

Walking

toward

me.

 

I scream. No sound comes out. The creature screams. Too much sound comes out. Mechanical agony. Distorted octaval ripping. Augmented tonal nightmares. It moves. Closes on me.

Stops.

Its scream tapers; its muscles weaken, relax. Its eyes twitch and loll and search the tunnel around us until they find me.

It blinks.

The creature speaks. This time, I feel the vibrations in my chest. Its voice is deep. Low as an oceanic titan.

“You must go into the city. She waits for you.”

“Who?”

The creature leans forward, throat bulging. A face emerges, pressing against the flesh of the neck. The skin crawls apart, revealing a new head with one huge eye hanging in an open socket. The creature’s outer head leans back to give the newcomer space to operate.

“You ask the wrong questions, Mah.”

“Uh…”

“Instead, consider this: you are nowhere. This is nothing. You are everything. This is always. Where you were is not. Where you go will be. Do you see?”

“Um…”

“Take the egg. It will get you where you need to go.”

“The… egg?”

The creature turns slowly, waddling side to side until the prominence on its back is revealed to me. It kneels and shrugs the woven satchel from its shoulder. The egg lands on the mist, which seems to cushion the fall.

“How is this going to help guide me?”

No reply.

“How do I carry it? It’s too big.”

No reply.

The creature stands and revolves until it faces me once again.

“When you reach the gates of the city, you must remember not to speak. We have been destroyed by your sound once yet. You will do worse to the dwellers there.”

“What will happen… if I… if I speak?”

“If you are caught, you will be Separated.”

“S-s-separated?”

“Yes.”

“What… I don’t…”

“Take the egg to the city. She waits there for you. You will understand soon enough.”

The creature shuffles toward the end of the tunnel whence I began. At last, it disappears behind the fog. I search the mist with my eyes but do not find it.

I am alone. With the egg.

Turning, I see the dark shapes of the city taking form. The tunnel appears to have slowed and shrunk. Buildings creep past either edge of my vision. I feel the speed of my vessel as we descend closer to the ground.

When the tunnel comes to a stop, the fog unrolls, forming a lake around me. Taking the woven satchel by the handle, I swing the bag up on one shoulder, stumbling to keep the egg in balance. It is not nearly as heavy as it looked. It is cumbersome, though. The size makes it awkward.

With one hand gripping the woven strap over my shoulder, I take my first step on solid ground. The city is dark and cold before me. I see it stretching up beyond an expanse of grey clouds, as domineering as the mountain to the lone tree.

The sky is void of stars.

Darkness forms new constellations for me.

And the egg leads me into the heart of the mountain.

Dear Diary:

(3 years earlier)

I feel like a little girl again, writing those words, but it feels good!

We’ve never met before, but my name is Amara. I guess I’ll have to think of a name for you. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to come up with one on the car ride home. Writing in the car makes my stomach wobbly. For now, I’ll just call you Diary, but only until I come up with something perfect. Promise.

My dad used to say, “A sturdy journal is the best friend you could ever hope for.”

I didn’t believe him (though it didn’t stop him from repeating himself).

I was fourteen when he bought me my very first diary. She was about your size, but a different color on the front. Her cover was red, and she had matching red trim around the borders of every page. When you flipped the pages fast enough, the edges turned pink! I thought it was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. But I guess it’s not hard to impress a fourteen-year-old. I used to love the way that book smelled. Every time I took it out of my armoire, I would hold it up to my nose, fan the pages back and forth, and breathe deep. It always made me smile. Even when I had a bad day; even when I just wanted to curl up on my bed and cry salty tears on its pages, that smell always brought me a moment of happiness.

I wonder whatever happened to that old diary.

But anyway, enough about the old. Today is a day for new.

Diary, I have big news. I had a breakthrough yesterday. I’m a little nervous to talk about it, since I haven’t started the work yet and it doesn’t even seem real yet, but it’s happening. I only started working at Praxem three months ago, and I’ve already had an epiphany that could change everything. Mason couldn’t be happier for me.

Oh, I just realized, you don’t even know who Mason is yet, how rude of me!

Mason is my husband. We’ve been married three years. We lived in Ohio since we met, which was a little over six years ago. We had a small apartment there, but our house here in California is bigger. Praxem has been good to us. I guess they wanted me bad enough, they agreed to all my stipulations. My dad used to tell me I’d make a great attorney.

But you want to know a secret?

You can’t tell anyone. Not even Mason.

When I was a little girl, I didn’t want to be a lawyer or a mathematician or a doctor. What I really loved was flowers, and nature, and poetry. Oh, I loved writing poems in the field near my childhood home. We lived on a hillside surrounded by meadows and a big creek. The fields that turned purple in the Spring from all the prairie clover.

I used to sit barefooted in the field at the highest point on the hill and draw sketches of the flowers. I would talk to them and sing to them and read poems…

I just realized… that makes me sound crazy! Don’t get the wrong idea, Diary. The flowers didn’t talk back. I just never felt happier than when I was surrounded by all that purple life. The color, the smell, everything about it was just incredible. That place held unparalleled beauty.

When I got older, and my mom got sick, we moved out of that house and into the city. Dad wanted to be closer to the doctors and nurses who were taking care of her. That was a hard time. I stopped writing poems and singing songs; I started studying biology and mathematics to help my father try to learn what was making mom so sick.

Come to think of it, I guess I never went back to see my flowers after… well, after everything that happened. I haven’t thought about this stuff in years.

Diary, I can already tell we are going to be good, close friends.

But back to my news. Yesterday, I had a moment of realization that could change my life forever. We’ve been looking for answers in all the wrong places. I guess I should tell you about my job. God, it’s all so exciting. I can’t even keep my head straight!

Okay, so my job is Lead Researcher of Cessation Studies, Biology Department at Praxem Industries. Praxem maintains many global research initiatives, but here at the Leiden Facility in California, our studies focus on dying; more specifically, the moments leading up to death, and the moments just after.

It sounds very dark and gloomy, I know. But I promise it’s all very fascinating!

Dr. Soliman says my breakthrough yesterday could be the key to unlocking the secrets of human death and the afterlife! Can you believe that? And to think, it all happened because Mason and I took a drive up the coast, to the beach.

I remember seeing the flowers along the roadside swaying in the breeze. It was so windy out, we couldn’t walk very long, but something about the way the flowers moved made me realize, we’ve been measuring the wrong variables. Up until now, we’ve only looked at synaptic cessation, trying to draw correlations with temperature (heat) transfer, but now I know we’ve been looking at it all wrong. I just know it! I won’t go into the technical stuff, but I’ll give you a hint (this is top secret!): my breakthrough has to do with sound, not heat. Isn’t that crazy? Sound!

I’m sure none of this makes sense at all. But don’t worry Diary. I’m going to tell you all about it in the days and weeks to come. That’s why I went out and bought a new journal. I wanted to document this time very carefully, for posterity. If this really does lead to a significant discovery, it could change the way we think about human life altogether!

Isn’t that exciting?

Well, that’s all the time I have for today. I’ll write some more tomorrow evening before bed when I know more about the parameters of this new study. Maybe I’ll even come up with a name for you in the meantime.

Til then, with love.

 

Amara