Prologue to a story in progress.

{this story began circa 2005-6, perhaps. finished just the other day (July 2009)}


Two men met in the hallway of their work and shook hands. Speaking to each other in slow cigarette-burned morning voices, they exchanged pleasantries.

“Pleasure to meet you. Name’s Jim.”
“Howdy…George. George Welles.”
“Taverner. Jim Taverner. It’s good to meet you.”
“Good to meet you.”
This is the interior of Silver. It is configured out of steel and blue, illuminated by white light. The place was designed in such a way that you would forget where you were particularly upon entering; it’s a queasy big breath of lightheadedness that smacked on one’s brain such that you felt as though this were your grandma’s basement when you were seven years old just as easily as it was the office where you work now that you are forty-two. It is damp, thick and gray outside for it is the end of summer and thunderstorms are prominent in this part of the South.
We are in Atlanta, Georgia. Traversing the virtually infinite hallway that separated the West and East wings of the building, George and Jim proceeded silently side-by-side.
“What do you think we’re doing today, George?”
“Watching a training film.”
“Alright, then.”
Jim was a little older but was built like a skinny young runner, which he was about three decades ago. He kept his light brown hair slicked-back and his cookie-duster mustache coifed and bushy. His face wore every one of his forty-seven years in a groove on his skin. George’s burly torso and thin, dark pate combined with his sloping shoulders got him the name Bull since he was in high school. They proceeded to the stone-walled archive in the basement. Jim and George were independent contractors finishing eighteen-months-long stints at Silver which required their particular expertise in the interpretation of topographic maps. Their analysis kept them focused on one particular strata, rock and dirt forging sub-harmonic coalescence whose contours can only be signified by their complements in adjacent strata which information they are forbidden to avail themselves of. As is planned for no one in their project division is made privy to integrations of the elements. It was not at all necessary that they know and probably merciful that they did not. That is why everyone at Silver has an awareness of their subdivision like they were seeing one inch ahead of their nose. How could anyone keep a life as life is known if made aware of Silver’s doings? There’s no answer to give. It’s not a possibility.
“You seen the message then?”
“That’s right. You come from the farther end.”
“Well, today I do. I ain’t never been in these corridors before now.”
“Me neither. I haven’t seen the film.”
“I haven’t seen it either. I have no idea.”
“It’s a silent film. It’s not pre-sound but it’s likely that it will be…silent.”
“That right?”
There were 154 bookcases, each 25 shelves high, for every row of which there were 14 total in the archive. Along the length of each shelf sat a good dozen boxes. They picked one of these and opened it.
“The filing catalog is 47G-1E9-I25O. That’s strata 47 sub G, family 1 paired E group 9 and cell I body 25 route O.” He opens the box, removes the tan leather case within and presents a reel of film. He stares at it as though he will trance it out of existence. “This must be it.”
“I’m not familiar with that at all. We confine our research to strata 13-16.”
“So this is technically against your protocol?”
“Yes, but this overlap is completely sanctioned. You know this strata but you ain’t never been down here, is that so?”
“If the notes hadn’t been so specific…I wouldn’t have known where to look. I thought this was an old storage floor. But if this is active data everything on this floor far exceeds our clearance. We shouldn’t be allowed down here.”
“If I’m not mistaken there was a coffee machine at that last corner.”
“I think I need some.”
“Alright now, that is a plan.”
He returned with two steaming cups of coffee and set them down in the main conference room at the foot of a four-foot tall tripod hoisting a great film projector with two great spools atop one end of the massive pill-shaped conference desk (which seats each of eighty-three men and women as comfortably as a handicapped restroom stall) that dominated the only available space in the archive that did not stock media.
They sat and drank nervous, large gulps of rich brown coffee. For some reason, that machine churned out the best coffee around – prepared with hefty amounts of roasted beans and just enough clean, pure water to thin the sludge. Sitting on either side of the projector, swallowing warm doses of caffeine, cream and sugar they felt the sheets of a heavy calming descend from the humming chassis that loomed above.
The projector was a huge gray steel assembly of antiquated mechanism, fourteen feet tall, over a quarter-century old and utterly pristine and functional as though it had emerged from a long suspension. Jim loaded the reel onto the spools and George flicked the great silver switch to start the projector, twisting the fine focus knobs until the shadows emerged sharp. Heavy machinery whirring behind images of clouds descended upon a verdant field punctuated by high slopes of the sort that one rolls down as a child. They were like great green dunes surrounded by a perimeter of thick forest and beyond that only a grey-white sky punctuated by the bright spots where sun emerged.
Almost immediately, the great white frame came into relief as did the two hammock swing structures that held end to end from the opposing horizontal bars that ran the width of this 4-story-tall structure. The two hammock swings were made of thick white rope and each held a man laying flat suited in the garb of a ninja with his face concealed, arm extended at an angle holding a sword at the ready pointed at the other – essentially these looked like great fish nets each holding a man inside. The two men at the zero position of their respective pendulum lay fifteen to twenty feet apart from one another, both focusing on the sky with a kind of serene awareness. And though their blades were drawn they held in abeyance – the way a dancer holds for her partner in a moment. Yet this moment has been magnified from a tumbling sand grain to the stride of a great continental landmass as through an electron microscope of the gods fueled by the clap of one thousand bursting stars. A wind blows and the hammocks sway but the men do not move. And so the two men waited, intent as poised triggers – just utterly still as some interminable interval passed.
This stillness generated a tension that amassed as a giant blue sphere between them which was visible only in the mind’s eye of an implied monk that hovered over the proceedings, detecting the flurry of activity that the still air hid. It is a kind of awakened mind director’s cut that he watches with his eyes closed.
The two brothers pictured here are powerful opposites, each the ambassador of a subtle dimension residing far below movement or breath. That they will battle one another is inevitable – they are simply the most recent representatives of a line of warriors that meets here…
These two dormant energies exist in opposition to one another, each seemingly tranquil in the face of its reflection. Both recognize themselves as necessarily generated aspects of a trans-dimensional moon – a locus of mutual energies breathed in by one and breathed out by the other. And the two brothers assembled here – harnessed in their swings and armed all through – are the North and South fronts of an indivisible atomic locus; balancing aspects whose emergent is a crystalline city that exists in the mind of anyone quiet enough to see it there when both brothers are present.
And so they begin to fight, legs dangling down from the net to get a running start along the dead grass like two brothers rising up to meet each other on opposing swing sets in the playground but who now have a much different notion of what’s to be done once at the apex and they meet instead in a gleaming silver flurry of blade spars.
Only a momentum just beyond what is easily generated is required in order to reach the physical proximity necessary for contact. Each strike unfolds a condensation of movements, angles of the blade reconfigure rapidly leaving a slime trail of previous motions, subverting the strictures of time to manifest four-dimensional shapes, geometric impossibilities whose structures will remain as imprints on the mind suspended in memory as the true extant artifacts of what took place here on this day.
Thus the one named Arashi-kage pitched the heft of his sword far back over his head to strike with the broad face of the blade but met air and a shave of cloth off the sleeve of his brother, Hebi-mei. Swiping from the side, Hebi-mei aimed at the kneecaps though Arashi-kage managed to remain several steps ahead jumping atop the face of the blade, kicking up the edge off which he leapt to snappily execute a standing three-hundred and sixty degree flip whose return momentum would send his blade into Hebi-mei’s belly. Hebi-mei, however had an imaginative speed only compromised by his relative lack of strength – he clasped the sword on either side between his palms. Rather than attempt to halt him, he took Arashi-kage’s momentum and swung backward toward the swing set, grasped the railing in two spots before every other one of his limbs grasped on and held, reabsorbing his diffuse energies, engaging his breath and heartbeat until they returned to the calm point where his faculties were under his control again.
Here there was a pause in the visible kinetics, followed by a wide light that broke across the clouds just resting on the horizon. The light was a panoramic sliver of amber and the sky looked to be on fire behind the blue cotton candy puffs that hid it. And yet above this, the sky revealed by degrees toward the horizon where before an eternal span of cloud now began to break into chunks and then wisps and this grand expanse of newborn baby’s eyes couldn’t possibly share the space with this row of fire but it did. And for some reason that row of sun that was ready to recede behind the lowest line of trees that an eye could see from the spot where the two brothers prepare their next strike (though Arashi-kage is bleeding really bad right now), that row of sun took too much of the scene from the boundless sky above, for what the eyes see is not what is there but only the shape of the eye as lit from without. The admixture of whatever carries light to the eye with whatever does not creates the photograph and when you wake from each successive daydream you animate movements from stillness and lighten shadows where before there was an unacknowledged blackness. Your mothers and fathers walk with you as ghosts even in sleep. There is a single photograph that develops in the mind and reveals itself through the return of memory; so in this way does the construction of reality reach completion through a slow comprehension. And if you were to breach the perimeter of this photograph, there is not a single thing in this world that can keep you from knowing the inner workings of Silver: why it’s there, how it’s run and—the matter of paramount importance—where to find the keys. And that is a fact, yet that has nothing to do with anything.
And it is getting so late right about now, shafts of light are fading. Arashi-kage is turning paler from all the blood he’s losing and there is a very thin interval of his consciousness that assesses the situation before him to determine that he can win this battle within three more strikes – a cut behind the knee, a cut in the crook of the arm and from that point along the arm toward the wrist. And it’s over. He is not far off the mark but while that is entirely possible in the realm of his skill, he can’t really appreciate the fact that he’s dying.
Hebi-mei can see Arashi-kage taking heaving breaths across the way and as well he can see the way the moon lights up the admixture of blood and rainwater collecting in a pool atop the tall blades of green grass directly below his net. It is difficult for him to understand why his innards shudder like he’s free-falling from thirty stories up in a gondola whose cables have just been cut, at that sudden point of recognition that something can be done if it was at all possible but those options are on another moon and this space we find our two brave warriors in is light years away from our limited conception of the celestial scope.
Space is bent from other angles. On a large evergreen overlooking the horrifying scene before us, three birds sit perched watching two clumped spider webs with prey inside swaying away and toward one another. These two brothers’ battle to the death does nothing to interrupt this silent evening. On a branch just ten yards above, removed from sight, they are causing about as much commotion as photosynthesis. The three birds twitter to one another, poking beaks beneath wings and wiggling their skulls as a breeze floods the tree, every branch swaying delicately as anchored to the earth by extension from the trunk. Twigs snap and fall to the ground when they age and petrify, their ability to handle the changes suddenly just.
Falling to their deaths, men compose whole tomes, complete in form, thorough in arc, surgical in execution, some having never committed a word to paper. To what higher clime do these evaporated thoughts arise? Two brothers lay bleeding on the grass, the warm night air perfuming crimson hues on dry flaxen blades.
Their coffee cups were long since empty with moist grinds collected at the base. The two men turned to look at each other directly in the eyes for the first time since they met this morning.
“Was this his dream?”
George removed his glasses.
“How did you know that?”
“How did you know that?”
“Are you playing games with me? Did the advisors give you an upper hand on this?”
“Of course not. I could ask you the same thing, y’know.”
“We would never know, of course. And what good would it do to know anyway? That tells us nothing.”
“We could sit here speculating about the content of the alien strata until we up and die.”
“You said it, my friend.”
“So what now, then?”
The two men stood and extended their hands to shake and moved in to hug as well. George spoke to Jim.
“Dreams reveal nothing but themselves.”
“All brotherhoods are eternal and entire despite manifestation.”
“Manifestation is a by-product. A symptom. Not an illusion but not reality either.”
“Unity is eternal.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you.”
They left Silver, entered their respective luxury American cars, and drove into the warm night. Clouds loomed overhead and fireflies speckled orange and amber on the deep green fields. Thick air mingled with exhaust rose up to the sky like a vapor soon to be drowned by the falling rain.