I can no longer hear. The whispering autumn leaves.
Everything touches me. Nothing. Touches.
Here we are then. He said to no one. In particular. There was no one there. The last fireflies had taken their bow. His words did not echo the emptiness. Flat. Hermetic. As in both the sealed kind. And solitary. He spoke again.
Not too loud. Nor whispering the mood of the empty space. Matter of fact. Looking up at the sky. Or in the general direction of where the sky had last been. Sort of stage right and up. Like a slanted view. A sloping sky. Descending on to the tip of a horizon. Painted silver grey. Stylised. No real reason. Just a design whimsy.
It did look interesting though. Like a stairway. Or to be exact a kind of slide. An upside down slide. Upwards. Only you slid backwards each time. Or so one would have imagined. But I linger. The soundscape for all it is worth was insidious. At least that was the brief. The air had to be subtle and in conspiracy with the surreptitious. Artful if you were on its side. Plain cunning sly and wily if you weren’t anything but honest. Necessary for the scene.
Stealth was called for. But without a visibly recognisable instrument. Like a body on steroids where you felt the tremor. All over. Including in your voice but the mind was alert and sharp and hyper. Active. Activity that pulsated. The atmosphere alive. But not with sound. Intended sound. Yes. Not the easily audible kind. So yes. Underhand. The space had to be blasted with desolation. White. Bright. Light. In your face. And cold.
Winter. The season of our ageing. Everlasting henceforth. And full of promise. Contradictory you say. An ageing winter full of a future you mock. A spring. Another one. Your greed. Your fingers and wrists bruised with the grazing of the rope. Your hold on life. Fast slipping away. And you want promises. So settle for winter. Make it harsh. I will grant you that. But winter it is. And a smoking one. Mists. Fogs. Fires. Eye burning and skin dampening. Frosty. Its lonely swirls orchestrate the air around us. Choreographed to suggest a vast and monumental barrenness.
Here we are then. He said. Precise. And particular. There never had. Been anyone. There. Only the lingering glow of receding fireflies. Sensing the light cue. The blasting. The desolation. Had scurried away. Hastily. All that remained were his words. Mere echoes in the emptiness.
A reluctant Lear? Perhaps. But a brilliant one. And at a time in his vast and varied acting career to succumb gracefully to temptation and say “yes” to this tragedy so close to any actor’s heart.
Before time was born. That is to say before the birth of time when everything was unhurried. When the cold wind blew snowflakes over the landscape and the hot air danced with the rain to signal the changing of seasons. And light. And shade. Playing ebb and flow. A sea of shadows. Advancing only to retreat. Orphaned foam on the seashore. Unable to find its way home. Abandoned by the philandering of the oceans.
Time in those days had not learnt to stand still. Remember there was no measure for what we later came to recognise as time passing. Neither did we know what it felt like to have the sands running out. Or sense the heat rising from the dust tracks as scores of tumbleweed parched and relentless tumbled in vain seeking shade. Age like time was unmeasured.
Slow growing cancer. The shadow at noon attempting to climb into your body was a thing of the future. Who was to know that it would soon outgrow its childhood and become long and able-bodied as it stretched slanting before you. Like train-tracks. The horizon as mirage. Leave home. Walk away. As children are wont to do when they come of age.
The smoothness of the back of your hand had long ceased to disguise the ravines formed by the veins as the pain in your knuckles slowly refused to leave. Unwanted guests abusing your hospitality. Overstaying their welcome. Growing old had nothing to do with the number of years. Nor were the creases on your face a sign of approaching oblivion.
Death just happened.
The wilderness I speak of is empty. The kind you do not wish to simply ‘go for a walk’ in. No you don’t. Not in this empty wild countryside. Desolate is the first word that springs up amongst the thorny bush. Followed closely by lonely. The first thing you notice is that the landscape is devoid of green. No trees. The bushes are burnt to dark brown. Rocks. Grey craggy monoliths that look down upon you with their slate eyes. Blank slabs of stone.
There is wind. Strong. Cold. The kind that burns the skin before freezing it.
The wind makes no sound. It is very lonely too.
The scene is shattered by a flash of light. Not quite lightning. And definitely without thunder. Just the silence that suggests the ominous. Then another. And another. Each time singeing the earth.
I think: how dense is the silence.
You could slice it with the edge of your whisper.
Then I hear it. First like a low rumble. Not continuous like a drone. No. More like an irregularly paced chant.
Language. Text that sounds familiar.
Lips made bloodied by the wind trying to make sense of a life that is no longer worth living.
Lying against a slab stone the figure of Lear.
Naked in the cold.
Blind. Eyelids in motion.
Riveted. By his own nightmare.
Standing before the aged oak looking down at me its branches inside my head entangled in light from the sun and the moon depending on the time of day or night you chance upon it provided always that you are able to enter the inside of my head where the tree I speak of resides enmeshed in the light I spoke about from the sun and the moon depending on the time of day and so on and then of course there are the leaves that learn to play the flute suitably attired in restless shadows that are unable to settle down or be still or quiet because of the wind that whistles even as it doubles up as both musician and teacher and raises a storm that keeps everything it touches in a state of agitation in motion in anxiety quite like attempting to walk on the deck of a ship at sea when the sea itself is out of control and desperately stretching towards the horizon in a dance in praise of the morning causing the waters to swell and the ship to constantly lurch and sway making it impossible to stand still or walk without holding on to the railings and that is what I am trying to do as I set out for a walk amongst the forests in my head as I had begun to do when I talked about the light that had got itself tangled in the branches of the tree in my head like a conversation that began with the sun and ended with the moon though I cannot for the life of me recall which one of the two began it and why but I do sense the gravity of the situation after all it is not the kind of thing you take lightly even though the words that had lost their way amongst the trees in the forest and had to seek the help of the branches holding on to dear life while making their way in the storm the sea had unleashed having found itself rejected by the sun that had failed to rise and had in its stead sent clouds filled with rage to vent their ire though why this would be so inside my head which used to be a place of calm is hard to understand as it is to find one’s way out of the forest which seems to be unending and vast and full of shadows that have begun to replace the light that had entwined itself around the branches of the trees inside my head making it difficult for me to find my way in the dark as easily as I used to hundreds of years ago when the oak had neither grown sturdy nor dense and its branches had barely begun to soak in the light from the sun and the moon and the wind had yet to acquire the skills needed to play the flute it would later go on to teach the leaves for it was after all a time when the dark was simply a place that comforted one to sleep.
At the end of a day twice the length of an ordinary lifetime
a sleep so full of itself
could awaken him.