I opened my eyes and I saw a cloaked man behind a desk. It was odd because I was not in a room. The ceiling and floor were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the walls were made of ether. I do not know. Their uninviting chillness was dripping downward in a monochromatic smoky stream of cloud-like mist.
The desk was old and massive – mahogany perhaps, but so beaten and worn that it was hard to identify. Long scratches and chinks covered the dullish-brown surface, and it’s texture seemed so rough, I imagined the man must have had splinters all up his arms, considering how aggressively he was writing.
He wore gloves and was furiously scratching into an old ledger. The ledger seemed to be leather bound, and the pages of an almost rotting parchment-type material. A small pile of loose pages sat next to the ledger. The pen must have been a bone at one point – perhaps a rib. I tried to identify what creature it must have come from, but decided it might be better not to know. The ink was a brilliant red. The incredible radiance of the red was the brightest thing in this room-like space. He periodically drew it into the bone from a large wooden bowl next to the ledger that served as his well, before returning to the ledger – dripping crimson, and spattering the rough desk in the process.
He suddenly must have become aware of my presence, for he stopped writing, and looked up at me. The man’s face was hidden in a cavernous cowl, but I could certainly see his eyes. A luminescent cobalt that radiated from what must have been his sockets locked upon me.
MAN: “I see you’ve come back.” His voice was ethereal. Somehow hollow, yet resonant. Cold and very deliberate.
ME: “Who are you?”
MAN: “Must we do this every time?”
ME: “What am I doing here?”
MAN: “You tell me. You’re the one who keeps coming back.”
ME: “I don’t understand.”
He resumed scratching in the ledger. I stood watching him for a moment. With out looking back up, he spoke.
MAN: “Come here.”
I walked toward the desk. He suddenly dropped the pen, and swiftly tore a page from the ledger.
MAN: “Take it.”
I cautiously accepted the page. It felt like it might have been skin at one point, and upon the page were markings deep, and bright. Some kind of rhythmic language I did not recognize.
ME: “What is this? I cannot read it.”
MAN: “Do not be absurd. You are the one who wrote it.”
I cannot explain how, but as I looked down again at the page and saw my hands, I noticed I was wearing gloves. I noticed the surface of the desk below the page. I noticed the red-stained bone next to the bowl. I noticed my arms were covered in splinters, and I noticed I was cloaked. I looked up and around this room-like space and found myself alone – sitting at the desk. I looked at the page. I studied the words. I was moved by the poetry upon it. It conjured such images in my mind and soul that I wept for it’s beauty and smiled for it’s picturesque structure – but as I came to the end of the page, I found no conclusion to the verse. The man had left it incomplete as he passed the page to me. I set the page upon the pile, and picked up the pen. I closed the lids to my eyes, and began to feel an intense heat in my mind – a burning in the eye of imagination – a fire in the restless spirit. I opened my eyes, and looked at the ledger. I dipped the bone in the bowl and bent over the desk and began to write.
I scratched at that ledger for what seemed like months. I never broke or stopped, for the muse was moving me, and from that bone and blood, for I ascertained the ink was indeed the blood of time, came the most moving moments of memory – memories that were not even mine. And the inspired rhythmic tones of life and death and joy and pain, and all in between, were artfully crafted across the spectrums of these pages – of which there seemed to be an infinite number.
Suddenly, I was not alone. The intense feeling of another presence washed over the room. I looked up for the first time in what must have been years, and saw a man gazing at me in confusion.
ME: “I see you’ve come back.”