Bring On the Great Beyond

What is within you is stronger than what consumes you.

If my mind was a vessel, suppose it had a little hatch like a secret passageway within a hobbit house. A quaint thing the shade of springtime grass, a cheery sprout, just a series of verdant planks that creaked open like a whispering grandmother into a gnarled garden. Upon stepping inside, your feet crunching on shattered stained glass, you were met with an implosion of gala-worthy jewels. You saw scrumptious rubies and dazzling diamonds whose sumptuous geometry winked with echoing blue. You saw rivers of pure white rushing down rocks of black, a stunning juxtaposition so beautifully jarring it could knock you out. Crystalline aquamarine carving smiles out of granite, epiphanic evanescence sprinkling down moss-lined stairways, platinum ringlets of electric ivy winding into the mist-perfumed lobbies of heaven; you saw blushing petals and powerful stalks, where a world of romance and darkness collided like velvet into tar.

With a sudden blow of thunder, the kamikaze careened into a sopping organ of red and black, a two-toned universe of opposites–an arena so feral even gladiators don’t dare tame it, doctors don’t dare nurse it, healers who convulse with spirit flee at its infernal beauty, a place where warring wildernesses grow to monstrous size and sweep the land in mystery… a world where ferns of fear eat hope whole. Where mushrooms grow with such venomous vigor on the mineral rain, they’re waterlogged mutants, their leathery grow-in-the-dark skin a pulsating alien nightlight. Where sandpaper leaves droop off glass trees, coated in a colorful dust–then spray out into a floral fan, glittering with a peacocky aerosol of candy-crowned chlorophyll so sweet and addictive animals disdain its gourmet delights.

This is a place where caves are more than doorways to the womb of the Earth, but portals to dimensions that make even gravity bow to their vacuum-sealed silence. Where jet-black jaguars wander through memory-drenched daisies and crying chrysanthemums and bathe in oases full of nothing but the blood-curdling truth; where gossip feeds gargantuan evergreens clothed in mint-green scales, their pinecones reptilian orbs. Where saber-toothed tigers with machete-sharp fangs curl beneath weeping willow trees and whine for the moon to let loose its dreamy dictatorship over the land, to cease its casting of somnolence across the country; where decrees are sent out to every doorpost in the universe, demanding the moon slurp up the silver milk it’s spilled. 

To mourn the woolly mammoths, dream of Doritos, overthink itself into a psychic simoom–to do whatever a mind does when the mind is free to be itself, that is the dream. 

But one day, the hatch unlatched–the vessel was breached from the underbelly to the peak, from the thickest depths of gravity to the euphoria of the exosphere, and for a split second, it was quiet. I hung in aerial silence, hovered beneath the shade of the unspoken. I came to terms with it, a hole in my head, a glitch in my system, an additional leviathan to patrol the watery caves of my subconscious and haunt my morning swims. And from my place in the center of the sea, surrounded by nothing but the spit of salt, the slap of water, and the singeing of the sun, I could see on the sun-speckled coasts of my white sand beach the aquamarine keepers of the cosmos, the stars in their royal armor, wrenched out of place. The stars were standing, ripe in the corners of the atmospheric castle like sterling oranges drooping from a molten tree, melting into a glassy heap of liquid ivory. The sky looked like a sheet of blue birthday cake liquefying into a milky morass, a falling monarch of sugar-soaked satin giving way to a black hole.

Appearing suddenly from the depths of the forest, a looming behemoth stood on the shore, baring its blackened fangs and growling with threat. The ground shook, a ferocious beating of tectonic plates pounding one another into a fiery fanfare, spewing out fractals of volcanic voltage. The beast stood, digging its claws into the dirt and making earthen daggers out of digits. And I was trapped. My mind surrounded me, and I swam through its ocean like a bug in a bowl of syrup. The guise of sky gutted, the surface of the earth splitting like sackcloth at the seam, the ocean cried luminescent steam. Pouring a storm of jet-black ocean spray, the pot of ink and parchment were licked by the feather-tipped fingers of lightning, scrawled into scorched cuneiform, and slammed together between leaden panels of solemn fate. It was decided: the rain would pour.

The army of jagged clouds tugged at each other’s gnarled ends with barbarian torque, tussling themselves into a tangle of wires that flashed like a writhing mass of brilliant axons and dendrites. With each electric throb, it withered and swelled, pumped and deflated, threatening to release the egg of black rain incubating at the basin of the moon. The metal in me had eaten enough; my waterlogged lungs heaved like balloons in my ribs, every cell of me a cistern for the satiny downpour. But I began to choke on the frothy medicine sold by the pharmacies of the marine world, the abyssal jets, the saltwater elixirs so delicious to overdose, and the rain began to swallow the beach and break down the levy and drown the billowing pink beds of roses, whisking my gems away to sterile museums and flushing my bright blue memories into the dusky onyx sea.

Whole beings burst like grapes between the thumbs of a giant, tiny explosions that sounded like rubber boots landing in a mud puddle–beings I could not be and places I could not go. A festival of burst berries, a party of punctured sacs, the terradomes of other times concentrated into snowglobes and this was Earth, my land: a place of unfertilized seeds and rotten fruit, pictures of what had been but could never again be. Time and situations, circumstances and seconds sewn into the cement-lined barbed wire-blanketed jailhouse of dead jubilees. Transience, impermanence, the nine to five of the fallen worlds: The fact that time holds the wheel of film on which our lives are written, and it runs at a jet’s speed, an elusive cheetah, a wisp of auroral radioactivity unable to be leashed in its wild luminescence. The place where light crystallizes mid-catch on the coattails of traveling clouds–that’s where my soul got caught, and the sun surged in the sky like a yolk of butter, an orange marmalade, and popped, birthing a deluge of honeybees hissing out at Niagara Falls speed. It was a burst colony and the queen was zipping away on wings of translucent exit as the world below her blew up.

One roaring geyser thrust itself from the center of the sea, a muscled forearm punching the surface and breaking the waves, then exploding into a rage of steam. Another shot out of the side of a rock, cracking the moss-skinned boulder in two and hissing out a horizon of acid that vaporized the water it kissed. The horizon was split in half, where the ground and sky were divided by a wall of whitewater framed by ribbons of ricocheting radiance. The sea screamed itself into a salty schism, an acrid testament to warring opposites. Cascading into a realm of light, the water offended all it met, reflecting off the waves of the sea, flashing in the sky above, spinning tortoises and dolphins and jellyfish into harassed whirlpools like a DJ spins a disc.

The water spat all different kinds of light: a party of neon halogens, of cackling old gaslights, of flickering torches that still dance with the call of the ancients. It breathed like a sauna, drank like a fountain recycles every gallon, gathering it into its icy cycle of eternal flow. My feet sashaying beneath me, my arms rotating like a watermill to keep abreast, my swimming proved pointless. I was sucked down to the deepest blue, almost into the undreamable darkness of the ocean’s origin, that drop of ink in an abyss, that pupil of Sheol which rarely blinks until the day it won’t at all.

Light climbed up out of the cocoon of saltwater, the most stubborn of sidekicks, and shimmied like a sun-kissed salmon at my hips. It was as though the whole world uttered, But wait… there’s more. The lasers would dance, the bulbs of ether would shudder. Light flooded the plane, spilling into the scene. Flickering, faltering, came a fire of oceanic flames: I saw dizzying silver strobe lights, fancy blinding floodlights followed by a flock of starlit shadows, and slouching in the corner of the peachy corals brooded a bubbly gang of cool cats, a crowd of lava lamps, oozing with psychedelic antiquity. A party of such slow magnificence, balloons filled with syrup and confetti made of stars–a swirling centrifuge with such tart gravity, it was a whirlpool of dimensional wonder. It was a shindig that made you want to test your best gander with shameless grandeur, to ask all that had been asked and more, to question the quietness into a roar. It made you want to quiz the professor in all the queries there were to ask, just to tickle the petty nature of the sea-borne teacher–a professor of stark delight, a ruler of the ocean’s midnight, a water-crowned creature of rarest feature and a being of froth-fitted flight. But the teacher taught more and I asked less.

The disco ball slammed into a skid in the cycle, hitting its last deadline, and dove into the dreamy oasis of silence, still spinning like a planet made of silver. There was a soundless void that enveloped each second before the sea was judged, and the judging was rich. It would get a criminally sweet cashmere kiss from the final pirouette of the crystalline canopy, a most frozen prophecy that quickly melted into reality. Suddenly the swooning ceiling came crashing down and the sky spat a scepter, an ozone-gilded sabre, bending into itself and fashioning an infernal glow to the beryl room above us. The blue became a bowl, a sunken cistern, a hollow abyss that swelled into a floral haze. With each loving blossom of pulsing thunder, the atmosphere morphed into a misty pot of perfume, a place where hot water soaks rose petals into light pink nectar, where geishas dip their fingers and dab their necks and flowers follow them all day long.

The peak of the sky showed the finale of moonlight, the prodigal stars’ return. They shone with neon heat, magma smiles, the grin of a graduated class. They were finished with their waxing and waning, soaring and swaying like snowflakes in winter’s breath. The stars stood rooted, wrapped in white, ivory buttons blazed in snow. They were pressed into their powdery forms like faerie dust in fondant, glued in their gullies like handprints in honey. They were scattered across the sky like astronauts’ footprints in a buttery layer of moondusted marshmallow, a glacial money wielded by a sky-borne volcano. The stars stayed, and I shone light unafraid. You would see me, in my throne under the waves, in my home in the clouds, as I coast through the trees like a silent breeze, bowing in reverence to it all.