Excerpt: Prince of the Couriers of the Air
When Malvin slept on the couch in the empty living room of the Bliss Homestead, he dreamt that he was really hanging in the dark room of the basement, the room where the cobwebs had piled up to the height of small children, where bones of deer lay scattered, where the leaves of the overgrown bushes pushed through the cracked window, where Malvin avoided. He was chained to the wall like a prisoner in a dungeon.
In his dream, someone paced down the board stairs, someone whose face remained unseen. Malvin felt the approaching presence of death. This being came into the room, but the face remained hidden by necessity of dream logic. He knew that if he was able to see the face of this being, the features would be too much for him to bare, features grotesquely detailed. The entire face was really a textured map, with rivers colored blue streaking across the cheeks, with mountain ridges where eyes should be, popped up high, snow-capped, with cities of America labelled, but in all the wrong places, because the inhuman face was a map of some unknown geography, captured in an order that existed nowhere. Malvin knew that if he could see the face, if for one second he could catch a glimpse of the face, he would see small, mite-sized cars zooming down the highways on its temples. Malvin knew that if for one moment he could see that face which contained the entire known world in the dense detail of a spider’s abdomen, he would recognize in it all the memories that ever filled him with longing. In that terrible dream he had every night, Malvin made every attempt to picture the face before the being had come into that dark room.
If he could picture everything the face contained, the being would not do what it did every night to him. The being walked into the room slowly and Malvin was compelled to just keep his eyes on its feet. It was as if his head was forced down by some invisible hand from the sky to remain looking at the worlds of darkness the floor contained: dirt as hard as clay, uneven, that rats scampered around under Malvin’s hanging feet. When the being approached the room, he saw its feet stop in the doorway. The feet peeled off gently and water came forth from the roots of its legs. The currents of water carried away the hollow, shining feet. This water splashed and spilled from the towered legs like volcanoes bursting at the bottom of the ocean. All so soon, the rats that found their home in that basement would be swimming on the surface of the water, their small backs like rowboats navigating in senseless circles, tails like rows. The water climbed its way up Malvin’s body. First, his feet. Legs. Chest. The water was blacker than the walls of the dark room, for it picked everything up in the basement that had lain dormant or self-satisfied, whether it was the bones on the floor: cobwebs, spiders, rats, old toys, or rusted nails. All of these things kicked against Malvin as the dark water climbed up his body. Desperately, Malvin would seek to use his mental demand to picture that basin of the labyrinth, the face of the being, before the dark waters filled up the dark room…the dark water whose only means of escape was down Malvin’s throat and the shattered basement window. All that had been kicked up from the past, that had failed to be swept, would try to go down Malvin’s throat. The rats bit at his shirt, lips, eyes, toes, him, as if for the rats, Malvin was their means of escape. Malvin felt all the legs of the spiders on his skin, the cobwebs clinging to his fingers, the nails poking into his arm, then bounding back, coming back again, old fishing hooks nicking his legs, the binding of flayed books bobbing against him like loaves of bread on the water.
As Malvin’s eyes closed in that fervid water burying him, Malvin would still be seeking to picture the map on the face of the being. He was able to catch glimpses of what it contained. He could read the legend down its long neck of the strange symbols across the endless plains, ridges, valleys, fjords, glaciers, cliffs, hills, plateaus, desserts, deep woods. All of these were rendered in illuminated colors of pinks, the dark greens that splash out as leaves from buckling roots, tans of the ocean’s lining, azures you can only see when your eyes are shut against a dream sun, dazzling red that nature achieves in the pin-pricked polka dotted worlds contained within petals, and the warm gold that shimmers in the fins of coral fish. Malvin would sometimes see the densely intense snapshots of cities. These cities proved to be micro biomes. Though they were perhaps no larger than plant cells, they buzzed with activity. Particle people ascended particle elevators up skyscrapers that rose minutely from the surface of the face’s crust. What plenteous miniatures! Malvin felt protective of these infinite and insignificant lives. He witnessed these cities with desperation in his heart, knowing that just one scratch, one indecent scratch of the itch that these cities must have been on the eyeless, mouth-less face, would destroy them and all they had worked so hard to achieve. This being seemed unknowing to the crusted surface of its mapped face, or seemed to have no knowledge of that small world that filled Malvin with paternal love for even the sharp-pointed trees of its forests. This being seemed only interested, whenever it entered the room, to flood the room and drown Malvin. But so too the whole world! If those waters came up the neck of the being, if they covered its face, forever its world would be lost.