excerpt: maybe a dream about the future of rome decayed, or maybe a dream about disappointment, or maybe a dream about what life could have been like before the world had come to an end
CALEB JOSEPH WARNER
The Extra found himself floating high above a suburban landscape at night of homes stretched out so far that the curving, drawn roads which spiral into cul-de-sacs that hide themselves in the blackest forest preserves melted at a distance into the hazy haze of another world, another land, where all the streets were lit up orange by neatly dotted lights—and the main arteries of road fanned out from some central pit thousands of feet below him and went on in every direction, shooting off into arterioles, vesicles, slivers, feeding the black organs of earth with riveting orange, crossing over the stadiums lit up with blue lights that coldly looked up at him like the big eyeballs of whales stuck under the surface streets of earth, peering at the sky, wishing that at least they could be there instead of being washed over by the black that flushed all the streets with its pressing concerns, that blackness that otherwise filled all the remaining space where light did not fill the earth, the heaving, mineral-rich black blood of all that is not the lit streets, the square-roofed and gabled roofs in rows and curving rows, the stark parking lots that have collected cars into their chambers like the hearts of humanity, pumping in and out the zooming colored little lives that go all places, feed at all places, move, never stay in one place, move, stop, finally, at the supermarket or the movie theatre, or the gas station with its flat roof lit from below—the old world, the world lost to time and water. Every now and then, what he thought was a thin cloud passed below his feet. Yet they were not clouds, but the angels, present even here, the secret guardians of all our hearts, the immune system of the world’s glory, a glory little more than water held in tension.
A woman joined him at his side. And because this was a dream, he was not able to speak with her. There is no speaking that takes place in these dreams, only recognition and action. He saw her for who she was, some sort of answer wrapped up and incarnated. She smiled at him and her face gleamed with the streets. She took his hand and together they flew down into one of the main highways below, flying right down the middle, cars passing opposite ways on each side, but somehow reticent about their movement, like they were not driving through air, but water. The woman flew with him up an exit ramp and took a right, where they were quickly on some road bordered by dark woods, broken up by the unlit mouths of driveways and mailboxes. Soon, they broke out from this stretch and came to a downtown area. A truck stop sign held high two prices for gas in red and green lettering, while fast food signs across the street held themselves still higher than the hotel signs that advertised low rates. Past this place, they flew out into a cornfield—surely the blackest of all black places—and a copse of trees darkly raised itself above the straight line between blackness and sky glowing with the runway lights of an airport. There, look! A transmission tower with one red blinking light. Two, three, transmission towers, in rhythm. A phone line ticked by which powered the hinterlands of the suburban landscape, those places unlit by lampposts except at crossroads where the traffic light hangs down in the middle. No one is out here in the middle of nowhere, but they will be soon. Everything around this farmland seems to threaten how it will soon be overtaken, whether the airport expands, or the four-footed transmission towers walk across them, or the cornfields turn back into dirt in preparation for a new housing community probably called Heathwicke.
What is this place? This was once the Extra’s home before the waters came, the world of changing, shifting landscapes pressing farther and farther out, not for ill intent, but because of economics and bad credit decisions. The cumbersome labyrinth that only exists because there is a need for it to exist in its half-shaped forms, burgeoning ever outwards, a demand met and constantly met because people would like some comfortable house to live in with a nice television and the ability to carry-out Chinese food, to have some place where you can call home and home is where the internet is, that rebel god which allows us to connect with the world, not for ill intent, but because of a demand met and constantly met, a demand for pornography and keeping in touch with Grandma. This is the world with basements and finished basements and intrigue and emptiness and no one, absolutely no one, knowing who on earth they are or why they are here. This is the world where men in their early twenties can’t get it up, because they’ve exhausted that one last, vital remaining resource of their selves, that final outpost of recreation that for some moments does not destroy us, but shows us who we are and what we’d like to be at our best, the kind of person that can love and be loved, the kind of self that for one moment knows its relation to the world that casts its wings over us constantly with desires met and deeper longings buried, unless they are uncovered by wounds that cut deep enough to excise any and every last hope, even the last, blossoming and wilting comfort of our sexual hungers, that hunger that is like the prism with which we see most clearly what is at fault with ourselves and what the answer cannot sustainably be.