By Ronnie Roberts
Jocelyn smiled down at Ryan warmly as his eyes began to flutter. She petted his head gently in her lap and whispered, “It’s ok, baby. You’re safe. You’re back now.” She passed him a glass of water as he sat up and slowly took a drink.
“How long was I out?” he whispered as he slowly got to his feet.
“About forty-five minutes, give or take,” she replied as she got to her feet and leaned forward with a moan. She stretched for a long minute, admiring the fresh henna tattoo on her foot. Everything in the design had meaning, at least according to her sister, the leaves were for the various stages of her life, the vines for the paths she’s walked, and the berries for the loves she’s had and lost. “So, what’d you think?”
“It was,” Ryan said and paused as he looked for the right word. “Incredible,” he said, setting the cup down on the table, careful not to disturb the various occult knickknacks, “I’ve never felt so…”
“At one with the universe,” she helpfully interjected.
“At one with the universe,” Ryan replied, smiling sheepishly. He lifted open the box of sugar cubes on the countertop, “You were right, babe, Chris really did get us some good shit.”
Jocelyn stood back up with a smaller moan and brushed her short black hair out of her eyes. “You doubted me?” she asked, and popped a fresh sugar cube into her mouth. She stepped close enough to smell his light musk from walking around the outdoor markets today and wrapped her arms over his shoulders. “Well,” she asked, punctuating each word with a light kiss, “what did you see?”
“It was like a dream, I was here, and I got up and walked down the hallway and out the front door.” As he talked, his gaze shifted off to nothingness and he smiled, “Only when I opened the front door, it opened to a garden.”
“A garden?” she asked.
“Not just any garden. It was as if all things were in this garden. It was as big as the universe and as small as your backyard.” He furrowed his brow, “And there was a strange statue in the middle of the garden. It was, like, a triangle, or a circle, but I couldn’t really make it out. Something about looking at it gave me a headache. It was kind of like looking at one of those 3D eye puzzles, you know?”
She grinned at him and touched a black nailed finger to the tip of his nose. The sharp contrast between her nails and his eyes a gentle reminder of how deep blue they were. “You never were any good at really opening up your mind to things like that.” She turned away then and headed into the bathroom smoothing out the creases in her red skirt as she went. “When I get back, it’ll be my turn,” she said as she reached for the door, “use the guest bathroom. If I’m out as long as you were, you’ll need it.”
Ryan sat down cross-legged and leaned against the couch. Jocelyn laid back and rested her head in his lap. The two smiled at each other for a long moment. “There’s no one I would rather do this with,” he said to her and kissed her forehead.
She closed her eyes slowly and opened her mouth. Ryan reached over and dripped a single drop of the brown concoction onto the sugar cube. “Pleasant dreams,” he said as he gingerly laid the cube onto her tongue.
She winced at the cube’s sharp bitterness but it quickly faded into sugary sweetness. She knew that the sugar cubes were a good idea as that would not be a pleasant taste to explore the cosmos with in her mouth.
She breathed slowly and deeply, letting the smells of the world find her. The heavy sensuality of Ryan’s breath, the woody natural spice of her incense, the mysterious earthiness of the strange potion next to them all floated about the room and filled her lungs. She could hear the old Dead Can Dance record playing in the other room, their hypnotic drums over the faint metal twing of the sitar. Her breathing and Ryan’s in sync, two lovers exploring the depths of consciousness together. The sound of the moon, with its soft reverberation deep in her chest caressing her like a best friend.
She floated then, flowing down, down into the earth. She would be afraid, but the sound of the moonlight was her guide. She slowly drifted through the world and through her ceiling and stood before herself and the man in whose lap she lay. He looked friendly, but unaware like a child. The moon beckoned her down the bottomless pit of the hallway. She fell slowly down that hole, the soft carpet between her toes, and emerged into the living room.
A lemon green flame danced in the fireplace to the strawberry sweetness of the record player. She watched it for a while, hypnotized by the suggestive display of sexuality hidden in the dance of the fire. The moon urged her to keep watching the flame, watching as it licked the air and the clouds, but now the sun was calling to her. It whispered its warmth into her ears and slowly opened the front door for her. She was unable to look away, but the sun reached and gently pulled her out the door in its liquid embrace.
She opened her mouth to laugh as the cool night air tickled her face but only a brilliant light came forth. “Will we ever see the garden, Lord Sun?” she asked in a language not her own.
You only need look behind you, for we’ve already been there the sun sang into her mind.
She looked behind her then and found herself just inside a garden gated by a forest of trees placed closer together than any fence she had ever seen. She smiled then and walked deeper into the spacious meadow. As she walked she saw a small statue atop a hillock a thousand miles deeper within the forest. A few minutes of walking later and she was upon it, it’s huge frame blocking out the hundred trillion suns in the sky. She studied the strange structure atop the central pillar and recalled a voice telling her of this structure in a past life. She marveled at it being both a triangle and a circle at the same time.
The longer she stared at the structure, the more shape it took on, and with each new shape, it called to her, beckoning her closer. Once the structure had more sides than stars in the sky a faint piping played off in the distance, drawing her attention away. She noticed that there seemed to be other sides to the structure she hadn’t noticed at first. She looked for it, but could only see it when not looking directly at it. These hidden sides were a multihued cacophony of shapes dancing wildly to the tune of the strange piping.
She reached to touch the hidden shapes and found herself walking into this new nothingness of color. Here, the formless melody was much louder, and colors took on an oppressive staccato. She felt uneasy and turned to find her lord the sun, but he and his sisters were nowhere to be seen or heard.
Jocelyn floated alongside herself here in this void between galaxies between aeons and they were both afraid. She felt the flame from her past dancing to the flutey cords, but it was not beautiful, it was not sexual, it was hateful. She wanted to go home. She wanted to see that friendly man now, the one with the lost eyes.
Here where all things begin, she felt no wonder, only static. Here where all things end, she felt no joy, only drowning. Here where all things are she floated endlessly.
She floated for a thousand forevers, serenade to by the fiery melody of the invisible pipers. When their incessant refrain finally died away she felt a presence. She was more afraid now than she was yesterday or tomorrow as a child. Her mind felt crushed by this massive yellow presence. It was as if all of the hatred of all of the galaxies of all of the universes was here and it gazed at everything with hate. It was angry and it was hungry. She saw its name then appear in her mind, but she wouldn’t look at it. To look at it was to hear it, to hear it was to know it, to know it was to be destroyed completely.
She screamed a chartreuse scream and tried to get away. She tried to reach a hand out to her lord the sun. She tried to reach a hand out to her friend the moon. She tried to reach a hand out to that lost little boy with the tosseled hair the color of shadow. She tried, but none that she searched for took her hand, she instead found something altogether else.
All at once and over a thousand years the yellow oppressiveness faded and the strange pipers resumed their sanata about this everlasting emptiness. She didn’t feel safe now, but rather, she felt insignificant. She felt that there were dances happening here for all time and she had snuck the briefest glimse into the hall.
Later, when a galaxy’s worth of stars had been born and died, the there was a shrill note in the piping. A terrible rusty sound that drew her attention and the attention of that presence that nothing and nothingness itself. When she turned her head away, she saw something again, something hidden. This time it wasn’t a dancing spot, as before, but a dancing everything. This thing that was all things at once, swayed to the strange piping that came from everywhere and nowhere.
She felt altogether insignificant, an ant scurrying beneath a falling foot. No, she wasn’t an ant, she wasn’t a mere mote in some strange god’s eye. She was only an instant of color. It was then that this thing that was timeless and time itself, turned the tiniest fraction of its limitless attention to her. She instantly felt all things. She saw all things. She heard all things. She tasted all things. And then she felt, saw, heard, tasted nothing.
Ryan sat with Jocelyn and watched the hours tick away. He had tried to wake her innumerable times, but was never successful. Jocelyn only layed there with the same relaxed expression as when she first closed her eyes.
Until recently, Ryan had always been a good kid, and was afraid the probably illegial substances around the house would get him or them thrown into jail. This fear forced him to hang up the phone three times after dailing 9-1. He stared at his phone trying to muster up the courage to call someone, anyone, until his battery died.
It wasn’t until 2pm the following day that he took Jocelyn’s phone from the countertop and dialed 9-1-1. He explained what happened to the operator and left the house before the police arrived.
Ryan never heard from Jocelyn again.
He mourned when the house the couple had spent so many nights in went up for sale some months later.