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<<linkappend "the dream ends.">> you are thrown awake by the overwhelming urge to vomit and a strong conviction that <<linkappend "today will be your last.">>
[[the usual.|start]]<</linkappend>> <</linkappend>>you stretch to the sight of a [[particularly angry sky]]. filling the scope of your vision, the sky is flushed scarlet, sliced through with shots of violet and indigo, the source of which is unknown to you; far off somewhere, just visible, the ground is giving way. large chunks of collapsing rock and debris float sunwards. they will drift until they join the rest of the belt of broken-earth tracing a ring about the landscape, turning in synchronisation with the scraps of cloud trailing the sky. [[this belt is new]]. the floating rocks are new. but as far as you can be certain, the ground about you seems stable.
you push yourself to [[stand]].
in truth, everything you awaken to look out upon is new. you do not recognise the ground beneath your feet; you fell asleep below a dense canopy of trees, rotting leaves damp beneath you. now, your heels kick against black sand. the horizon is empty save for the rocks winding sunwards and the sun, overhead and too bright and white to look at.
<<linkappend "this does not happen every time you sleep.">> it does not happen often. you do not mind it when it does occur; it is preferable to waking up after the dreams only to discover that <<linkappend "you are in familiar surroundings.">> there is something terrible about waking up from those dreams to find nothing visibly changed. it feels wrong. the drama of these total shifts feels more like <<linkappend "something you can understand.">> it is terrible to wake up sweating with nothing new to [[look at.|start]]<</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>>
to call this time the morning would be wrong. it is not that you are late to awaken, but time doesn't work much like that [[anymore.]] you are familiar with the concept of morning, and [[what it used to signify]]. you have watched a sunrise, just as you have watched a sunset. sometimes, you have seen the two occur one after the other within the space of your stopping to drink. other times, you have watched the sun rise, over and over, vanishing behind cloud and then reappearing over the crest of the horizon <<linkappend "again.">>
you don't wonder what it'd be like to watch this from another place, another angle. you know by now that it would not be the same; this did not happen for everyone. possibly, it happened only for you. nonetheless, it was heartbreaking to stand there, watching this regurgitation of the sun, not knowing when or even if it would end, no one there to witness it beside you. you could feel your attempts to articulate and explain it someday to someone die in your throat, knowing they will be inadequate. you cried then. [[Dog|start]] licked your fingertips.<</linkappend>> standing, you notice that [[your body is different again.]] your tongue has changed; you taste differently now. there are many words you have some grasp over that you think do not mean as <<linkappend "they used to mean.">>
it is a strange thing, language, when so much of your time is absent of other people. the world is less peopled now (which is not to say it is emptier). it is a strange thing too when you do shore up against other speaking, listening people. but most of the time you have been alone, and you must coexist with these words that you believed were for other people. these words given to you are heavy and sometimes light and sometimes ecstatic and freeing; often they feel like a cruelty.
you are wordless often. making noise is difficult. it is difficult until it is wrenched out of you, and something vibrates or opens or both in a burst; some things, however formless, [[you are compelled to express,|particularly angry sky]] to ease the weight upon you.
the sounds you make are no better or worse than words, but they do feel like something breaking.
<</linkappend>> there are many words you can touch upon, half there, felt in a seam in the skyline or in the way your throat closes over and you cannot swallow for a long moment.
or there are words you are struck by, only to find them empty; sometimes, you cannot attach a sound. you stand with a sense that there was a word there once, signposting something, and that as you stand and breathe you are driving it to recede from you, blown through with so much dust. you encounter much that you have no word for. what a waste, you think, that there are all these hollow words, or clumsy words, or words that subtract, and nothing that can keep up with how the world is shifting. this does not alarm you. it is a part of the journey, you've found. as you proceed from place to place, you leave behind a map of yourself, pieces that you have lost, pieces you pick up, pieces that come away different.
not long ago, you had the chance to watch your fingernails fall out. the tips are sore and bloody, but [[you manage.]] stirred by your movements, [[Dog]] rises, nosing at your side as if to remind you that [[they are there]]. they look at you, one-eyed since the last city, a low humming noise starting up somewhere in <<linkappend "their chest.">>
you reach down and give them a scratch hello. the humming noise intensifies. Dog turns to give your swollen fingertips a good <<linkappend "lick.">>
their tongue is cold. this wet-cold is welcome, distracting from the cooling sweat coating your skin, drying in the sunlight. it is gratifying to have a part of you up against another living thing, your fingers inside Dog's mouth, not yours for a moment as they soak in the hot damp of breath and saliva.
you let Dog lick you until they are finished and only then do you gather your things, draw yourself up, and [[choose a spot on the horizon.]] <</linkappend>> <</linkappend>> you do not know if Dog is a dog. you have never met anyone you are certain is a dog before. but Dog seemed like the best name to give Dog when you met; Dog has four legs, a tail, a tongue. Dog is covered in fur that comes out in great chunks when you run your fingers through it. sometimes, your skin does much the same thing when Dog runs their tongue over it.
you are not sure which one of you first decided the two of you were to be [[companions.|you manage.]] someone followed someone and touch was shared. you remember crouching and presenting your face for something, waiting. you remember the initial novelty of Dog lying down next to you when you chose to sleep, your bodies touching, the way your heat combined and felt hot and safe against the winds, then near freezing. even when the rest of the world shifts, Dog stays beside you. you have slept beside people (those you trust, or those you accompany out of necessity) and awoken to their total absence; others have stayed with you.
mostly, your things remain close and the same. sometimes they change, sometimes they vanish.
your world is one propped up by many reccurances of '[[sometimes|you manage.]]'. you [[set out.]]![[x|x3]]TOPIAyou make your way across the [[black sand]], enjoying the way it sinks beneath each one of your footsteps, the answering sense of your presence and weight shaping something beyond yourself. though [[it is quiet]], and it will be many hours before you find somewhere distinct enough to call you to a stand still, you are far from bored. you are rarely bored in these wide expanses, where activity is omnipresent, however thinly stretched. (boring comes in when you are faced with extremity, when you can barely stay awake for all that is happening.)
in this thrumming quiet, you draw back from those dreams, <<linkappend "back into yourself.">> (which is not to say that you shut out the sun and sand around you. rather, you feel their weight as your own. the shifting sand, the whisper of it, catches your breathing. you sweat profusely under the desert sun. it feels good to be so <<linkappend "affected.)">> the sensory joy of being stuck so completely in your own body is, here, as you walk and find your limbs preforming a movement they cannot always find the strength for, immense. you are breathing. [[as you travel, that is enough.|you pass]]<</linkappend>><</linkappend>> now that you are walking in the sunlight, watching your feet, you can see that the minute granules of rock beneath your feet are a shimmer of colour, rainbow on black, like oil, glimmering when the light catches at a certain angle. you cannot express the joy it brings you to [[step|x3]] on these slices of colour, pressing your toes down, leaving behind big dark depressions, outlined by refracted sunshine. the quiet is only deceptive if you allow yourself to <<linkappend "be afraid">> (the rising panic shall erase this and more that you know to be true).
you know this quiet well. alone (beside Dog), you have sat and <<linkappend "watched sands shift,">> the drift of granules swallowing noise so that you feel yourself to be dreaming as you bear witness to movement that refuses to leave a sonic imprint on the world.
you know the way that <<linkappend "there are others,">> both like you and unlike, out there somewhere, obscured perhaps, but <<linkappend "always changing.">>
you have spent so much time lying on the ground it is as much alive to you as you are to yourself. it is alive in a fashion different to the way that you are alive, but <<linkappend "alive nonetheless.">> (this is no anthropomorphism. this is not animism. but the gravity of stuff, of matter, of worlds around you, is often more real to you than your own capacity to dictate the curl and uncurl of your fingers. with so much [[aloneness|x3]], it would be awfully lonely to deny the agency of this gravity.)
<</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>>overhead, the sun crawls to the apex of the sky. it hovers, seeming to grow larger (perhaps it does grow larger). it hangs white and enormous and awful and beautiful— it must be beautiful, or else why do you keep daring yourself to look at it?
it becomes a kind of hot that threatens to [[undo you.]] you could quite readily believe that this is it: this is where you will be able to [[go no farther.]]
that time ever worked like this (morning. afternoon. evening. night. days, weeks, years.) is a concept you retain like a memory, but one that is not your own. perhaps you once inhabited a world where you could slice time up like that, <<linkappend "grasping the unfolding spools of your life through these divisions.">>
<<linkprepend "now, such attempts are void;">> surrounded as you are by breaking earth, apocalypses and births occuring compulsively in myriad microcosms, and great, impossible structures that dwarf you down to what particles of sand are to you, this inconsistency of time seems the only possible configuration. you are small. you easily [[slip between time's cracks.|particularly angry sky]]
<</linkprepend>> the sun has ceased to provide such a reliable framework; now, the dreams swallow time like a desert does water; even outside the dreams, your mind will yawn in unpredictable ways and obliterate time like you might rub your eyes to sweep away sleep; the heat of the sun will seep in, saturating everything, so heavy and dense that time cannot help but expand and bend under the sheer force of it.<</linkappend>>
you pass through dunes. you walk the valleys between them as best as you can, losing your balance often; they are steep. [[steep and monumental]]; clambering them exhausts not only the muscles in your legs, but also your eyes. the dunes are so large you feel their presence like an added layer of gravity. you stomach dips and bows at the impact.
the skin on the back of your neck is alight with burning; it will sting and itch and peel the next few days, you are sure of it. you are too tired to do anything about it. thirsty, too, but here does not seem a welcome place to rest. still there is nothing on your horizon but those floating rocks, <<linkappend "seeming no closer nor farther for your having travelled.">>
the skin of your feet blisters from the heat of the sand. you do not feel it scalding you, only a sharp shooting pain when you step at such an angle as to force a blister to burst. the nerves of your feet are frayed, failing things; this is not the first time you have walked in heat strong enough to expunge you. you do not mind it, only nausea is setting in.
[[Dog plows on ahead of you.]] <</linkappend>>you [[follow them]] now, using the sight of them as a focal point to keep your body moving in a consistent direction. whatever surroundings you wake up in, the scale always seems exaggerated. you are not sure that the land has changed, though it is of course always changing. but just as time lacks clean, easy division now, so too does geography: you cannot grasp it with names nor roads nor maps, though fragments of all these things still exist. some people still rely on these. <<linkappend "you have tried to rely on these.">>
each attempt becomes a farcical experience. you will follow a road only to find it buried beneath sand or frost; or you shall wake up to find that it has simply vanished. names you hear rumours of, and sometimes you reach them, only to find their accompanying locations to be not what you were promised; cities with grand titles that are mere ghost towns, reclaimed by vines and ivy, or valleys you are told are the places of respite, <<linkappend "only to find they make your skin turn.">>
which is to say nothing of maps. you have clung to many maps, often torn or burned, but once you happened across a laminated edition, perfectly preserved, <<linkappend "a vestige of distant lives.">> <<linkappend "you could not bear to so much as look at it;">> it blinded you far worse than any sun, <<linkappend "light glinting off all that plastic.">> you were sick; you threw up all you'd ever eaten and then empty acid and then blood. you thought you were going to die there, crouched over and unable to stop the gagging, your insides forcing their way outside. <<linkappend "Dog hadn't been there then.">>
you burned the map. the fumes made you sick again but at least it was [[gone.|you pass]] <</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>>at the event horizon of the floating rocks, you stop to drink and eat, stomach chewed through with hunger. Dog has gone on ahead, right to the precipice, investigating, drawing back rapidly at the first sign of further breakage.
<<timed 2s>>You come to what used to be a city, and is now another city.
<<next>>Cities are always growing out of other cities, even if the new city is in an entirely other place. Sometimes these cities are big wide open spaces holding only sunlight and dirt. Sometimes these cities do not look like cities at all. Often these cities are on top of one another, hundreds upon hundreds, and moving through them evokes the sensation of purposefully crushing your lungs; it can be quite erotic. This city is a city with [[buildings and walls]], and between these are boulevards that crack and blister where you walk/breathe.<</timed>>you enter the city, passing by buildings that may once have served a purpose and perhaps still serve a purpose, but reading what this may be is inaccessible to you. there are often [[symbols spray-painted]] on the stone, or spools of fabric have been suspended from upper-floor windows that may [[signal]] something (that something may be an <<linkappend "attempted escape).">> cars dot the street, turned on their side or their back; most have been gutted, then refitted as temporary shelter, draped in brightly coloured cloth and littered with trinkets and junk. you find a pretty rock sitting on the dashboard of a big yellow truck still standing on its wheels. Dog nudges your leg. you leave the rock; it may be somebody else's important piece of [[belonging.]] <</linkappend>>
[[people]] leave many signals lying around the place, but they are rarely for you. even when you do fall into the catchment of intended audience, you struggle to translate the signifier into signified. your brain is heavy with the heat of the sun. your throat is thick with sand, but you are sure that if you could just swallow some of it and remember how to speak, you could sound out these signs and give them coherent meaning. you drink a lot. you drink constantly. you drink till you are sick.that people live in this city isn't a guarentee, but it's not impossible either. maybe they're out there.
you feel that 'maybe' stitched across your skin, cloying as you step in between high rises and your places to run narrow down to backwards and forwards. you dread that someone might be hidden in one of those repurposed cars, sleeping, only to be roused by your passing. you break out in a fresh cold sweat. you obsessively imagine that someone will pour out from one of the surrounding doors waving, running to you, their lips brimming <<linkappend "full of greetings and words.">>
you know what will happen when they get close. you know what will happen when you open your mouth. you know what they will see, not by looking closer, but as time gives them new answers.
you would like to rest [[here|buildings and walls]] for some time. you do not want to be driven away until you have slept. <</linkappend>>nobody comes to bother you as you wind your way through the streets, backpack slung over one shoulder. you keep making your rounds, going this way, then that, exploring street after street despite your exhaustion. it feels good to keep moving whilst you can. you ignore what consequences this may have for your limbs at a later occasion. for now, striding among such gigantic structures, leaving them behind, finding new ones— it fills you with <<linkappend "a sense of power and purpose.">>
such concepts may not hold up under inspection. you allow yourself to hold onto them with a loose grip, just for a while. climbing those dunes [[took a toll on you]]. <</linkappend>>one particularly prominent building heads up a square, and set into the columns of its walls are statues, big, imposing figures who don't look much like you. the environment is doing its best to fix this, however, wearing away at the definition of their fingers, their faces, their clothes. one's arm has broken off. you wonder where that arm is now, what it's doing, if someone else has picked it up. you spend some time searching for it, but it is <<linkappend "nowhere to be seen.">>
beside the steps that could take you inside, on the wall there is sprayed in faded red the phrase ‘WE DID THIS’. the wall is made of bricks with edges and corners, giving the words an illusion of depth and movement. you recall that red is the <<linkappend "colour of a stop sign.">>
you cannot help but find it a little silly as you look at it, for it has the character of an outburst from a child. (That is not to say that there are no contexts in which whatever ‘we’ and ‘this’ signify is not true.) you scrape your finger (you have no nail) at the crimson, and the brick flakes off in plumes of crumbling dust. you wonder if these words mean something to someone. you wonder what you must be or [[become|buildings and walls]] or have been in order to have them mean something to you. <</linkappend>><</linkappend>>Dog has to be the one to call for respite. they start lagging behind. when you don't notice, too caught up in your fantasy of exploring this city forever, they take the initiative to nose their way in through [[a door.]]it is a door set into an ornate building with steeples and arches and a vaulted ceiling. the roof is caved in towards the back, casting the dim insides in splashes of the unrelenting sunlight, turned gentle by the dappling effect. you may have no words for the religion once practiced here, but you can recognise a church when you encounter one. places of worship have their markers, however varied.
you sling your bag from your shoulder, throwing it onto one of the pews. you walk the aisle between. in the centre of the nave, the baptisimal font offers water, grown over with green; you [[swallow the algae]] then drink until you can drink no more, filling your satchel with the collected rain water. though you drove yourself to this point of desperation, you drink as if someone has kept you under lock and key for as long as you can remember. you drink as if you will [[never see water again]]. you drink till you wish you'd eaten enough to vomit. you [[savor|enter.]] the way it makes you retch. when you are done, you lie down on [[the abandoned altar]], trying not to move because to do so will remind you of the ache in your stomach. Dog hops up beside you, wheezing out a yawn; they have a dead thing in their mouth that they offer to you. you decline. they devour it beside your aching toes.
[[you stare at the ceiling.]] a great stone slab with stars carved into it. if you could stand the effort, you'd roll over and sooth yourself to sleep by rubbing your fingers in the indents. [[your stomach|never see water again]] turns at just the idea of it. the sunlight is still blurring strong through the delapitated tiling, but that means nothing here. here you sleep when you are tired, and when you are tired you sleep. at present, you are exhausted.
<<linkappend "you close your eyes.">>
you [[wait for sleep to take you.]]<</linkappend>><<timed 2s>>you are awoken not by the dreams, but by the sound of [[the church door opening.]]<</timed>>[[he|she]] steps in like he knows you. perhaps he saw you wandering the streets, a hundred dozen [[betrayals]] marking you as an [[outsider.]]
he opens the door slow, standing in the slanted shadows and sunlight, looking at you as he pauses, hovers, allowing himself be looked at. you appraise one another's body language(s).
<<linkappend "you sit up.">>
[[he closes the door behind him.]] <</linkappend>>there are communities here, even among such slippage and ruins. you'd know. you've built many. others have taken you as their brick and mortar. a few even call you their foundation.
[[you miss them.]]perhaps he saw something in your limbs, those you've lost and those you have gained. (among this heat, this sun, it would be wrong to imply that such traits label you an outsider. it is hard to draw lines, even in [[cities|she]]. perhaps he does not know you came walking here. perhaps he does not care.) you walk in pursuit of a great deal. you walk in pursuit of very little. the most tentative, hot, and close of all is the truth that you walk in the hope that you might see them again.
[[he|she]] is new. you establish as far as you can that neither of you wish to harm one another (yet). he draws close and you turn to let [[your legs]] swing down over the altar, heels bumping back against the stone. you'd go to him, but your legs won't work like that right now. so he comes to you.
[[you]]you've changed legs three times (that you can remember). these legs are broad and bruise easy, always covered in blotches you can name no cause for. he looks at the blackened patch spread across your right knee, wetting [[his lower lip]] with the tip of his tongue. his body is patchwork. parts of it grow and shrink and change right under your vision. he has his companions enmeshed in his bones. Dog raises their head to regard him, sniffing the air to scent what you cannot. they clamber down and skulk off, disinterested, unsatisfied with their last meal.
the two of you are left [[alone together.|he closes the door behind him.]] touch, his fingertips ghosting the dark blush of your bruise (he has not stopped looking at it). you [[wait]] to see if this will turn ugly. he waits. he is asking you (without words— a rare mercy) what you want. you want to sleep. you do not want to dream.
okay. he lies down next to you.
so you [[sleep.]] you sleep when you are tired. when you are tired and sleeping, you [[dream]].dreams are different now (you used to have <<linkappend "other dreams.">> you used to see the world as a straight line running out from you and to pull yourself across it did not take much effort. you ignored all possible signs of your stumbling for as long as you could stand. you didn't realise that paying attention would <<linkappend "lead to all this.)">> [[each dream you dream of the end of the world]], and new worlds pushing through, over and over. you do not find these worlds within worlds unusual, though sometimes they are frightening (and sometimes they are familiar, and you cannot quite tell if they are frightening).<</linkappend>><</linkappend>>
the dreams do not come tonight. he has his arm about your chest, and though you are asleep and forget him, the warmth of his body seeps into your bones and keeps thoughts out of your head. it is a kind of kindness you cannot forget. it is a kind of kindness that would bring you to your knees were you [[waking.]] [[when you do wake, you are in agony.]]your stomach feels like it is on fire. your head is splitting open. your head is in tatters across the floor, you can feel the viscera sliding down under the compulsions of gravity. you sense [[him]] still here and panic, alarmed, convinced he has harmed you. your head is in his lap, his fingers are applying something soaked in damp to your flaking skin.
the water you drank was bad. you knew this as you did it. you don't regret it. you just regret that you had to wake up before you [[died]]. he needn't still be here. he is still with you on the altar. your settings haven't changed this time, and for once that familiarity is fine (you didn't dream. this is worse. kindness is too much, too large, too heavy. you can't breathe. you try to throw youself from the altar. Dog is sitting on your legs; they step on your chest as you try to move and lick your face. it's [[unbearable.|when you do wake, you are in agony.]])he snorts.
<<linkreplace "...don't be so melodramatic...">><<linkreplace "...you'll live...">>...you'lll be just fine...
you [[vomit.]]<</linkreplace>><</linkreplace>>you cannot move your legs for three days, even when Dog has vanished to hunt and explore and be elsewhere. he comes and goes, and on each occasion he leaves, you <<linkappend "try to heave yourself up and leave this place.">>
the most you manage is to roll on your side and in doing so fall off the altar. you hit your head pretty hard. he tells you you're an idiot when he finds you. the both of you [[laugh]], maybe. it's hard to tell through the concussion. <</linkappend>>when you can <<linkappend "breathe and move again (and dog is still absent)">> <<linkappend "you fuck.">> it'd be cruel if it was to be a thank you. you are enjoying that you have command over your limbs again (as much as you ever do, anyway.) he has spent his recent history being covered in a variety of [[your body fluids]]; intimacy has been established. he likes the warmth of your limbs, the way they radiate heat, like all that [[sunlight]] you've endured has become mirrored under your skin. he says he travelled, once. he doesn't answer when you look at him to ask what made him (let him) stop. <</linkappend>><</linkappend>>
the altar is a mess. this whole church is a mess. your mess has mixed in with the mess of sun-baked stone and rot and animal ruin. you [[resist|laugh]] the urge for it to feel like home. you kiss the backs of his knees. when given permission, you touch the strange, growing companions that cover his shoulders like moss; they are damp to touch and surprisingly gelatinous; their strands curl about your fingertips and only let them go when you relax. he says it [[feels good.]] you [[eat him out for forty-five minutes]], and that also feels good. he doesn't blink twice at the way your skin falls apart to the touch. when he kisses the sunburn of your neck and his tongue comes away heavy with shed, he swallows. you think about how now there's so much of you in him. you fantasise about those parts of you being digested, some kept, some expelled, as [[you fuck]]. you are <<linkappend "melancholic.">>
it is not a bad fantasy. but the way you fuck exposes some asynchronisities. he ingests your skin like there's more where that came from, greedy for it. you already feel the itch to [[move on]].<</linkappend>> fitting your limbs together is half [[the fun]], always a new experiment. with so many different worlds sifting into one another, there are so many bodies pushed up into such varied formations. each body you collide with is readily an entirely different species (just because he speaks a tongue you can understand, doesn't make him like you. those you have felt closest too do not talk at all.). many bodies are multiple.
the joy and terror is in testing what works. not that it always will. some bodies and how they are moved repell you. but even that is its own kind of thrill. <<timed 2s>>you haul your bag back up onto your shoulders. Dog waits for you, eyes big (eyes plural. more than two. you wonder where they came from. you can barely see yourself. you can barely see what might be altered.). <<linkappend "he suggests that you stay.">>
it could be a sad moment. it is a hard one regardless. you try to explain. your words won't be mobilised. you hope that he has swallowed enough of you to intuit something. perhaps you could <<linkappend "trust him.">>
the compulsion to [[keep going]] is stronger.
<</linkappend>><</timed>>you like the taste of his skin, the salt of it. he tenses when you push your knee in his mouth, then shivers. he rubs the pad of his thumb over the undersides of your teeth, bemused by them and their shaping. you mock bite. [[more laughter|eat him out for forty-five minutes]]. <span id="eggs">it is like removing a layer of skin.</span>\
<<timed 4s>><<replace "#eggs">><<timed 2s>>you come to a forest.
<<next>> in the centre of the forest is a pit.
<<next>> in the bottom of the pit is something living.
<<next>> you do not presume you may speak with them.
<<next>> [[you would like to, though.]] <</timed>><</replace>><</timed>>
the forest lies many dreams travel from the last city. you do not believe you moved in your sleep but you can never be sure. you have bandaged your feet in sandalweed. [[they bleed]] intermittently <<linkappend "now.">>
'forest' is the best term you have for this place. [[wild and stinking]], oversized [[vegetable life]] grows around you; animal life intersplices it, but the rest of the animal kingdom here is too small for you to witness. (you wonder if you seem to them as the buildings of cities and the dunes of deserts seem to you. do you come and go with the same apparent inconsistency? if you were larger, would more logic make sense?)
this pain (though it changes) is one of your constants.
you think about him, that time when he ghosted his fingertips down the shell of your back. he offered to dilate time for you; that he could do it, you never doubted.
you tried to consider this offer, to pretend that the stretching of time even further <<linkappend "could appeal to you.">>
you do not want things to end, but when you picture more time you picture more dreams. worse, you picture standing still in the face of everything transpiring around you. could you bear standing rooted to the spot as a small sun implodes upon crashing into the ground? could you stand to sit unmoving beside the topmost layers of the world's crust breaking?
when you travel, you [[collapse time.]] <</linkappend>>dividing time may now be impossible, but you try to wrangle it in anyway.
if you travel, you can segment it into [[locations|you would like to, though.]] and people and hurts. this makes sense to you. you are rewarded for it by being able to breathe.
you often wonder why Dog does it, what they find in it. you often wonder if they've been with you so long they have simply picked up your compulsions. you name them as you pass, collecting labels in your head.
<<linkreplace "mushroom. fungi. stinkhorns. bunts. rusts. milk caps. shaggy manes. ink tops. paper bark. river. silver. glass cuts. red. yellow. orange. green.">>
you are probably [[applying these labels]] incorrectly. (they are words you have stolen from places and people who may never have seen a forest like this. they may never have seen a forest at all.) you don't know what or who would deem them incorrect, but you doubt their veracity nonetheless. they help you find your way, these wrong words. they help make the intensity of the smell and the light bearable. <</linkreplace>>plodding through this chain of words makes it easier not to think about [[the life in the bottom of the pit.]] you [[come before it]], eventually, giving yourself over to it.the pit is a crater. you can imagine many births for this crater; planets colliding, new worlds budding from old worlds (which yours is, you do not know); the ground shifting; some living thing much larger than you stepping through the forest as you do through leaves.
you feel [[the living thing]] inside of it as a shiver running from each one of your vertebrae, out along your ribs. it collects in your lungs like fluid.
[[you don't]]know how deep or wide or long or where the pit is. you think you sense it under your feet like veritgo. this could be projection. you don't even know if pit is the right word. when you see it, that gaping maw, you are struck instead by the word: [[cathedral.]]
what lives there is unknown to you, but that there is life is certain. this isn't proof but you hear a thrumming noise from down/in in there. it is low and reverbrates through you and Dog and the forest. it is safe to say it [[scares you]]. but this fear competes with whatever fear brought you to a place like this. there is shade here. that is not nothing. whatever transformations might take place here, unwilling or unwittingly, they are at least not under the domain of the sun. that it is another holy place, [[you do not|you don't]] doubt. you stand and look down into the depth of the pit, where the walls of rock vanish into shadow. your whole body aches with how easy it would be to tip down into it.
here, thrown up in the buzzing of someone alien, of enormity you cannot guage the scale of, you are overwhelmed. of the fear you do not know and the one you are all too familiar with, you <<linkappend "choose the latter.">>
you set down beside the rim of the pit and you [[sleep]].<</linkappend>> you sleep when you are tired. (you are tired all the time.) when you are tired and sleeping, you [[dream|dream2]].[[worlds end all the time.]] the ones you witness are cataclysmic. planets cracking open like an egg. suns growing so hot and bright and big you feel sick at the scale of it. oceans growing out of bigger oceans and washing ashore with such force that the worlds of thousands of people and plants and planets are torn asunder.
or they're less specific. more obscure. abstract. you dream of the sensation of your chest splitting. you dream the exact feeling, without the imagery, of a needle being pushed through your eye. you dream that you are not yourself (you dream this dream waking too.). you dream that you are stuck somewhere close and sticky, only to be evacuated out into complete darkness. completion is the worst dream. the completion dream is the most violent. [[you lack the dimensions]] to describe it.the world(s) you inhabit when you are waking all feel like ghost imprints of these dreams. echoes with the saturation drained out (though they are so, so bright.) you do not know which caused the other; did the dreams come first, or were they initated by inhabiting [[a world on fire?|each dream you dream of the end of the world]]
if you had answers to these questions, they would not exist in the first place. you wake up to the pit. it unmoors you enough that the familiar surroundings work in tandem with the dreams. [[you pass between the two]] seamlessly, however nauseated. you sense that it would be easy to [[become stuck here]]. isn't that what you've done already? isn't this all starting to feel a little endless?you go out into the forest to escape. you tread through the fungi and the trees and endure the silent, gentle walking they render. you walk until you return to the pit two times. you do not intend to return to this centre but now that you have passed within its event horizon you fear there is no getting out. you are struggling to hold onto the sense of why you are here, why you are doing this; why can you not simply ignore the additional gravity?
it is a hole in the ground and you are exhausted. [[can't you leave it at that?]] Dog. you remember Dog and realise they are absent. perhaps they left recently or perhaps they have been [[gone longer]] than you'd <<linkappend "care to admit.">>
you are alone with the life in the pit. they are unknown to you. they are also <<linkappend "familiar.">>
you have been here before; or, more truthfully, you have been stuck like this before. since the world ended your world has been narrowed down to a fine point, a kind of cycle, and the same kind of garbage gets thrown up by each iteration. you don't know how that works. perhaps the apocalypse emptied out all the other content. <<linkappend "perhaps it is you, being able to see only one fracture.">>
you remember the regurgitated sun. you remember crying because you knew you could never explain it. you [[remember Dog licking your fingers.]] <</linkappend>><</linkappend>> <</linkappend>> being [[entangled|can't you leave it at that?]] does not hold you to one another. this is more terrifying than the dreams. you sit down beside the pit. it is unbearable, that thrumming sound. you hope that enduring this will answer something for you. you [[hope]] that this might at least finish. you aren't sleeping when [[she|she2]] arrives. you are sat gazing into the pit. there is no standing in the doorway this time. she comes through the trees, called here by the noise or the gravity or something inperceptible to you, maybe. she steps through the clearing and stops at the opposite side of the pit. <<linkappend "she looks at you, and you at her.">>
you establish as far as you can that neither of you wish to harm one another (yet). she winds her way round to draw up beside you, close enough that you can smell her. (she smells like the forest.)
<<linkappend "she sits.">> [[you talk.]]<</linkappend>><</linkappend>> you talk, and it is like [[catching water with a net.]] (it is a wonderful experience.)you [[don't linger]] with her as you did with him. you ride her cock and you walk together. her skin brushes yours and like Dog's tongue on your arms, the friction peels away parts of the both of you. her purple flesh blooms with spores. you watch them settle on the backs of your hands, infiltrating the cuts and scratches born of your journey. [[you lick them]] with curiosity. [[she watches.]]
it is hard to [[draw out a melodrama|catching water with a net.]] in proximity to that pit. she is like the vegetation here, all fungal. you're not even sure it's true to call her animal. she moves like one though, quick and striding, and the way she turns her body reminds you of fish. she is the most beautiful shade of purple you have ever seen and you wish you had all the eyes you will ever have in all your life with which to commit a dozen images of her to memory. she does not seem to mind your staring. she may be staring back. you don't know how or if she sees but she [[responds on reflex|hope]] to your movements. you are done with this journey. or, rather, you wish you were. you think you are, but when you next awaken back in dunes and black sand, you cannot keep yourself from standing, picking up your things, scratching Dog behind the ears and carrying onwards (or backwards. or some more lateral direction. with what are you supposed to orientate yourself?)
still, it [[proceeds before you.]] <<timed 2s>> you come to a [[gathering of people.]]<</timed>>these people are of all shapes, sizes, and colours, but their species is your own. you recognise it in their regard, the eyes that settle upon you. this is how you look at other people. you size them up. you watch suns burst in the skyline and you look at people like they might too (they have done. they do.).
<<linkappend "you do not trust them.">>
they have gathered together to speak, but also to listen. they have come to absorb the words of [[a prophet.]]<</linkappend>> (after all, what are the end times without a prophet?)
prophets are [[a dime a dozen out here]]. no matter where or when you wake up, there is always one on the horizon. they are always like you, even if they hold up plants or rocks or what-fucking-ever as your [[saviours.]] (i am not talking about religion. though, then again, i could be.)
those gathered come to touch their [[fingertips]] to the prophet. their touch is invasive, seeking entry. you watch them pull away pieces of clothing like this is some kind of performance piece. this is some kind of performance piece. it changes something everytime you see it. those pieces of clothing go back out with people and end up elsewhere, draped over cars, out of windows, tied to ankles. [[they'd wrap your bleeding feet]] better than sandalweed could.
the prophet never looks at you; they just sit there, shining, [[inviting contact.]] the noises the two of you make go together like rain and thunder; sometimes you talk just to hear the [[interplay of your voices.|time to go]]who has fingernails and who doesn't? what does it matter? the way their bodies fall apart and change is [[just like yours.|saviours.]] with them comes a surplus of end times. what brought us here? plague? radiation? the passage of time? it is not that you resent that people are seeking answers but each one if you bring yourself to believe it alters your orientation. you must perceive your world as the by-product of these catastrophes. the very ground you walk on must be <<linkappend "rewritten with these subtexts.">>
so yes. [[you are tired.|a prophet.]]<</linkappend>>they invite you to join them on a journey. (they need not speak for this. that is the nature of prophets.) they offer you things. air. cleanliness. <<linkappend "a sense of the linear.">>
you know they shall [[burn you like the map.]]<</linkappend>>to kneel beside them would be to enter another holy space, another church. the trees that surround you bow inwards like the walls of a chapel. you will come back to holy spaces all your life; you cannot outrun meaning <<linkappend "no matter how hard you try.">>
but for now, [[you turn your back.]] <</linkappend>>you find your own skin beautiful, but here in the confines of the crowd and their side, you perceive yourself as the threat. you look like you could carry plague or war or radiation. [[so do they.|burn you like the map.]] but it is easy to draw lines when you are writing a prophecy. [[you walk.]]when words and maps and names so often come up empty or overfull, 'home' can be a strange concept. you can define it no better than you can pin down the sun. it changes (what doesn't). it is not as stable as you might wish it to be. you know that you will be compelled to [[leave it again.]]you feel driven by the sun. it is too big and too hot nowadays. you must walk to outrun it or to endure it, you're not sure. you are tired. when you are tired you walk harder and further so that you <<linkappend "might reach a place to rest.">>
you know it is a matter of time to see what gives out first: your will or your feet (the sun will not [[relent,]] not so quickly.) Double-click this passage to edit it.you could keep going. out of the shade of the trees, you feel the sun hot and bright and you could keep walking to try and outrun it or endure it (which, you are unsure). you are tired. when you are tired you walk harder and faster in the hope that you might at least come to a true place to rest. <<linkappend "you–">>
she catches your fingers. as she does, your free hand feels cold and damp <<linkappend "all at once.">> Dog is licking your palm. (you did not see them return, but you cannot really be sure they ever left. sometimes, dizzy, you forget to notice things.)
you do not take this to mean the end of your journey, nor the end of the world. you fear [[she will promise]] to reset things back to the way they were (in the end times, who does not make a prophet of themselves?).<</linkappend>><</linkappend>>
she tells you she is tired.
...let's rest... and [[go home.]]but you know too that you have walked all this way in the hopes of sitting with [[those you miss]] again. they are not all here. more are missing than not. with the tightening of your world down to your paths, the map of pieces lost and found, people scatter beyond your purview. but in the heat of the sun, in such changable landscapes, returning to those you can becomes all the more <<linkappend "profound.">>
[[familiarity]] still hurts you, even when it's located in people and faces. they all still highlight the drama of change around you, though they too are not the same. you witness their lost limbs and changed mouths and falling out hair with fondness. you have not made peace with much but in the shadow of the dreams, some changes become tolerable.<</linkappend>> (i would like to expound this as something world-altering and apocalypse-halting. i would like to source going home (whatever that may mean) as a totalising cure. i would like to define [[what home is]] so that it can be navigated to through a series of steps (through a map). it felt cheap to do so.)you come to a lake blue-green, turned amber by the setting sun, which burns warm against the horizon. she and Dog lead the way, you hobbling behind on your bloodied feet. you shouldn't be able to walk like this, your ankles mangled, your toes blackening. but you can feel her in you, those infiltrating spores, blooming and reproducing to prop up where your bones ought to be. you wonder what you shall have as feet by the end of it. it makes you nervous to know you owe this to her, but you keep following.
together, the three of you find your kin <<linkappend "camped out together.">>
it's a clumsy affair. tents sprawl across the lake's shore, strewn up against trees, and there's people everywhere, not enough to be annonymous but enough to fill the air with noise, incoherent, bubbling noise. you are stunned to hear so many voices after this much time of <<linkappend "quiet and isolation.">>
you scratch the ears of Dog, but they are quick to run off, going out from you like a rope, winding through bodies. you feel the proximity of these people to them like a second skin, anxious for them, and anxious for yourself of how you might lose them. she stays beside you, watching the bustle before you.
a firepit has been built from broken rock and fallen branches in the centre. something is cooking. when was the [[last time you ate?]]
[[you know these people.|gathering of people.2]]<</linkappend>><</linkappend>> you were invited. you missed the invitation (maybe someone told you, long ago, but you were deaf to it. visions of the sun swallow many things. or sunstroke loses time and <<linkappend "memory for you.)">>(more honest is that you knew you were invited, but you chose instead the desert or the forest or the city. these unknowns were all easier than the reminder of your loved ones' familiarity.)
but you were invited and now you're here. you're late. you [[await chastisement.]]<</linkappend>>[[someone]] is sitting by the fireplace tending the food. they <<linkappend "usher you closer.">>
they are as familiar to you as [[her]] or [[him|him2]] or Dog. they are another warm body, another active face, another unpredictable assemblage of limbs that will permit you sitting with them. you have sat with them time and time again. they have a whole cycle of journeys and travelling and resting of their own. they have survived their own visions of the sun, the apocalypse, worlds ending. they do not offer you perfect understanding.
they offer for you to sit and join them by the fire.
[[you consent. you move.]] <</linkappend>>the end of the world is complicated, but it is also excrutiatingly basic.
where will you find water? what will you eat? (have you eaten? when did you last eat? how did you make that decision?) how do you keep your skin from rupturing? how do you sleep? how will you soothe yourself after such dreams? the end of the world has turned you into your own infant. it might be humiliating. (this depends on how you read [[humility.|what home is]]) they are burned and bloody. someone has bandaged them heavily, but there are dark red stains about their knuckles, their forearms. all their legs are gone, and they sit propped up with people's folded clothing at their back. [[they look tired.|expect to be ousted.]] he is here too, travelling out from a city; you possess a mutual friend. you don't say anything to one another (yet). it does not surprise you to see him. (you hope perhaps you can return the care he showed you.) the people you are drawn to, or who become drawn to you, often interlace. it is in your nature. the sun may drive people apart, rendering the dunes and the cities and the forests disparate, but the way it burns your bones forges a [[kinship|expect to be ousted.]] too. it is not quite a case of having a common enemy. you simply all know what it is to live with being tired. you are not irrevocably altered. the damage of moving through ending worlds is not [[healed.]] the dreams do not vanish.
they do not look any less tired. they do smile though. and when they greet you, you feel that little bit less adrift.they offer you [[a bowl of soup.]] those around you, friends distant and near, come to take up their spot about the fire. their chatter is loud and low and cut through with shouts and laughter. everyone is ready and eager for food. their focus is not on you but on each other, on the fire, on taking off their shoes or shrugging off a jacket, itching old wounds and complaining. the sound of them envelopes you like the warmth of the fire. <<timed 2s>> it is steaming.
<<next>> you take it.
<<next>> you sit.
<<next>> you eat.
<<next>> on such a journey, that can be enough.<</timed>>for all your uncertainty and hesitation, you came here for them. you came to see how you felt up against them. you came too to see if a connection could be made. you've no idea how you would measure this ([[they]] are not speaking; they are not responsive in any language you understand. they move on a scale of time that you cannot decipher) but it felt important. when you reached the forest and you knew they were here you knew you ought to come closer. as <<linkappend "a kindness.">>
this is not to be confused with pity. though pity is a reaction that threatens to establish itself (you project a whole world of sorrow onto [[the situation's unknowns|come before it]]) you are able to stem it for how often you have broken yourself under the sun. you would not pity yourself then. pity obliterates too much. pity does not survive in the sun. <</linkappend>>she has drifted to greet the others. they share touch. companionship is established. at some point you will all sleep and some of you will wake up together. bodies overlap. you see her purple skin interspliced with another familiar arm, <<linkappend "a different, known shoulder.">>
<<linkprepend "this tapestry of bodies">>she is incorporated into the ecosystem. you will see her again.
<</linkprepend>> is so full after the expanse of the desert, the enormity of the city, the closure of the forest. so dense. your lungs could be crushed beneath it, but familiar touches here and there ease the burden, people brushing past you, noticing you, welcoming you. you still flinch when caught unguarded, but trust is expanded. you go so long untouched by anyone but Dog. you do not know which came first: your fear of contact or <<linkappend "the rarity of it.">>
when your kind come up and touch you it still [[strikes you|expect to be ousted.]] like the dreams, a shock to the nervous system, but you bear it. it is like the sex. there are different ways of feeling safe, and different ways of drawing closer.
<</linkappend>> <</linkappend>>whatever grows here is putrid in the extreme. pollen and scent and airborne flesh and seeds saturate your throat and airways, thick and sweet in the way living things are when they are dead but not yet <<linkappend "sour-rotting.">>
when the wind that stirs through [[the trees that grow here]] changes, you are struck afresh by the density of the air. you grow heady from it. though it is unpleasant, you are not deterred by such assaults. on the contrary, they set you at ease, <<linkappend "make you welcome.">>
heightened sensations are only fitting in a world like this. you wouldn't know what to do with anything different. you can't come out of dreams like yours to slip into easy living. you can't live under a sun this hot and crave only temperate settings. eventually the sun gets to you and you understand that just as you bear witness to its happenings, it <<linkappend "constitutes a part of you.">>
these may be the end times, but they are still times. [[what might lie beyond|you would like to, though.]] terrifies you.<</linkappend>><</linkappend>><</linkappend>>'trees' is another insufficent label. they are enormous as trees might be, tall enough that you cannot make out the definition in their canopy, but their shape is closer to mushrooms, bulbous and topped, their branches wide and fanning out in thick, fleshy struts. fallen chunks litter the floor and they buldge out under your feet like marshmellows when you step on them, elastic, <<linkappend "cushioned.">>
the noise of your passing is thus softened, reduced to whispers, the not-there sounds of the desert dunes. you walk and you do not witness yourself walking as you usually do, in the noise of crushing something underfoot. you do not feel it the same way either, the pillowy undergrowth taking the ache out of your trembling legs. this you resent. it leaves you feeling suspended, like you might fall at any moment. the destruction of your muscles was one of the few measurements of time/space/self that you had left.
you stride wider and harder, exerting yourself. [[the urge to run|wild and stinking]] is suffocating, but you know better than to run in heat and air this thick. <</linkappend>>you [[fantasise|catching water with a net.]] about those parts of her, now in you, in your blood and stomach. you imagine your own bodily system internalising these parts of her. you imagine your skin turning purple like hers. you wonder if it will heal your fingers, make them something less painful that stubs with the nails torn off. her hands are spongey and porous and rounded; she can grow digits out of them at will. you can barely even control the ones you have by default.the end of the world created new life; or enabled you to perceive more, you're unsure. as the population of people emptied out, space was made to give new signifigance and meaning to other modes of living. the enormity of structures and landscapes around is a part of this. but so too is <<linkappend "the life of that unlike you.">>
lines between people and animals and vegetation blurred. undead life and diseased life and half life became the norm. (you fall somewhere in or out of these categories.) then there is that which is radically other to you. you cannot percieve these themselves, only the phenomena which they precipitate (the formation of great pits; the immense sounds they disperse; perhaps they are responsible for how you relocate when you dream). these living things are like the words you [[half-glimpse]] in the sublime phenomena around you. their form and shape is encountered only in split second corner-of-the-eye like feelings. they are what you feel as you walk through cities, ribs aching. they are the itch up your back, possibly. all this is guess work.
after so much travelling, you find their strangeness [[comforting|the living thing]].
<</linkappend>>the enigma of what lives in the pit there appeals to you. beyond your ideals of kindness and companionship, this is perhaps the more honest reasoning for what drew you here. as suns and skylines and horizons fracture about you, something/someone who bothers to retain some mystery is appealing.
this pit and its inhabitant are not the first enigma you have shored up against. the apocalypse birthed an infinitude of abandoned buildings and homes and creatures you do not recognise, that <<linkappend "will not yield to you.">>
it would be wrong to focus only on the external. the dreams and the sun have made you as strange to yourself as any of this membrobelia. you don't know what of you will stay or go or how (or if) you'll even be here tomorrow. each [[attempt at control]] brings you back to witnessing the looping of the sun. <</linkappend>><<linkprepend "Dog is vital to you.">>Dog you cannot control, though you can guide. their proximity to you and their wayward actions are like a tight fist around your heart. they are a sticking reminder that control is beyond your reach. you are left instead with something you might, on a good day, [[call hope.]]
now [[where were we|the living thing]]?together when you are done connecting flesh to flesh, you lie on the grass beside the pit and listen to its sound. you've both heard it before. it leaks out from the pit into other spaces. but you've never been this close to the origin before.
<<linkappend "you touch her.">> you watch yourself as you touch her, seeing the way your limbs move, how you can establish yourself against another being. the sound of the pit is still there but you're not so dumbfounded by it.
she touches you back. you both [[talk]] as you're touching and words, clumsy as they may be, don't seem so cruel anymore.<</linkappend>>and when you both find yourselves outside of the forest, [[you laugh]]. you can still hear the sound that pervades out from the pit. you have it couched within you as a memory, however attenuated. but you are able to [[leave it behind.]] you tell each other how you came to be here, where you have been, what you believe you are. you speak of how you came to get these limbs and this skin and <<linkappend "your nervous temors.">>
you tell her about the sun regurgitating itself between cloud and land like something terrible and mocking. [[she has seen something similar.]] she tells you of the time she saw a whole race of people walk down into a valley full of death, knowingly, believing it better than out here. she tells you small details of their bodies, how she could see the outline of their bones from where she watched them. you shudder together. the ringing of [[the pit]] seems a fiting backdrop now.<</linkappend>>how giddy you turn when she [[says|talk]] this. you feel as if your stomach is being ripped out between your legs. you spend some time there, sleeping and drinking and talking together. you always wake up in the same spot, the gravity of the pit pinning you there.
the drama of it begins to fade. she suggests you [[take a walk together.]][[the ache|time to go]] of your legs is replaced by the weight of her arm on your shoulder.your arrival is noticed. those who spot you first come up to you, and before you can protest they are touching your arm, your shoulder. they ask where you have been. <<linkappend "they do not complain when you cannot answer.">>
you haven't got it in you to speak with them, not yet. you are exhausted and bleeding and sunburned. but they don't seem to care. they point to their tents or they tell you how they came to stay here, how folks ran into each other. some gestures are made to the impossible landscape, recent perceptions of the sun, but [[most of the talk]] is about the fish you can catch here, who the newcomers are, evenings spent skinny dipping in the water. it is [[a daze|expect to be ousted.]] to move within them. <</linkappend>>it is a struggle to focus on such talk. it leaves your skin itching in a fashion that predicts how you will part ways again, and you will journey in search of solutions. but even this itch is a kind of relief. if you focus, you can reorientate yourself to this smaller world, this subsection of relief. the sun is setting, and it appears to be doing so slowly. with all of you here bearing witness, it may just be something you can [[rely on for a while.|await chastisement.]]