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I sometimes wonder what it takes for the world to devour me. A conviction? An aggression? Perhaps a war, or some sort of revelation? It wouldn’t be hard to rob my spirit of this vague world of mundaneness. My soul, a bullet in a loaded gun, has none but one say in my head. It would be impossible to ignore it, for it is rather a scream than a gentle speak-up. In a savage, overgrown jungle, in the most dangerous game, in the decrepit palace in which lies the rough beast of dreariness, my mind, softly, gradually, pressed the stifling three words on my lips. Even in my soundest dream I can’t help it when the weight falls upon me, as night falls upon dusk, as spring falls upon a cherry blossom. “Ethereal,” said she, as she stretched her blushed petals, “I wonder what it feels to be earthly.”
“I know what it feels to be earthly,” I murmured. This isn’t real. All are but dreams. My spirit had already shouted the truth, of which I HAD FALLEN. My vacant spring and my gloomy nights sink in bitterness that stings my tongue and killed my voice. Oppression is truly a state of being. It pervades you with insufferable grief, drowning one with an utter melancholy. It holds its head high in a condescending posture, questioning over and over again, “Am I DIVINE?”
Even when the emperor is divine I’m still waiting for The Second Coming, thought I. In the vast cradle of humanity and the epilogue of the most dampened and bizarre dream, I awoke.
And now all are but reality.
Something is wrong with this city.
Each day I wake up, I die a little. Something is missing. I can’t recall what it is.
I used to be everything. I was the genius author, a rising star of youth. Back then I don’t need to numb myself with myriad stacks of daily journals that I can’t even come up with a title. They have no title. I have to name them with numbers. Damn I wish I could squeeze the whole universe into a matrix or pixels so I don’t need to worry about my total lack of talent. Things are easier in their orderly and fixed ways. Now I’m skimming through my journals and my muse is still lost. I have no inspiration for my next work, and this has been my daily struggle for years.
It’s not my fault! It’s never my fault. Something is wrong with this city. Everyday, I wake up to the rumbling from underneath the ground: a peculiar sound of a thousand worn down engines, the groan of all the dead popes and the bubbling of sunken ships combined. It’s a quiet sound, but it seeps into every second of my life. When the underground murmur possesses my dull mind and through my hand spill my dark coffee all over my goddamn typewriter, when it rocks my most unfettered dreams into nightmares with its heavy decibels, I know that is when a sound of silent turns into a vexing thunder. The noise absolutely indulged in disturbing my life. It’s getting louder, and I know I’m not the only one hearing it.
Why is everyone so oblivious of the moaning below? Why hasn’t anyone cracked the dead-grey cement of this dead-grey city to see what’s making that DREADFUL SOUND? There’s no music to cover it. There’s no music at all. There’s no dance, no sculpture, no painting, no art at all. In the city where everyone is obsessed with rules and orders, there’s no way literature and art can exist, because this is a city carefully constructed with units of blocks. We wake up. We stick with time blocks. We live in building blocks which we call “home”. We block out the sound. We block out the colors. We block out arts. We block out our hearts. We imprison.
I guess that’s why my muse is dead.
It’s a dark paradise here. Isn’t it how the city is designed? A paradise where we feel free to have our freedom dead. The grey skies and the ubiquitous smog are our shields. The dim, misty landscape is our camouflage. On the outskirts of the city scattered relics of past societies trouble our sights—we have replaced those civilizations. Everything is grey. Everything is dark. The dark outline of factories and institutions scrapes the sky, which in response descends a blurring haze upon the grey lands. Bleak-white picket fences set boundaries between households, and beneath our feet is the pitch-black cement that seems to cover up all the secrets held by this suppressing city. The smell of metal. It pervades your senses. The groaning sound from underneath intensifies every moment.
It is indeed an obscure city.
But we’re beginning to see the light.
Without any signs or clues, the light appeared, one day, out of nowhere. It wasn’t a special day—it was a day so random that I suspect it was deliberately planned that way to prevent people from overthinking. The light looked like it wasn’t too far away, but it was a grand sight: the blazing glare, up high in the unseen top of the sky, radiated out into the vast mist and pierced pitilessly through every single cell of my retina. From the light source I heard the sound of music; it’s a classical piece I can’t recall — I haven’t heard any music for a long while. For a moment I thought it was the call of divinity, but then I realized what potential tumult it could bring to my drab life. The people, naturally, started to panic, and within a few days things went wild. We haven’t seen such shining beacon for decades. Some say it’s a bliss. Some say it’s a tragedy. Some say it’s a fraud. Some say it’s The Second Coming. Soon enough they divided by groups. There’s the party group that viewed this as a liberation. The light was their signal of never-ending, unconditional pleasure. They got drunk on palm wines and ran around savagely, as if they were holy creatures of City Omelas. Then emerged the police group that thought this must be a trial for this perfect, carefully built system that we must overcome with extra order—they beat the party bastards bruised. The usurper group spread the word that the police group served for the secret government, who were the founders of the city system and planned on taking care of their human livestock, putting them into suffocating little blocks. The police group went furious. It is already a bliss to live under the rules. They got into a huge fight. The peace corps said they were traitors of peace and beat them to concussion. The real peace corps suggested everyone to just stay in their blocks, watch soap shows, and suffocate themselves so war would never happen again. The most hilarious part is the religious groups—oh god how well they entertained me—they came up with oracles and monotheisms and jabbered a whole religious book to tell people that they were superior. I suppose they'll start a war very soon. There’s even a group that declared the light source was “the sun”. Those absolute buffoons.
I don’t care about this freak show anymore. The light, though it brought about massive turmoil, seems fairly luring to me. I wonder why other people are drawn to it. Are they sick of their day-by-day life? Are they hiding away from their insecurities towards the growls underneath? Are they trying to have fun? Are they trying to let out their disquiet of this sick world? Are they ridiculously seeking for a greater meaning?
As for me, I’m a writer and I’m dedicated to my work. My instinct tells me this will make a great story. The delightful music distracted me from the sound below, like I’m in charge.
A few days later the real peace corps claimed that they were leading people of the city towards the light: to find out what the light really is. They almost said that it was to look for “a better future”, but was afraid that the police group might beat them up. They were barbarous.
Surely the plan appealed to almost everyone, as it turned out to be a massive march. At first I thought it was totally unnecessary—we have no idea where we could end up, and how we should respond to all the odds. Instead of answering the sirens, I planned to stay in my block, in front of my typewriter and blast out some art about this absurd incident. But people in the march behaved in such an intriguing way that I was honestly a little amazed: everyone put on their brightest colored clothes — mostly red — and so an ocean of luminous maroon contrasted the ever present grey landscape, marching to a blinding white light. Unquestioning zeal stormed everybody, and the passionate color united them at once. The group, starting off with subtle laughters (which was extremely unusual for the city), burst into a boisterous, frantic crew. As they stepped on the dark cement in a pace with growing unification, I was even worried that the resonance might actually crack the ground and release the devils. But the crowd was too loud and for a minute I forgot the groaning existed. The collective contains so much potential and power that I started to ask myself: should I look for inspiration there in the march?
“Wait for me!!” I shouted out. No one seemed to hear me—you can’t expect a massive crowd walking in a spontaneous and identical pace to slow down just for you. It will break the balance. But I had a sudden and intense urge to join them — what if it was the call of divinity? What if I regain my muse from either the light, the music, or the march? Hesitation caught me in bitterness. I must act before the crowd fades out of sight.
So I put on my bright red bow tie and matched their pace.
It wasn’t that hard to join the crowd. I eventually allowed them to wash out the doubting voice inside. If you’re not the one holding power, you might as well just choose to adapt.
The crew had gone even wilder as we approached the sirens. I remembered the piece of music. It was the sweet sound of Beethoven, master of the quiet before the storm. Now that the music gets louder and louder every second, the dazzling light seemed to be in reach. We happily submitted ourselves to the rule of its blinding glare. Truly the meaning of life is to find where you belong and have a belief in mind, isn’t it?
As we arrived the light source we saw a gigantic, insulated tower where all the magic came from, and the crowd went frenetic. I could see the person marching next to me clenched his fists and teeth till blue-veins laced his face. Young children' cheeks blushed and appeared swollen. Men and women ripped off their flesh-red clothes and and waved them as if they were to shake their arms off. To everyone who had been living in the grey city, the sight was a magnificent party of the reds.
Though they’ve gone completely out of control, no one forgot about their uniform pace. They walked on the pitch-black cement and caused a crack. They stepped into the tower and made a breaking sound. The music, the salvation…the LIGHTHOUSE! The building was almost collapsing as we stomped hard on it to create the most resonating harmonies of the great, devouring collective. Those heavy sounds and heavy steps are the last things I wish to hear in my life, and in all my midnight dreams which I could wake up to find my self surround by an ocean of daring red…
So we paced harder. Two million feet—stepping harder and harder on the hollow wood, the top floor of the tower. We were a finger tip away from the light, I swear — as close to it as when God comes to Adam in Michael Angelo’s forgotten masterpiece…
Until we faltered.
Hard on the floor. Down,
Underneath the ground.
Suddenly I understood where the groaning came from. I saw a different ocean of flesh red — I whole-heartedly drown in.
What a magnificent sight.
I found my muse. Down here.
She’s always with me.
She told me WE HAD FALLEN.
But who cares? It is a sublime resonance.