<<previously, on the episodes… “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” — Joseph Campbell>>
written for the theme: forgetting
New Orleans, three handfuls of years back.
In the darkness, it’s all I could hear – the sound of liquid slowly dripping into a puddle of itself. Drip. Drip. The smell of plants and herbs wrapped around me like a cloak, making my skin tingle all over. It hugged me tight, then whispered into my ear, “Follow me out of here, and all will be well.”
“We already had this conversation, remember?” I said. “So I know that you’re lying. But I’m going to follow you anyway, because I need to come back to life. I have things to do.”
“I’m not lying,” said the scent. “Perhaps you are just addicted to thinking that all is not well.”
“Oh great, you’re not just a voice beyond death, but you’re also going to preach to me about all that New Age stuff? Tell you what,” I said as I stood up, shrugging the scent off my shoulders, “if I get through this, I’ll try out yoga, or pray to my shock-rahs or whatnot. Alright? Can we go now?”
Drip. Drip. Drip.
I looked around in the dark. “Hello?” There was no answer. “Come on, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything. I just thought that–”
(If you could somehow compound every epiphany you’ve ever had into a single psychic entity, give that entity a boxing glove, have the entity fake you out with the gloved hand and then sucker-punch your psyche with the ungloved hand, you would have the vaguest concept of what it’s like to come back to life. As I’ve said before – not a good idea. I don’t recommend it, at all.)
So I was shoe-horned into a shivering, convulsing body. I fell off a table and onto the floor and my employer was there in the dim lantern-lit tent, holding a small bottle up to my face. “Drink this,” she said.
The herbal liquid tore through my body, reaching deep into my old muscles and convincing them that they were young again – a kind of violent, inner mass-hypnosis. I rolled over and coughed, and when I spat onto the floor my spit was jet black. There was a large puddle of black next to the table I’d rolled off of, where my arm had been dripping. I raised my hands in front of my face and they were both covered in the black, the words “Don’t Do” gone forever. Maybe they were no longer relevant. Maybe I was too far gone.
My clown doppelganger was there, standing next to the podium which held the green book of episodes. My employer stood up and sighed. “I should be going,” she said.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “You know things. I can’t do this as blind as I am anymore. I need something more, and you have that something.”
She looked over at the clown. “Could you give us a minute.”
“I want him to stay,” I said.
The clown looked me in the eyes -
my own eyes looking back into me. “It’s alright,” he said, and slipped out the entrance of the tent. I could hear the trumpets and raspy singers of Jackson Square outside, and something in me grew warm. I was, give or take fifteen years, back in the correct time period. Jackson Square would be crawling with tourists, artists would be selling their wares and psychics would be reading palms or tarot cards in tents or underneath umbrellas, all under the watchful eyes of the mighty St. Louis Cathedral (next to which, of course, is The Cabildo, where the Louisiana Purchase was signed, and which currently serves as a museum and the resting place of one of the four bronze death masks of Napoleon (masks which must be kept apart at all costs, or the most terrible kinds of things would come to pass (hence the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson just outside, cursed to eternally keep watch over the New Orleans mask))).
I used the table to pull myself to my feet. It was a difficult task, considering my hands were all slippery from the black stuff. “I need to know what you know,” I said.
“You asked me not to get involved,” she said.
“I said no such thing.”
My employer pulled out a letter and smoothed it out on the table. It was written in my own hand. “Don’t touch it,” she said. “I don’t want you smearing ink all over it.”
“What?” I laughed, looking at my hands. “Ink? Why would this be ink?”
“You wrote me this letter right before you made yourself forget what it was you were doing.”
I looked over the letter. My writing was asking my employer not to get involved, and it listed the things she was not to tell me. All of the items on the list had been smudged out – just blurred smudges of ink and paper.
“I don’t understand,” I said. “Just what was I doing?”
“Systematically destroying the episodes,” she said. “I placed the pen inside you, and what you’ve done has snapped it in half, and its bleeding into you. It’s killing you.” (see sub-entry 17)
“The Augur said I that I have to die,” I whispered (see sub-entry 13). “So I decided to destroy the episodes, wrote you this letter and then erased my memory?”
“Not exactly,” she said, folding up the letter and slipping it into her pocket. “You wrote me this letter, and then split yourself in half.”
I shook my head. “No, what happened with me and the clown happened long ago.”
“You split yourself in half back then,” she said. “And then the half that was you split itself again, fifteen years from now, in the present. You, you’re only a quarter of yourself. And the other quarter is the one that holds the memory, the other quarter knows what it is you need to do.”
“He’s the one that walks around when everyone else vanishes…” I looked into her eyes. “So you needed me to be half, right? I needed to be half of someone in order to write the episodes, and now that I’m a quarter, it doesn’t work anymore, right? I destroyed the episodes by cutting myself in half again.”
“You’re close,” she said. “But you’re still wrong.”
The ink covering half my body began to tingle, making my skin twitch all over. “No,” I said to the episodes. “I’m staying. I need to go out into Jackson Square. I’ve thought of something.”
The world closed around me and I reached out, holding it open, but my body was still so weak. I groaned and pulled it open, just a little.
“Don’t do that,” said my employer. “You’re just going to make it worse. The episodes are not your enemy, even if you are trying to kill them.” She put a hand on my chest and shoved me backwards into the darkness, which swallowed me up whole, and I was gone.
story and photos Copyright 2010 by Andy Reynolds
for more stories and a menu of the episodes, visit my website: AndyReynolds.net