One of Us Has Gone Missing
There is no such thing as total darkness, only scrolls of light signalling end points and alternative states. You emerge from a column of hazy statistics, stating, “I want to enter a cave. But not just any cave. I want to enter a cave of my own design. One that was created using nothing but needlepoint and redundant body parts.”
The cave you are thinking about resembles an airport terminal. The departure lounge prevents carriage return and other complex hieroglyphs. I reply, “It’s not the first time the word has been mentioned.”
But then again, that’s not entirely true. Your voice has travelled through the valleys of night and day. It has installed itself in the pituitary gland, drilling holes into our skin without pre-approval. Several physiological processes have been implicated. The list of these processes is not complete until small, lizard-like critters annotate the margins.
You sense the amount of electrical current absorbed by another person. The path the current takes prior to reaching the floor. “In due course, we shall submit to the frenzy of BBQ implements and astrophysics.” Your mouth presents an external symmetry; it has obtained the characteristics of certain aquatic objects found in Norse mythology.
Circumscribed by several redundant provisions, life on the ocean floor can be needlessly difficult. I say, “Grammar is not mentioned often enough.”
The cave in question is formed by gravity, erosion, and other cumbersome occurrences. Also present: symbols of light and commemorative coins. Invite. Me. In. From this point forward, we will build our itineraries in such a way as to avoid explosions. This seems sensible until confronted by the wide range of political billboards placed in the fields of a long-forgotten Midwestern state.
Fracking happens here. And mystery spots. Crop circles. Dust storms. Despite this landlocked setting, the overarching narrative is populated by sea creatures whose features are predominantly human.
We measure the dimensions of the room for a hit and run renovation project. A fact sheet outlines the physical properties and material possibilities. Likewise, the door to the cave is subject to imperial ambitions and can only be unlocked by those unwilling to conquer.
But then again, you have conquered indiscriminately. “The vanquished simply require touch to feel human.”
Our hands are covered in filth and lime burns. We use sharp, unsterilized utensils to dig shards of glass and unidentified ordinance out of them.
The cave predates the existence of the sun. There are no formal entry requirements, only a stack of padded insulating mats built to resemble internal tissue and other watery organs. It’s the waiting which is intolerable. “Should we get a wriggle on?”
The story we tell here relates back to when we were children. We rolled around in the bottom of a small white boat, waiting for one of those famous Great Lakes storms to pass. There were blotchy, raised welts on my skin. Many years later, you helped separate the memory from its context. You say, “One must close their eyes to see.”
The color black is well established. There are black shades of green for St Patrick’s Day and black shades of red for the traditional winter holidays. There are black grapes in ceramic jugs. There are black roofs made of copper. There are black waves heaving with black whitecaps under yellowish-black clouds.
Similarly, in order to purchase, one must be willing to click. Purchase. Click. Purchase. Click. Your cursor hovers over ex-lovers, conquests and periods of bad weather. I say, “It gets easier once you look the other way.”
You point to a small red mark on your skin, “Surely, this is another reason to shun Paypal.”
The cave opens out onto a long white beach. Informal footpaths have been worn through the dune grass. There’s only one thing left to do. “Start walking.”
And so, our feet lead us out from the dark. We tense before stepping through, but the water is warmer than expected.
Craig Foltz (US/NZ) is a writer & visual artist whose work has appeared in numerous journals, anthologies & galleries. His collection of poetry LOCALS ONLY was published by Compound Press in 2020, and he has previously released two books on Ugly Duckling Presse. He currently lives & works in New Plymouth, pinched between the wild & remote west coast & Mt Taranaki.