Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Other Side of East Street

On the other side of East street, the world changes. The streetlights are further apart, and eventually there are none. There are fewer buildings, and more trees. Soon there are no buildings at all. The undergrowth changes and the plants smell different. It’s a subtle change at first, but soon there’s no mistaking it. They no longer smell green, earthy, astringent, but spicy, slightly musky, oriental and mysterious, like a drug to the senses that both beckons and repels. And there is sound. At first it seems like the barely-there music of the wind in the leaves, but slowly it changes, rounds out into a subtle, chiming tune, and you realise that no normal forest could ever sound like that.

For now it is a forest. But strangely, you hadn’t noticed. You have walked right out of civilisation without even observing it, and that is more disturbing than anything else. You feel as if your own mind, your own senses, have played you traitor. And who, or what, else can you possibly trust in such a place? Nothing is more disorienting than being unable to trust yourself, especially when your self is what you have relied on all your life. You know longer know where you are.

At this point you have two choices. The most probable is that you will retreat, retracing your steps back to East street and beyond. This is called staying on the safe side. But maybe you are a little braver, or a little more desperate, or else there is nothing left for you to return to. So you keep going, further into this forest-becoming-jungle, and part of you is terrified, and part of you is excited (because without difference there can be no change), and part of you wonders whether this place is called Eden or Despair.

So you wander on, sometimes straight ahead; sometimes to one side or the other. There are constant changes in the landscape, but you cannot always explain or identify them. Instead you feel them. But by this stage you cannot turn back, even if you wished, for you no longer know the way. There are times when you long for the life you used to have, on the sunny side of the street; that is when you realise that this changed world has changed you as well. You are wilder, you are stronger, and you are weaker as well. Daily you grow weaker and weaker. You have never felt more alive, and you know that you are dying. Nothing here sustains the life that you had. It is only when you feel you can go no further, when you are literally crawling because you can no longer walk, that you come to the break in the trees.

In front of you is bare ground, rocky outcrops with a little grass between the stones, sloping upwards to a hill. At the top of the hill is a tree, so high that your eyes cannot follow it all the way up. It is the place of the Bleeding Man. He is there, waiting for you, calling you by name. You look at Him, and you cannot look away. You are dizzy with death, and as you look, you can no longer tell the difference between Him and yourself. You die. You are finally alive.