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one

White and black and red.

There’s a joke there, about penguins. Or maybe nuns? It’s an itch on the surface of his brain that he can’t bring forward. If he could, who would he tell it to? The Little Man, with his warnings? The Giant with his koans? Maybe one of the Lauras. But Laura Before is too distracted by terror for jokes. Laura After is awash in grief and release – it would be insensitive. Laura of the Secret – she might listen; but wherever she is Laura the Banshee follows. And Leland and Windom have vanished.

Who else is there?

two

 
White and black and red.

He thinks he’s in the Waiting Room still; but sometimes he knows he’s in the Black Lodge. He’s sure he’s never seen the White. Sometimes he knows they’re the same place - nirvana and samsara coexisting, overlapping – but he can’t seem to make the leap to experiencing it that way.

He greeted Laura After when she slipped through the boundaries. But her tears ended and she passed onward in a flash of white light and he found he couldn’t follow. Maybe it’s because he’s not dead yet.

Maybe it’s because someone else has his body.

three

White and black and red.

Endless passages double back on themselves in the quiet of a hospital at night, but there’s a low sound underneath, like electricity. She meets a man younger than her father who stares at her in mute wonder and acts as if he wants something. Men always want something from her. She wants to pass him by - she doesn’t have much left to give.

When he speaks it’s a warning she doesn’t understand. He’s so earnest, so sure, so she listens. He looks at her as if he knows what’s coming.

She’s afraid to ask.

four

White and black and red.

He feels camaraderie with the Lauras – she’s his touchstone. She comes and goes, crossing the boundaries as easy as slipping from one room to the next, while he goes round and round in an endless loop. He tries to speak to her, but only Laura of the Secrets ever replies.

“What is this place?” he asks.

Laura Before stares at him, wide eyed and suspicious, and then moves on.

Laura After doesn’t hear him.

“Uoy pleh t’now seman,” Laura of the Secrets says.

He thinks the Banshee knows, but all she ever does is scream.

five

White and black and red.

The eternal moment, the axis mundi.  He wants to think of this as time under the Bohdi tree, but when he attempts meditation he’s filled with a screaming echo, a hum, clicking footsteps on tile. This place is constantly changing – it’s the essence of impermanence; but then it’s all so similar the difference between one thought to the next is difficult to discern.

His steps measure the distance from one curtained wall to the statue of Venus. This time it is two inches farther to the left – but did the Venus move, or the walls?

six

White and black and red.

She thinks she’s dreaming again. Memory hesitates long enough to recognize the ephemeral walls, the feeling of being boxed in by stage curtains that might lift at any moment to reveal whatever lay beyond. And then everything that led her to this place comes crashing back: the agony, the desperation, the disbelief. The love turned to terror.  The ring she’d grasped at the last second. The animal screams.

Her father’s face behind the mask.

She sobs for an eternity before she’s aware of the man from her dream, standing with quiet compassion at her side.

seven

White and black and red.

Annie no longer appears but her shadow remains behind, its milky white eyes watchful, trailing behind him like a fading regret.

He feels no hunger. Sometimes he bleeds. Despite the persistence of his surroundings when there’s blood he can’t prevent the thought that he’s back in the dark safe house with Caroline dead in his arms.  The fact that he’s stumbled across her body once or twice doesn’t help matters.

When he gets too lost the Banshee finds him and her shriek pierces the fog, sends his heart into his throat, and slaps him awake.

eight

White and black and red.

He can’t shake the suspicion that a crucial test has passed him by. Come and gone and left him behind.

At first he tried to figure this place out, like it was a puzzle to be solved; but that got him nowhere and nowhere again.  He’s fallen into a trap of his own making – he’s decided he knows that much.  Even time doubles back on him like a mobius strip.

Down deep he’s haunted by the thought that he knows what the Giant meant.

One and the same .  

Knowing doesn’t change anything. He’s still here.

nine

White and black and red.

He walks the halls – tick tock – and searches for a way out. But after awhile even his enemies leave him behind and the landmarks shift like mirages when he turns his back.

It takes some time to realize there are only two rooms, with one hallway connecting them.

It takes more time to realize that perhaps there is only one room. That the act of searching creates the illusion of more.

By the time it occurs to him that the place might be a construct created by his mind, he’s pretty sure years have passed.

ten

White and black and red.

He tells himself he won’t run the next time the Banshee screams.

When he stops walking the doubts lay heavy and thick. Maybe he was wrong to warn Laura.  It didn’t change anything. Maybe because her death has already happened there was nothing to stop.  At times he feels as if he’s missing a limb, but he’s checked – they’re all present and accounted for. Still, the sense of being split apart remains.

In another joke a suicidal twin kills his brother by mistake. He can’t remember the punch line.

He’s never been good at jokes.