Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The One Hundred by Marie Lamb
"Out of the One Hundred, broken on the way down." This was scratched laboriously into the side of the mountain we passed today. We all paused, and read it, and looked from one to the other to see if anyone understood. I looked up at our goal, the peak, dizzyingly high, and wondered: 'What was broken? Or, who?'
How did they fall?
Were we climbing the Mountain, only to fall ourselves?
My guide was not enthusiastic about telling me. He doesn't like questions, he says. He just likes the Traveler's to follow along. The road has become so full of ruin and sharp edges that he seems to spend most of his time dealing with it by knives. It was not that there was nowhere else to go, but that we were drawn by something so strongly that we could go nowhere else.
Even so, it is not a wonder to me that there are so few of us who come these day. The ones I stand among are thin and weary in the eyes, but still they look at the Mountain. One must feed up on hope, even when it is doled out in only small spoonfuls. We are all thirsting for the water, and hungry in our souls. And we feel the pull of the Mountain in our blood, calling us.
I fear to ask more while he hacks away at the path. Perhaps our guide was one of the One Hundred, or that he knew one of them. I tread a little more carefully, not to step upon his grief. But still, I wonder how we will not relive the trials of the past if we sit in ignorance of them. We walk along the same paths, and look for the bones, but refuse to speak of them.
We reach the door in the Mountain, and our guide opens it up with a twist of the flywheel. It cranks slowly, on what sound like ropes and not chains. Within the doors the market is bustling and the world is different and full of life. I see the eyes of my fellow Travelers light up with wonder and disbelief.
We look for projectors and speakers, and try to reach out and touch the fruit. But we are pushed forward, our hands batted away. We have come through but are told our journey is not yet over. Instead we are pointed to the Hill, up a set of clean white stairs. We huddle together, our hope held on strings, and begin to pull our ragged bodies up one bit at a time. It is only as a group, with hands together and much strain, that we finally reach the top.
And for the first time, since I began walking, I am counting. I did not count on the trail, or as we entered the gate. I saw and felt only a sea of dead eyes and misery and strife, keeping my sights on the trail and begrudging that there were not enough answers.
Now I see. As the last small child has been pulled up on the top stair we stand together. We are the One Hundred, for this time and place, as was written. We were broken on the way down. And now we have come up.
Monday, June 21, 2021
Friday, June 04, 2021
It began several years ago, the white shadows. I would see them, walking across the room - from here to there, every day, the same ones, shadows of a past gone by. I began to realize, the older the place, the more populated it had been, the greater the number of shadows. In some places, they were stacked on each other so deep it was like looking through a London Fog.
For example, the airport. The first time I had
to go through O'Hare to get to a plane they thought I was having a panic
attack. I don't know how I made it through - mostly by following the
feet of the people in front of me. When they called our plane, I knew
the number, and it was only by luck and chance that the man and woman
who jumped up and began to run for the other gate were really going the
same place I was. The plane was not old, but while it was on the ground
the shadows continued to walk through, around, and up and down. When
we left into the air, things cleared. When we landed, I was so glad to
have someone there to pick me up and take me home.
Now, I actually have to employ someone to walk me through the crowded places. I bring a cane, and dark glasses. Sometimes they are in the know, and sometimes they really think that my panic attacks render me blind. But mostly, I try to find the quiet places - the out of the way places, where few have come before. It isn't an easy life, trying to photograph the beauty through what is invisible to most - to see only through my camera lens that which, when I view it with the naked eye, is nearly obscured.
I guess that is why I have thrown myself into my work so completely, and why it has shown in the sheer number of awards that I have now raked in. 'Most Remote Photograph of the Year', yes - that's me. 'To Go where None have Gone Before', yes, I'd love to. For someone who once was so entranced by history, by the bright lights, the stages and the exuberance of life, now I seek solace, vast empty spaces and the quiet of the midnight and dawning hours in the places where most would have been asleep and dreaming.
Perhaps I am dreaming all of this. It is hard to prove that Mr. Alistair came down these stairs one night at two a.m., and yet, I see him - just once - carrying the lantern. It is hard to know or investigate who the little girl is running up the mountain path, on this farm that has been abandoned for a hundred years - or that she also sits on the beach down there by the rocks, huddled against some storm that no one remembers.
Perhaps one day I will wake up and there will be no fog in the social places, no strange things to catch the corner of my eye when a reporter is asking their questions on the phone, no mysteries that I really do not wish to solve.
Tomorrow I will take these bandages off and we will see if the surgery has made any difference at all. I am ready to wake up from this dream into a new day. But if I stop seeing the past, what will I do with my future? If I see nothing at all, will I have a future? If I start seeing the future, will it be black or blindingly white? //fiction -- first draft, thoughts floating through my mind today