the curtsies

               They weren’t birds and they weren’t people, so we didn’t know what to call them at first.  They had feathers on the front of their arms and who the hell knew where else.  My husband was one of the ones who was afraid of them, but I didn’t marry him for his bravery, I married him because he knew more about the weather than I ever could.

             I remember it all too well, we were half-young and all-married and living in a town known for its toothlessness, it made me feel like I was in a cartoon sometimes, the way everyone walked past us, smiling with their big blank gums, and all those pets they pulled along with them too.  Big pets and little pets. So many fucking pets.

             I wasn’t a detective by any means, but I could tell as soon as we moved, something was going on there. The sky was loud in all the wrong places, the days were short and long and everybody said the sun could do all sorts of other things if it wanted to… I didn’t get what they meant by that. Again, I was no Sherlock Holmes.

             When they showed up we thought they might be some sort of new pet too, but as soon as we got a good look at their faces we knew they couldn’t possibly be, there was too much action behind their eyes, it was obvious they knew better than to be leashed around. 

            While I’m telling you about their faces, I’ll tell you this too, they were round and slightly pink, and sharp in the middle.  They didn’t quite have beaks, they looked a lot like people.  Maybe seventy-five percent like people.  I think I liked the way they looked, avian and mammalian and big eyed.  Like children.

             My husband would take a big breath whenever we saw one on the street.  He’s always been a fragile man.

         There had been a break in the summer and we weren’t expecting anything special.  The garbage was piling up in the kitchen, the mannequins were on display on the street, I was trying on new ways to be mad at buildings.  I used to wear my frustration on my sleeves, but then I was doing my best to cover my contempt under my clothes.  As deep as it could go I guess. 
            My husband would tell me to take the elevator to meet him for lunch and sometimes I did.  He ate a lot of salads and chewed quietly, one day he found a butterfly in his lunch bag, its wings were blue as a baby boy’s room, we laughed as it waved away.  Summer was when we got along best, I bet it’s like that for a lot of couples, I don’t know. 

            Anyways, we were closer to black and white living than I’m letting on, it was pretty boring for the most part.  I was working in a field I understood too well, sharpening equations and balancing ledgers for people who had grown up taller than me.  I didn’t have a fling with my boss despite what my husband says.  My hands were just too tired to get into it, even though I could’ve.

         Maybe I was waiting for something larger to walk its way all over me.  One way or another, I was just waiting.

         My husband started to call them bird people after a few days of calling them, “them” and “they.”  I kind of felt that name was disrespectful to birds and people both, these creatures were something new, and needed a new name of course, not some hackneyed mashup of their most accessible characteristics. 
            I tried on a few names, “flickities”, “koo koo karoos”, “laylas”, before I settled on one I liked, “curtsies” (after the ways their legs bowed when they walked).  I never thought to ask them what they wanted to be called.  Sooner or later they’d tell me I guess I imagined. 

         The big question we had to begin with was whether or not they could fly.  They could, but not very high and not very far.  They were better at gliding, but even still, they didn’t take to the air too often, not that I saw anyways.  Every once in a while when I was driving around in my car (it was yellow) I would see one up perched in a tree, but I always assumed they just crawled up there to get a better view, it barely occurred to me they could be flying around all the time when I wasn’t looking. 
            I barely ever saw it happen, I don’t have a terribly good sense of my surroundings sometimes, that’s all I’m saying.

         Another question is where they came from.  My husband insisted they came from bad families, but I eventually convinced him otherwise.  My theory was they came from some place colder and migrated here for the warm summer weather.  It wasn’t much of a theory, a hog-tied kindergartner could’ve come up with it on the spot.  I liked it.  It was simple.

         I guess it didn’t really matter where they came from, but we were curious of course.  Either way, there they were, a couple of them at first, and then more and then probably somewhere between ten and twenty.  It was easy to tell them apart, some had long, fat, feathers, some had tiny, prickly ones, some had skinny necks and some were stubby shaped. 
             Also, believe it or not, they had numbers on their backs.  Big numbers, like the ones on sports jerseys.  That made a lot of people think they escapees of some sort of experiment, but I just figured they liked numbers.  I liked numbers, I guess probably I was projecting.

         My husband had these horrible glasses then.  We still danced in the living room sometimes, but he was clumsier than ever.  At work someone kept telling him the Earth’s poles were reversing fast (too fast!), that’s the sort of stuff he brought home at least.  Our lives were less than fireworks on the rise, that’s for sure, far, far less, but there was a lot lower we could go too.  My hands were still soft, they didn’t hurt like they do now. 
            I still believed one day there would be a stage in the sky where I would watch something spectacular happen.  I’m pretty sure I don’t feel that anymore.

Continue reading “the curtsies”

raptor talon talisman

 

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges…”

― Jorge Luis Borges, “A New Refutation of Time”, Labyrinths, 1946.

“If an ox could paint a picture, his god would look like an ox.”

  ― Xenophanes of Colophon, 5th century BC.

Every day in tunnels, in the cave, I wore the talisman and swore the talon’s oath.

Seven claws hung high and sharp around my neck, each one easily reachable by either hand.  They were Jillison’s grave luck piece, an empty ornament to remember where we’d been.

Avalanche was the only calendar I had left.  It was our cold and voiceless season, more violence was unspoken than snow and ice could show.

We were alone and almost unconscious.  Children of the youngest continent, still lost enough to trust a raptor would protect us.

‘….that explains the trouble that I’m always in.”
― Alice in Wonderland, Very Good Advice

2. How does time work?  Here. A very simple setup.  A screen that flashes two dots.  Dot one appears and disappears and then dot two appears and disappears.

The brain translates this into one continuous motion.

Instead of seeing it as it is we perceive it as one dot moving back and forth between then position of the two dots.

We have evolved to see physical objects. We have adapted to the afterlife as if it were a normal error.  Another delusion, what’s the difference?

The unthought known stands for those early schema for interpreting the object world that preconsciously determine our subsequent life expectations.

3. Jillison called them savior claws and said they were enough to start us over again.

Maybe this time we could charcoal a path to a grayscale sun.  We could sharpen the talons to keep us together for good.

False positives or future imperfects, it was up to us to tell the difference. 

If animals like velociraptor were alive today our first impression would be that they were just very unusual looking birds.”

― Mark Norell, ‘Velociraptor Had Feathers’, 2007.

4. What raptors had we known before?  Anyone looking backward and forward at the same time, feathers and scales in the same place.  No need for symmetry, no reason to ask for it.

Like Jillison said, first birds of the afterlife.  Blind and incapable of sustaining their own body heat.  Hatched in caves or sinkholes, brought up by the opposites of each other.

For all we knew, they learned to leave flight behind.

5. Displaced gods or “fading gods” of older theology often appear in lower or demote status in new religions.

In the beginning, we had an agricultural god. 

Makes the seasons, the floods, forest fires, good and bad land.  There is no promise of afterlife. No rewards or punishment beyond death.  No answers are given to metaphysical queries.

Interests include agricultural input/output, little else.  This type of deity is no longer relevant to many people.

6. Could have been one of those sacraments still to come, a collapsing season, a coincidence of solar reckoning.  

Unstable weather often accompanied a raptor’s shadow, when warmer air begun to invade the caves, while glacial currents was still pushed on occasions from the poles.

Even with snow up to my neck I was still soaking wet with sweat.   I clung to serrated edges, sharpened curves, seven talons on a torn red string.  Jillison’s apology in advance, and I clung with both hands, honestly.

7. Time is dependent on an observer: It gets stranger when you add color (or gender) to the setup.  Dot one is reddish pink. Dot two is deep blue.

People claim to perceive the colors changing halfway along.

What is actually happening?  The brain is retroactively changing the contents of your present tense perception. Your brain is retroactively telling you what you are seeing right now.  

Test the latency bias.  Flashes get processed differently in the brain than moving objects.

This is your brain.  This is my brain. Formally just fault lines that fray.

Tiny differentiations in the developing egg designate major differences in the final creature.

8. OK, Jillison. Suppose we never left each other.  Suppose I could hold up those talons like they were a lantern now? How much of us depended on adaptation and how much depended on climate and chance?  How much of any of it was true?

A seventh of it. I know.

“It was a silly, silly dream, being unhappy.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, 1925.