I draw myself into existence just as the feather-bulls make their run through the rollercoaster streets of Lethe. I let them pass through me like an immaterial matador while I try to get my bearings. They splash through my carbon strokes giving me speed-line wings. A nine-tailed samurai chases after them on a skateboard, going up and around the tangled streets. “Watch out!” she shouts at me, but she is already tumbling over in slow motion.
The samurai’s skateboard keeps chasing the stampede, ignorant and/or uncaring about its rider. I step out of the way at regular speed and the samurai finally catches up. She lands hard on the cracked street. I move a few strands of graphite hair from my face before extending my helping hand. “New here?”
For the first time, I see the embarrassingly cute trichotomy of her mask: a moè Hannya mask shifting between exuberant happiness, fallen sadness, and white hot rage. It’s sullen now as I pull her up. “Thank you,” she says. Her mask switches to happiness. “I just got the upgrade a couple of days ago. I thought I might try this place out. But it’s so confusing. I can’t tell where I’m at or where I need to go.”
“They made this place hard to navigate on purpose,” I say to her. I thin my contour lines and clean up my sketchy look. “The idea is to force you into learning how to use your lucidity to find your way around. Where are you trying to go?”
Fallen sadness now. Just three expressions are frustratingly simple. “I was trying to meet up with my friends at Twixt Tower?” Sadness is replaced by anger. “The skateboard told me it would take me, but I think it just wanted to chase after the feather-bulls. Does that make any sense?”
“Everything makes sense here.”
“Well, my friends gave me directions.” With that, a baseball, two hotdogs, and a glass of wine pop into existence in front of the honorable samurai. Then they all fall to the damp stone. The baseball shatters into a million pieces. The hotdogs land safely and then walk away. The glass hovers just above the ground. Its wine remains still inside of it.
I look at the samurai; back to solemnity. “These were the directions?”
“Yeah, I don’t understand any of this though.” The samurai pulls her knees up to her chest and floats in the air, so I call her attention to it.
Much like Wile E., she looks down at the ground and realizes that she is in mid-air. Then she falls hard onto her butt again. This time, I keep my helping hand on my breast.
“You’re thinking too hard about this. This is Somnus, a dream,” I motion to the rest of Lethe, an impossible city as hard to fathom as quantum mechanics, but as familiar as your own home. Take that Schrodinger. “Years of conditioning has taught you that your world must be logical, but standard logic barely has any place here.”
“It’s quite hard to get accustomed to.”
“Trust me, you’ll get it in no time,” I say to her. “Now, about those directions-”
“They’re meant to help you think outside of the box, just like Lethe. It reveals the impossible to you so that you realize this is a dream.”
“And do whatever I want,” the Hannya mask is pink and happy now.
“And go wherever.” I make a show of it. Dreams are all about the fantastical and mesmerizing. I roughen my lines with a furious sketch and drape myself in a cape of charcoal that flows like fire. And it grows, engulfing both me and the samurai.
When it subsides, we are at Twixt Tower, north and south of where we just were. The Twixt Tower is a mashup of the Sun and the Moon, a pedestrian sculpture made by the unimaginative. Part of me wants to use Tighty’s moderator code to reform the tower into a Cronenbergian image of Snoop Dogg and Rosie O’Donnell, but I don’t want him to get into trouble. Lethe is supposed to be off limits.
The samurai shrieks something that I think is supposed to be happiness. I look at her mask. It’s definitely elation. “There they are!” She waves at a group of people dressed like they are at a sweaty anime convention. They shriek back. It’s not hard for me to resist the urge to do it myself.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” The samurai gives me a big hug, nearly erasing my pencil strokes. When she releases me, her mask is gone, revealing to me what I assume is her real face. “My name is Kitsunèè.”
I can already see her eyes saucering up and getting that fine watery glaze. I swallow my embarrassment for her. “I’m Blythe. Welcome to Somnus.”
Next: The Whiskey Tango
Photo credit: andrewek