by CHRIS DANKLAND
When the the angel appeared in Jones Very’s apartment, reaching through every heavenly firmament and dimension to touch him like an arm through a curtain, he realized that everything he thought he’d known about the world was wrong. It was as if a window had been opened in the air and reality itself had stepped through. The angel had six wings and four faces and a hundred eyeballs that opened and closed like gills. The angel walked to the foot of Jones’s bed where he lay frozen and spoke without speaking:
INSIDE YOU SLEEPS THE MOUTH OF REVELATION !! said the angel. THE INCARNATING TONGUE !! TILL ON OUR EAR ITS SOLEMN WARNINGS FALL. YOUR LIFE IS NOT YOUR OWN !! BEHOLD
He woke up. The switch from dream world to waking was so instant and complete that he could hardly separate them. He felt like an air bubble that had touched the water’s edge and exploded into sky. For several minutes he couldn’t do anything but lie still and be confused, feeling his heart jackhammering against his skinny chest.
But, bit by bit, he calmed and adjusted to midnight. I’m in my bed, he thought. In my apartment. In Houston. Texas. On planet Earth. It’s nighttime.
The darkness of his one room apartment was a relief from the angel’s piercing spotlights. He felt as if the angel’s light had somehow scorched him inside, blinded him with its afterimage. The familiar shadows that surrounded him—his desk, his chair, the clothes in the closet—his own body in bed and his own trembling hands that wiped warm sweat from his face—it all seemed as intangible to him as smoke. He felt as if a deceiving skin had been ripped from every surface. Compared to the angel’s illumination, the world seemed weightless and unreal, hallucinated.
He felt a sudden urge to look out the window and make sure the city was still there. He pulled back the curtain and stared. Same as ever. But he couldn’t help feeling nervous about it.
He fished out half a joint from the ashtray and lit it, drawing the smoke in with long breaths. He felt the hot smoke burrow down into the hollow of his body, making his brain spin and swell. He smoked it down to a tiny roach, the end burning his fingers before he stubbed it out with a final ghostly plume.
He raised his arms above his head and did some stretches, feeling his muscles and tendons tighten, his skin twist. He drank a cold glass of tap water and smiled as the chill swam down his throat and through his stomach tubes. It was comforting to feel his body and feel himself inside his body, to remember that human consciousness could be explained through an incredibly complicated set of physical processes. Dreams too. Freshly stoned, Jones stared at the wall.
YOUR LIFE IS NOT YOUR OWN, the angel had said.
I’m pretty high I guess, he said to the empty room.
He walked to the window and pulled back the curtain again.
CHRIS DANKLAND‘s head is made of smoke. He lives in Houston. His website is www.dankland.net.