SHORT STORY MONDAY
It was difficult to determine whether or where to break this up. Like all decisions after the fact, it is what it is, from the way the story unfolds to the way in which it is presented.
Quick update: Greg has returned to the Nonsense Room again, and Leslie can't take it any more. Thanks for following along. If this is not your cup of tea, maybe the next story will be about toenails, or leopards, or who knows, but do come back.
The Nonsense Room
"Damn you, Greg."
As Leslie pulled from a drawer the unopened card that she had planned to give him she marked it as the first time she had allowed herself to consider that she had made a mistake in marrying this man. The argument with which she normally consoled herself - We've had our difficulties, but who hasn't? - temporarily yielded and would not support her. She steadied herself with both hands against the counter, flushed cheeks streaming tears.
With the clack of the latch she knew him to be gone from her forever. She stared at the empty kitchen as if seeing for the first time. She hated this place now. Into the hall, to the living room, to the bedroom - Leslie stumbled from room to room without aim, the internal fever of emotions draining her of strength, until she found herself in the basement.
From off a shelf at the foot of the stairs she seized a can of kerosene which she began spilling on the carpet as she ascended again. "Greg?" she called. "I'm going for a walk. Will you come with me?"
In her hand she held a book of matches. "Greg!" she cried sharply. The half dozen matches burst into flame and fell to the floor, igniting the moistened carpet.
Leslie staggered from the house to the unfettered freedom of an open sky. There were few houses along this section of bluff overlooking the river, which had been a large part of its appeal when they chose to move here. A string of summer cabins, unoccupied this time of the year, dotted the woods where the the road dipped down to the river's edge, but the bluff itself had been long ago cleared for horse grazing and McAllen's sod operation. She walked slowly, not looking back until the she reached the perimeter of the sod farm.
When she saw the angry pulsing glow of firelight through the windows of her house, she gasped, both stunned and alarmed by what she had set in motion.
Leslie made a hasty decision to dart across the road to the nearer McAllen's rather than directly back home, needing desperately to alert the fire department. She could see a light on in the back of the house and prayed someone was at home. Leslie banged on the front door. No answer. She tried the handle and, finding it locked, despairingly crashed her fists against the door. She scrambled to the side of the house, found the kitchen door open, burst in, and called the nine-one-one emergency number.
Dashing from the house, she began trotting toward home as fast as she dared, knowing a sprint would leave her winded before reaching her yard. Suddenly she stopped, whirled about and raced to the McAllen's house once more. She picked up the phone, dialing her own number this time, her breathing hoarse and laborious.
Answer the phone, Greg. Answer the phone, dear God, Greg, answer the phone.
Inside the nonsense room Greg had begun entering a new dimension of illumination, having placed himself once more under the influence of the room's spell, gradually having no awareness apart from it, no reality apart from the strange and cryptic reality of those four walls. His breathing was steady and deep as he entered the trance, knowing the meaning of trance, knowing what a trance is, feeling it and knowing it and how it gets deeper and releasing himself deeply into it; he began to have feelings of nostalgia as if somehow he were being awakened to a lost childhood. And still... further back, within himself... he sees... feels....
A palpable tension was followed by shortness of breath and expectation. At a certain point, a reversal took place and he made a profound connection between the images on the wall and the images in his mind. Not the first time he made this connection, but in previous trances he had interjected rational explanations, telling himself that these were nothing more than afterimages on the retina of his eyes. On this night he short-circuited the rationalizations, turned away from them and denied them their power.
From somewhere deep inside himself the music welled up again, beginning with wind chimes and pan pipes, music which he had previously named the Song of the Earth. And it was very beautiful and he knew he was part of something bigger than himself, something he wanted badly to be part of, and he couldn't understand why there were so many barriers in life, why everything had always been so difficult to comprehend. In the Song of the Earth he was able to lose himself, to escape all the questionings which wrapped about his mind like tentacles, to swim free in the milky waters of that earlier time, before he knew words, before he knew confusion, that age of ignorance and innocence which now appeared to be within his grasp.
The Song became loud and mighty and with his voice - haltingly at first, then with enthusiasm - he joined the boisterous throng. It seemed he had never felt so happy, and when the telephone rang, it was all part of the symphony of sound which had been swelling up within him, caressing him with sensations of heat and warmth, invigorating him with flashings of light from the dome of his imagination.
For some strange reason he had an overwhelming desire to remove his clothing, a desire which he refused to question or resist so that when his body was found, he was discovered naked, lying on his back with his head awkwardly wedged into the corner of the small room.
The fire was mentioned in articles which appeared in both the St. Paul and Minneapolis newspapers as well as the Stillwater Gazette, but with few details. While the circumstances surrounding Greg's death brought a measure of speculation regarding the issue of foul play, news reports indicated that as yet there were no charges pressed. The statements Leslie made implying that she deliberately set the fire were dismissed and attributed to her initial hysteria.
For weeks Leslie alternately blamed and excused herself, knowing that she had truly wanted to destroy him, yet knowing also she once loved him deeply and would miss him always. She did not yet know that for years to come she would become fearful in the presence of any hostile thought or emotion which she bore toward another.
One evening, in the motel room where she had taken temporary refuge, she found a strange book which had been tucked in a drawer of the endtable where Gideon's Bibles are frequently found. As she thumbed through the book -- obliquely titled The Secrets of Experience - an inscription on one of the pages captured her attention. It was a tiny pyramid, at the top of which was drawn an eye with lines radiating from it. Above the eye, the strange inscription: "En Sof."
The image unsettled her and she closed the book. However, a curiosity about the image would not leave her. Later, she attempted to again find the image, to study it further in order to learn its meaning. Being unable to find it left her greatly disturbed.