Lucky you. Not only do you get a free sample of Raw Footage: dream-tipped memoir, you also get a look behind the curtain of Dream Production Itself. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty crazy in there, an insane little cinematic studio inside a sea cave of memory. Studiously spitting out dreams to your clueless mind. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Here goes.
You are a satellite with an eye. You circle the earth. You spy with your little eye a reef, you think, a dreamy pastel of coral, a huge enticing tangle of it snugged up to a coastline and you know there is life in it, maybe even on a scale too much for you to comprehend. The universe on a beach. A network of life off the charts for you. But it isn’t coral, my friend, what you see with your eye—come down now for a tight close up—it’s a brain. A human one.
Do you not trace its pathways with that eyeball of yours?
The dependencies and frantic darting of its tiny, teeming citizenry?
Its stripes and stars? Its fins and snouts? Its schools and monsters?
Do bubbles not bubble from its prolific production?
A coral reef that is time itself, rebuilding itself daily and ever growing, ever accreting, a womb in the sea, a harbor of memory. Waves and currents nourish this playground, lapping and winding sudsily through the coral. Pinpoint a particular grotto inside the reef, a wormhole with clown fish and shrimp the size of electrons. A salty splash in your face now and then. Life must eat to live. Eat the weak and be eaten by the strong so that a memory evolves, the echo of what was and is and will be even. Poof.
Can you breathe?
Bubbles, boiling up from the agitation of work, ingestion, absorption, secretion. A factory whose iridescent hues light up the ocean shelf it perches on before the drop-off into the rural abyss. Have a look at it, yes, swim upright with me to the very edge and look over it. Life gradually vanishes in this wet black hole. You are falling but you will not remember it. There is no memory there. No past or future, just a mired present. Colors pinwheel in your poor head and already things cover your body that want to partake of it, a sitting duck you are. Already you are being scanned and studied for the potential value you bring to the commune. You are being used and consumed in the death throes of life building.
My voice is echoing, I know. Such things are known to unsettle you. Eerie to your ear that a single creature should have two voices like this that make harmony and melody like an echo chamber. The atmosphere sounds metallic to your ear, the medium of briny water in a bowl the size of worlds having a rim and a tendency to roil and roll. You will be dizzy no doubt. You hear things. The lowing of whales, the chatter of porpoise, claws mounting rock, sea grass swooshing, a banking, shape-shifting field of sound and bubbles and movement. The clatter of processing, all around us here, in every dimension of every sense.
We are awash in creation and survival.
There are no newcomers, not even you, William Michael.
Over there, a herd of shrimp. Galloping to a birthing. A seahorse father past the bursting point in his labor, holding in his unborn progeny well beyond what is possible so that he has turned a rainbow of colors and finally can contain himself no more and pumps a great mass of the crustacean microscopics into the sea like a fireworks gun. Boom. Boom. Boom. Each muffled boom carrying a hundred neonates on its wings, tiny swimming eyeballs shot headlong into post-partum oblivion. The shrimp crush them, devour them like a seeing-eye candy. Now they’re gone. And what of the father, you ask. Is he forlorn? How human, how quaint. Do you think such trivial matters as hurt or loss weigh on us?
Over there! Another pregnant dad. They are everywhere in the reef. His inward tail is wrapped around that sea twig. Do you see him swaying in the current? He is waiting. He gestates. He knows that the shrimp who will eat his offspring lurk in the great plains of sea grass and that they are watching him now with a programmed hunger that precludes the survival of all but a few of his brood.
A fairy tale where children pay the price? Obviously. A vast leafy woods, its dark center, two happy little seahorses gathering strawberries at the behest of an evil stepmother. The shrimp in waiting and the cute little all-eyed seahorses on their way to grandma’s house. Guess who will win. This story is a vineyard of stories. The grapes are peeled in the bowl with the rim that rolls and roils. It is a story of things that live and what precious little they learn about themselves in the short time allotted them. We are here in the reef which is so vast it can be eyed from outer space, here with a purpose and that is to save you. If scare you we must, then scare you we shall.
So up you go now! Back into your accustomed air, back into whatever you think sleep is. Wake then later to the dream of life and its colors of day. Your mind is your own again ’til tomorrow we meet. And rest well, I tell you, for the reef will regale you with stories about You-Yourself-and-You, in order to sharpen you, dull you, stunt you and grow you, tire and excite you, exhaust and invigorate you, praise and admonish you, instruct and construct you. In short, to teach you about yourself, to keep you alive.
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Michael / W. M. / William Michael