Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Below is an insert from my third novel, The Cavern. I am enclosing it to show the way in which images and archetypes from the unconscious act upon our conscious mind.

As Wisent turned away from the poster, he noticed copies plastered onto nearly every building, something he hadn’t noticed earlier.

He pushed his bicycle further ahead. In the shadows of a nearby building he saw a short figure running from building to building. He said, amazed, “Ein Zwerg.” The small man was plastering posters onto stonewalls at breakneck speed. Wisent drew closer to watch him work. The man noticed him, turned and bent slowly from the waist, providing Wisent with an honorable and respectful bow, smiled, and then continued his work.

Wisent followed him to the end of the cobblestone street, watching his ingenuity. At the end of street, on the edge of town, a red van with the same poster on its side was parked. This poster announced the arrival of the Circus Broceliande in Avignon in two weeks time.

The small man opened the back of the van and placed his tools in the back. A woman, who had been leaning against the van smoking, dropped her cigarette and opened the passenger door for the small man, who waddled to the front and climbed inside with her assistance. The woman, who Wisent recognized as the woman on the white horse in the poster, walked around to the driver’s side. Suddenly, she re-appeared on the passenger’s side, the side facing Wisent, and performed a one-handed cartwheel. She, too, bowed deeply to Wisent and, once again, walked around to the driver’s side, started the engine, and drove the red van into the darkness.

As the sound of the van receded, Wisent became aware of the cicadas. It was late and he began to worry about his ride back in the dark. The old bicycle’s feeble light sputtered to life as he set off for his grandmother’s house in the hills.

As he rode, Wisent said aloud, “Ich habe ein Zwerg gesehen.”

The night was warm and he saw no one on the road as he pedaled steadily, sweat dripping from his brow and his shirt, now moist, sticking to his back. He felt he had been sleepwalking in Paris. Why hadn’t he come to the country before? He felt alive and somehow in tune with his surroundings. Thinking about the things Ash had said, he tried to put everything within its context. In some ways it was a psychological and metaphysical muddle, but something in that discussion was true. He understood that certain images emerge from the subconscious into the waking mind. These images are symbols of certain concepts and, which he, through his day-to-day actions, projected onto certain people. To say it another way, he had subconsciously orchestrated the meeting and, then, the ultimate adoption of the these individuals to play a role on his psychological stage. These players were in many respects stereotypes of the “good mother,” “the witch,” “the temptress,” or “the princess.” To be conscious of these images was to be awakened, to see the reality of his own role in the play he called his life or what the French so poetically named “mon histoire.” Implicit in the discussion was some theory of “collective image” that emerged from collective human memory, which operated like a genetic pattern.

A small generator on the front wheel powered the light perched on the bicycle’s handlebars. The harder he pedaled, the stronger the light. Wisent, deep in thought, was not paying attention, when, suddenly, he caught a glimpse of a large object in the road ahead of him causing him to stand on his brakes and swerve to avoid the impediment. As he skidded to a stop, the little light died, leaving him in darkness.

He rode ahead until the light kicked in again and turned back to review the blob in the road. It was a turtle. The large reptile slowly crossed the road, its shell greenish-brown with an elaborate design, like a mandala created in sand by the monks in Tibet, its large head pushed ahead in a steady movement. It moved steadily and rhythmically like the peristaltic advance of a glacier, and, like a glacier, its shell cast off a pale green light.

The turtle fascinated Wisent. He jumped off the bike, walked over to it and picked the turtle up with two hands, comparing its relatively lightweight to its size. He held it in front of him, avoiding the strong vise-like hinges of its mouth, remembering stories from his youth of a turtle snapping off a finger. He then walked back to the bicycle and placed the turtle into the wire basket on the front. Climbing back onto the bicycle, he continued his journey up the hill as the turtle remained still. It didn’t struggle. It accepted fate’s intervention in the interruption of its journey across the road.

When Wisent reached the house, his fatigued legs felt like jelly. He rode behind the house and placed the turtle in a great metal bucket, which his grandparents used to bathe the dogs. Knowing the turtle would be unable to escape during the night, Wisent decided to wait until morning to examine it.

He stored the bicycle away in the basement and unlocked the door to the kitchen. Once inside he closed the door and stood still, confronting half a dozen red eyes staring back at him in the darkness. He heard a diminutive squeak and knew his friends, the mice, were back. He clapped his hands and they scurried off.

Wisent turned on the light and discovered each trap held a tiny victim. “There must be a better way,” he thought. “I need Ein Mäusefänger, a mouser, to put this house in order.”

He sadly disposed of the little bodies and reset the traps with the remainder of the cheese. He swept the floor and turned out the light. Upstairs he undressed completely, opened the French windows, and watched the moon rising. He heard a cuckoo somewhere in the distance while a mosquito buzzed past his ear. He ran to the bed seeking refuge under the mosquito netting and lay on top of the sheets; it was too hot to cover himself. In Paris the night had been filled with sounds: taxis, trucks, people, televisions, radios, ambulances. Here there was less noise and yet it was more disconcerting. He hoped he could sleep.

He stared at the netting, listening for the sound of the cuckoo. And before drifting off to sleep, he thought about Hélène and Heike and his life in Paris and how lonely and adrift he felt.

No comments: