Two Birds and One Stoned (1970)

20 05 2008

Near the helter-skelter islands in the Dukedom of Dormir
lived a strange and wily man who sat and pondered fear. And
he fed his geese and ducklings with the fervor of a martyr,
and he spoke with people near and far who came to trade and
barter. Opals and piglets and diamonds and lyres, scorpions’
stings and cathedral-like spires, scimitars’ edges, a
crystalline flight. He smiled and he bargained in the days
that were light. But many such days were dark and bereft ,of
light, and of warmth and the things he had felt. People came
not from their travels from Mir, and there was no one to
relate to continue the sphere.

    ‘Twas on such an evening he fell into sleep obscure and
profound and behovian of peace. A sleep of desire, though
full out of grasp, irresolute future, and beckoning past. So
under these gables an image was formed, a dream that was
deemed, prophesied, and forsworn. The swirling and roiling
began to come near, then passed the abyss and became very
clear. A path in the mountains which led to a growth, a
cascade of foliage on splintery slopes, a profusion of
greenery never seen until he had shivered and touched its
pastoral sheen, and passed through its lacework and under its
fall, and saw the great opening that glimmered and called.
Then he sailed through a tunnel that pierced deep the earth,
that shimmered and trembled with its increasing girth.

    The passage of time was loathe to his fate, and he soared
ever downward to which was bespake, and into a chamber of rich
blue and gold, of cobblestones velvet on tapestries bold, to
touch and to wonder their stories untold, of women beloved, of
men being hunted, of such scope and passion the senses were
blunted, and to other sanctums and vaults to bedazzle. A
labyrinth of visions in this castle of castles, then into one
room whose dimensions were smothered and lined full of books
with metallicized covers. The sanctorum of knowledge, the den
of the sage, whose wisdom rang out from each yellowed page.

    But try as he might, there was no stopping his flight,
and he flew ever onward, now upward toward light. And thence
to a cavern of enormous proportions, supported by columns of
emeraldic contortions, and radiant light from some hidden
place that rippled and played on the great carven face.
Surrounded by flowers and tropical ferns, nectaric waterfalls
swept down in their turns, and sated the thirst of the
creatures of Mir, and yet they were not, though albeit were
here. Crustaceans and fowl of pulsating hues, from rose-
colored yellows to amethystine blues, and he and his dream
filled all the space, and he looked once again on the huge
carven face.

    A face of the total, a face of the void, a face of
creation, and of which was destroyed. But what he remembered
when he finally awoke was the thunderous voice, and the words
that it spoke, “The secret of living is simply in giving, and
it encompasses naught but these words. And so to go free, to
see and to be, you must search for the two mighty birds.”

    He awoke very slowly, his mind yet sharp. The dawn had
not come and the skies were still dark. And he pondered the
message, the sound of the voice, for he felt it spoke truth,
and in that he rejoiced. Like the pass of a cloud, the day
came warm and light, and he laughed and he worked in utmost
delight. And some came with horseshoes, and some came with
corn. And one woman came with a small crimson horn. Such a
mute mellow sound that came from its flange, a timbre
compelling, a note to entrance. So he gave her a buckle of
pale baby blue, that gleamed like the sea sky in fresh morning
dew. And as she departed, she spoke very low. “The cavern
you seek is in Mount Ab Initio, and the sound of this horn
will lead you on the way. But tarry a while and await the
right day.”

    But several months passed, and the winter drew nigh, and
the wind shook his bones in the snows that piled high. Then
came the Spring with its sharp reborn green, and he set out
with the horn to find what he’d seen. After days in the
mountains, he found he was lost. So he sounded the horn in
directions he’d crossed. The note rang out soft and long and
precise, and then from the east came its echo in thrice. And
he started anew, his voice singing low toward its snow-covered
majesty, Mount Ab Initio. And then on its slope, with the
high sun at noon, and its gray barren rock like the face of
the moon, into his sight came the opening within, but with no
verdant luster as then it had been. Then came a noise, as of
rushing air, and two mighty forms swept out of their lair, and
flashed o’erhead from out of the maw. And he fell on his
knees and trembled with awe, and the gap in the mountains had
closed fully clean to a cliff-starkened rock with nary a seam.
His mind in confusion, his thought full arace, he cried out to
the air, “I must see the face.”

    “Towards us you were bound, and ’tis us you have found,
and we will tell you all you must know. And that is to wait,
and ne’er again see the face, until comes the day you must go.
And that is the time an unbeknown date, when you are to die,
and choose you your fate. But if ever you need us, you have
but to blow, and we will come instantly, like the firefly’s soft
glow. And now you must know us, so look if you will, and be
not afraid, and sit very still.”

    A troubled dark shadow crept over the slope, and an
immense silver shape cast out all his hope with mercurial
swiftness, spattered and spilled, it shimmered and sparkled
like lightning bestilled. A huge argent bird with plumage of
woe, it spoke to him, crying in the voice of surd snow, “I am
called Sadness and I am called Sorrow, and my wings make the
ill wind of yesterday and tomorrow. And when I kiss your
eyes, crystal eggs will I lay, for the eggs are your tears on
that wretched day. So may never you call me, not even in
pain, yet fleet will I come like the fast-falling rain. And
into your heart, and make you forlorn; with two piercing notes
from the small crimson horn.” With a rumble of thunder and a
rush of cold wind, the bird it had gone; and the light shone
again.

    He was warm and alive and, when spent was his dread, came
a great golden bird, with the sun round its head. An aura of
brilliance, a corona of flame, it sang and it rilled, as
nearer it came. And he shielded his eyes and looked up to
stare at the shape incandescent in the loud ringing air.
Scintillant, prismatic, its splendor bestudded with flashes of
radiance that streaked out asunder, it gleamed and it
glittered, it hovered and spun, and glowed out its luster to
twice that of the sun. And the man felt a trembling so deep
in his breast, and he smiled at the vision, and his mind came
to rest. “I am called Rapture, and I am called Joy. And my
song is the laughter in each girl and boy; my wingspread the
smile on each of their faces, the dark and the light of all
conscious races. And only once will I kiss you there on your
mouth, and your eyes will light up as my presence is now. And
a softly blown note from the tiny red horn will bring my
flight to you in eve or in morn. But never forget my human-
like brother. To call on the one is to call on the other. In
a blaze of gold light this bird it had gone, and all that was
left was its echoing song, and the dry barren landscape and a
weak, filtered sun. And the man turned around and started
slowly for home.

    As the years passed, his life became worse. He was
weakened by sickness, and slandered and cursed. But at each
downward turn, he thought of the face, and the crisp crimson
horn in its well-hidden place. And only once did he use it,
in the last drastic measure, to call upon Joy, and to call
upon pleasure. Now in matters of numbers, the reaction is
quick, but in matters of heart, there is time’s ebbing tick.

    And when the firebird had gone whence it came, and the second
was there, and called out his name, and filled his next days
with despair and remorse, ’till he returned to his labor with
the utmost of force. A decade went by, and he was unable to
toil. And he retired to a forest of sweet smelling soil.
A green wood of pines, erect, tall, and thin, with others
contorted and twisted by wind. A canopied shelf of needle-
thin leaf and a sun-speckled carpet, light brown underneath.
A place of contemplation, a grove full of peace. He pondered
the changes and awaited release. And then on a night of the
full beaming moon, he knew death was near and would come for
him soon. Precious horn in his hand, he softly blew thrice,
and waited with patience the birds he’d enticed. A breeze had
been gently caressing the trees, and now it had stopped, and
still were the leaves. A curtain of silence descended around,
and he raised his tired head from the moon-tessellate ground.

    And then came a stirring, but not that of wind, but of all
that around him, and the structures within. Before the white
orb-scudded gray-mottled clouds that sifted and flurried like
archaic shrouds, and out of the ether, came the two mighty
birds, to be with their caller, and hear his last words.
Iridescent and shining, they hovered o’erhead, and he sat
himself down on his pine needle bed.

    “You’ve blown on the horn, and we’ve come to your plea,
but there’s naught we can do, what must be, let it be.” “In
these last nether moments, my mind it is clear, and I know I
have conquered that which men have named fear. And I called
you but once, in drama and shame, and you came to me quickly
like a hot roaring flame. And I learned of the balance that
you spoke to me of, and it taught me but one thing, and that
is to love, to be free and to love like a storm-scattered
spore. For where freedom abounds, it will create yet more.

    But the ultimate question that resounds in my heart, ‘Are you
the only two birds from the primeval start?'”
“No. In each living being, there exists in their
sphere, two more giant birds, and the dragon of fear, the
gorilla of greed, the panther of passion, the viper of
violence, and the rose of compassion.” “I have one request
before my fate calls: can you will yourselves down to become
very small? Because now that I know that you must come too,
it’s best we’re together and share in the truth. And kiss me
again to abide in your charms, and stroke your soft down in my
weakening arms.” Then the two immense birds dwindled down in
their size, and their luminous beams shone forth in his eyes.

    And Joy kissed his right eye, and Sorrow the left. With his
crystallized tears and emotions now cleft, he stroked their
bright plumes and audibly sighed, then slashed both their
throats and quietly died.


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