Circular Tides



A Surreal Fable

by Jerry Buckley

Prometheus, unbound at the present time, took in the view below him. A synthetic reality of cold steel had replaced caves and huts. Binary speak coursed through electronic pathways eliminating misinterpretation. He considered the long years mankind had taken to go from mammoth killer to consumer nation. Cudgel to credit card. The inevitable decay of all energy systems is clearly understood by the physicist but not the theologian. As fragmentation occurs the Gestalt is lost.

“If you’ll just sign these last two forms, Mr. Thyme, I think we will be finished,” the nurse said. “The doctor will see you in a few minutes.” She swished out of the room leaving Vic alone with his thoughts. The room was one of those neutrally colored ones, designed to calm the worst fears of a truly sick patient. The interior decor did not help. Nothing would at this point. 
Vic was nervous, he knew he was going to die.

Picasso labored in his studio giving form, texture, and color to the tragic themes that mankind provided him. Catching the wailing shriek of humanity’s passage through time on canvas for all to see. The artist with his brush reminds the world of mankind’s inhumanity, a primal remnant of savagery. The grotesque cubist figures frozen on canvas reflect more clearly the nature of man than the most pristine Vermeer.

Prometheus saw with a clarity of vision only found in the gods and titans. This talent was not, of course, without its price. To always see reality, one must carry the burden of eternal sadness. As he gazed below upon the swarming masses of people that ethereal sadness flowed through him rising like a river swollen with the melting snow of spring.

Vic felt the tiny drops of sweat creeping out on his forehead. The backs of his hands glistened with moisture, but his throat felt like used sandpaper. A vague feeling of nausea seeped outward from his gut. He knew the law, after all he was an attorney. There was nothing illegal about it, he told himself, “So just relax.” He had handled all the firm’s cases involving cryo-litigation, organ and tissue bank issues, donor regulations, and genetic engineering. He had pushed the envelope by drawing up his own donor release waiver, but it would hold up in court.

Picasso stares at the empty canvas with expectation and hope. The early morning light gently falls across easel and frame as wispy tendrils of photons create a diffuse pattern of light that only the artist can see. Beyond the white plaster walls, Spain lives out her destiny. The Mediterranean sky stretches across the horizon as the air carries the aroma of salt and fishing boats into the studio. At the bakery down the street, fresh bread is just out of the oven. He smells the air and slowly dips his brush into the thick wetness of colors mixed on his palette.

Prometheus felt the swirling energy of time flow by him. Like a swimmer far from shore on an immense ocean, he steadfastly persevered. The noble son of Iapetus had toiled long these many aeon. In the face of Zeus’ mighty wrath, he had endured and prevailed. His strength was great, his understanding was transcendent, yet a heavy cloak of melancholy wrapped tightly around him.

Leaning back on the upraised part of the hospital bed, legs crossed Vic replayed the events of late through his mind. Years of successful representation for some of the biggest bio-medical concerns on the planet, then a string of scandalous accusations that exposed the cut-throat nature of medical research and pharmaceutical experimentation. Vic knew his participation in the litigative cover-ups was career-ending stuff. Sure, he might get a job as a public defender in South Dakota, but he would rather die than suffer the ignominious fate of the mighty fallen.

Unmoving Picasso stands before the canvas. Thinking of many things, but not of painting a picture. His eyes gaze fixedly across the room through the magnetic field that exists, but with no tangible evidence, like the magician’s deception. Lady of Spain, seductress of men, caresses him, imparting with her touch the curse of genius. The indelible mark of a special madness, a vision that transforms reality into a picture. Picasso begins to paint.

Through the cold passages of eternity, Prometheus wandered as few of his kind did. Perhaps this accounted for his familiarity with mankind. But what accounted for his championing their cause? He liked to mingle with them, in their pubs, listening to their tales. They were so human as it seemed to him, yet not unlike the Gods with their petty differences and selfish actions. After that tawdry incident with Zeus though he preferred solitude, enjoying only the company of his brother Atlas.

There had been no discussion with Linda, his wife. She was a smart girl. She would figure it out. All the money was going to her and the kids. He had tried to shelter them from the fallout but the whole thing had gone mega-viral. Somebody posted a closed-circuit in-house video of Lipscomb blowing his brains out in his office. The firm under siege. A Federal task force investigating and issuing subpoenas. Years of litigation ahead with damning evidence coming to light. No. This way was better.

The rhythmic clop, clop of a horse-drawn wagon on the cobblestone street drifted up through the open window of the artist’s studio. The ambient sounds of a coastal village rush to mingle with the interior silence like a morning tide rushes to fill the thirsty salt marsh. The currents created stir the imagination and direct the brush towards the canvas.

Prometheus continued to observe the ebb and flow of the human pageant. Now, the future seemed opaque, the road ahead obscured by swirling darkness. He listened to the sound of energy and death as it rose from the surface below like a billowing plume of volcanic ejecta. He wondered if mankind could survive despite themselves. Such creativity and drive, yet so self-destructive.

Vic jumped when the doctor eased through the door without warning. “How are you feeling, Mr. Thyme?” Vic felt squeamish, how the hell does he think I feel? Resentment seeped through him like a poisonous red tide. Vic silently thought that these guys were as guilty as anyone. Modern-day ghouls with medical degrees from Johns Hopkins plying their trade for the betterment of all. So calm, so detached, so clean. Mechanics changing the oil, taking a carburetor from a wrecked model to use again.
“I feel like shit, doc.”

Picasso stands barefoot on the carpet of time, savoring the complexity of its weave, feeling the flood of energy all around him. The vague forms on the canvas begin to take familiar, yet puzzling shape. The artist tries to remove the veil that obscures our perception of reality. Then, give meaning to color, shape and texture in the disguise of art.

Prometheus strained against the wind to hear the distant grinding melody of death. The soundtrack to the cinema verite’ of human life. That symphony of destruction was merely background noise, not discernible from the incessant cacophony of progress. Man’s denial of his own mortality further muted the chthonic dirge. Prometheus wondered if the sound was growing louder.

“Mr. Thyme, let me just say how much …”
“Save the Charles Darnay speech Doc. Are all the forms in order?”
“Yes, I think we can proceed if you are ready.” Vic merely nodded, ignoring the outstretched hand of the physician. After a moment of awkward silence, the doctor departed the room and Vic tried to steady his nerves. He focused for a moment on the wall-mounted flat-screen where, in orchestrated hysteria, laughing contestants played The Price is Right.

The canvas was larger than most, wider than it was tall. Scattered swathes of somber colors juxtaposed with vague shapes hinted at a driving passion to create a masterpiece. The morning air had warmed giving rise to updrafts upon which gulls soared. The aromas of the market and the sounds of the harbor drifted to him like curling tendrils of wispy-scented smoke. He knew, the way artists know, that this would be a remarkable piece. He smiled.

Prometheus knew the role of a stranger well. He had played it many times over the centuries. In his travels, he had walked with men, heard their conversations, and felt their fear of death. An unspoken fear. One so pervasive that the entire species as individuals refused to truly accept their own mortality, ignoring the inevitable, in order to live. Prometheus knew that his very “being” was the existential enigma that humans hated so much. Few remembered or cared that he had brought fire to mankind in defiance of the Gods.

They had given him something; the stretcher ride was a blur of overhead lights, jangling I.V. bottles, and sharp turns. His body seemed sluggish, but his mind was clear. He mentally checked off all the things he had taken care of before coming to the hospital. Linda would get all the money from the consortium that was buying his organs. New laws allowed a donor to waive the prerequisite of death with a Kevorkian clause that allowed death to be induced on the operating room table. Fresh meat brought top dollar.

The brush moved slowly over the canvas. Mixing here, rounding there, he guided the strokes with care. The quiet of the siesta settled slowly through the early-afternoon heat until not even the dogs barked. The crystalline vision of his thoughts shimmered in the seclusion of his mind. Form and color made love, then parted angrily as lovers sometimes do. He continued to paint while others dozed, tiny drops of color speckle his wrist as the brush glides across canvas.

Prometheus prepared to leave. The melancholia had not lifted from him and he bore the weight like chains. The cosmic machine would continue to work in accordance with the Laws of Thermodynamics. Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, Prometheus knew, is understood by the theologian but not the physicist. He gazed down at a world of binary lies and solid-state apathy. He posted a final message on Twitter then sighed as he turned to face the oncoming darkness and cold touch of eternity.

It was all very professional, no graving robbing here. Through the haze of pre-op meds, a memory drifted to Vic. He was twelve, standing in the chill autumn air in the backyard. He helped his father place some flagstones over the newly dug grave, the size of a dog. “It’s OK, Vic,” his father said, “He’s out of his pain.” The surgeon’s voice cut through the dream like a chainsaw, “Mr. Thyme you won’t feel a thing.” As he sank quickly toward his anesthetized death the final words he heard were “Get the eyes first, then the kidneys.”

Early evening arrived carried on the southerly sea breeze with a hint of Morocco in the salty air. The harsh colors of the day faded to soft pastels and alabaster white. The fragrance of oranges hung gently in an aromatic web. The vague promise of the night pulls at the artist, lures him beyond the light. He gazes across the room to the completed canvas that displays a powerful and macabre vision. He slowly nods his balding head. Outside, the Spanish night softly embraces the fading light with seductive star-lit darkness.

The End.