--- Thinking About Shit ---

Enter the labryinth, see where it takes you. Topics include Gilgamesh, birds of my acquaintance, queer hisotorical meow-meows, filth, the rapturous anguish of the twisting body, fantasy/sci-fi settings/tabletop shit, normal banter y'know. Formatting is a work in progress because I am subsumed in the febrile earth of My Next Career in Cyber.

-- "Though I am little better than a dead man, still may I see the sun"

I've been thinking about metaphors of sunlight and how they make me feel like crying. I, reader, it will surprise you to know, am very depressed. As, it seems, was Gilgamesh. My favourite passage of that, my favourite epic, used to be Siduri's advice, where she tells Gilgamesh in his mourning agony to seek out the simple pleasures of a mortal life. Now, instead, it's a passage that doesn't seem like much at first - a repetitive set of lines of Gilgamesh traversing the caverns beneath the mountains at the edge of the world.

In the passage, Gilgamesh has fled from his home after the sudden, horrible death of his beloved Enkidu. He tears his clothes, lives like an animal - barely remembers who or what he is. He palpably despises himself, and I think we've all known that desire to tear our clothes to rags and cover ourselves in dust and filth in the wilderness, figuratively or literally. He reaches the mountains at the edge of the world, hoping to pass to the land beyond, in search of immortality and escape from his anguish.

The scorpion-men and women who guard the entrance ask who he is, and why he bothers coming, since no-one can pass through("in it there is no light, but the heart is oppressed with darkness"). He convinces them ("Although I should go in sorrow and in pain, with sighing and with weeping, still I must go"), remembering his name and his grief, and they let him pass("Go, Gilgamesh, I permit you to pass through the mountain; may your feet carry you safely home"). He passes into the darkness beneath the mountains. He travels for leagues, until he can no longer see the sun. The next lines repeat the same phrase, telling us that Gilgamesh passed league after league, seeing no light behind him nor in front. It is slow to read, and the exact same wording is used, until he at last cries out; "When he had gone eight leagues, Gilgamesh gave a great cry, for the darkness was thick, and he could see nothing ahead and nothing behind him". Eventually he begins to feel the wind, suggesting the world beyond. Then he begins to see the light. Then, at last, he passes out from the dark into the sunlight.

Shamash, the god of the sun, and of justice, and Gilgamesh's patron, is horrified to see him filthy and wrapped in skins, as he walks dazzled through the gem-studded trees of the garden of the gods. He tells him, flatly, that he will not find what he is searching for - that no mortal man should come as he has, and none other ever shall. Gilgamesh, looking up at the sun made flesh, says "Now that I have toiled, and strayed so far over the wilderness, am I to sleep, and let the earth cover my head forever? Let my eyes see the sun until they are dazzled with looking. Although I am no better than a dead man, still let me see the light of the sun"

I think this section of the text is at once heart-breaking and as deeply human as it gets. I don't know about you, but I've felt like this. I've felt like I was beneath the mountain, weeping in the dark, and I've stood in the brief moments of light crying at the beauty and light of the sun. It is bitter and heartening to see these feelings, things we very seldom have the capability to share or express, carried in words pressed into clay 3000~ years before I was born. The image of the sun rising after the dark is beautiful - but it isn't just beautiful. It shows Gilgamesh in the squalor and misery of his grief, and at once is an incredible relief. The world is still hard and full of loss, but at least it's no longer so dark. I think we've all had sleepless nights and felt the same way when the morning light comes in a world that is too quiet and too unreal after the night.

It reminds me, too, of a little bit of Tolkien. After Morgoth has defeated all else and burned fields and lands in dragon-fire, essentially when all hope seems lost, reinforcements arrive, and the elf Fingon cries out "The day has come!", to which the chorus calls back "The night is passing!". When the battle is lost, anyway, and the last hope is for a few at least to escape, the man Hurin shouts "Aure entuluva! The day shall come again!", before he's surrounded and dragged away in chains to watch his family be driven to madness and torment, in classic tragic fashion.

There's a million other instances of the metaphor, and whenever I see it it makes my heart ache. That so many people, over so long, have called out for the morning, the sun-rise, the eventual end of the night, is enough to make even a dissociative git's soul stir a bit. It is nice to think of so many voices shouting out that the day is coming, that the night isn't forever - not that things will get better, but that the sun will still rise and the darkness pass. Although, as my psyche loves to tell me, I am no better than a dead man, even I will see the light of the sun again. The mountain caves go on a long time, but not so long as grief, or life.

-- OLM --

A little something to tide you over. CNs; Body horror, transformation, sensory overload, mucus, pain, itching, sweat, rotting, finger/toe pain, dysphoria, weird vibes generally.

Canal Water

You don’t see caves very often now – mostly on school trips or adventure holidays. You do see a lot of dark and cold water, though, or at least hear it rushing below your feet. A canal choked up with trolleys and algae, an utterly verdant mess perched on black and dead water. These waters are dead, too – they don’t just look it. They are pitch dark, their surfaces covered by mats of slick algae. You walk by them every day – streams that look almost like land, covered in greenery at angles like mould on bread.

On cold nights these waters – canals, side-streams, washes and field-ditches – are like great gouges of black ice. Even unfrozen they seem almost sublime in their stillness. To look into them is like looking at a pool of something viscous, transparent and still. Like looking at silence. You almost want to lean on the peeling paint of the railing, baring your arms to the sticking chill of the metal, just to stare at the water. Watching it steam, like it were alive. Seeing yourself, green and black and slick and silent, looking back up.

By the time you can pull yourself away and finish walking home you’re as pale as sludged up ice, except for the bright redness where your skin has stuck to the railing. You are so tired, and so empty of every sense. Food tastes of nothing, everything else tastes of far too much. Music rings through you like you were wrapped around a brass bell, tolling. You’re exhausted, down to your bones. People’s eyes have burnt at you and you feel like a plastic tub that’s melted together with a hot-dog in the microwave. Everything is wrong, and loud, and bright and awful. You are so tired.

You wake up cold – the bones in your fingers and toes feel dead solid – trying to move your digits makes your skin crawl. It feels like you’ve been trying to hand-write for hours and each digit in turn has gotten in the way. The sheet’s come loose from the quilt, the air inside is as cold and loud as it was outdoors, and you’re all tangled up in your own sweat and frustration, teeth gritted hard and eyes scrunched in a grimace. Mornings always go the same, as you drag yourself up and pull it into a workable shape. It’s not malleable or obedient, but its as exhausted as you are and can be shepherded into doing what it – what you – need to.

The brightness creeps under the curtains and stabs at you every time you look. Your clothes sit wrong – labels scratch against your neck and sweat-dry skin chafes your legs while you try to move. With each step the dry scraping of your body in all its wrongness is like pulling teeth. The skin of your thighs is red and irritated by the time you leave the house. Cereal scratches at the veins of the roof of your mouth. You swear and feel ridiculous for wanting to hit something. You have to compose yourself – you are an artifice that people are waiting for, and to put it together wrong will let them see that you are what you think you are, not what you have tricked them into thinking.

Stepping outside is miserable. Your eyes squint and water and refuse the burning, empty whiteness of daylight. You like sunny days, you tell yourself – you like to feel warm and to see the world all peaceful and lit up like a sofa on a Sunday. The noise is almost worse – people everywhere talking and moving and seeing you. Watching how you move. How your limbs roll and lollop, how you walk wrong and breathe wrong and sweep your eyes over them falsely. You look at them and don’t have to think to know that they are, and you aren’t.

It took you years to find out how to do it. How to talk and move and wear their am. Like most things you don’t do it well. On days like these ones it feels like they’re humouring you – or perhaps tormenting you. Greeting you at the wrong moment to watch you squirm as you search for the face that says hello back at them. Smiling eyes in faces that you can’t read. What are their eyebrows doing? Why are they smiling? What does it mean? What do they want? Have you given it to them? Have you done it wrong?

Your shirt is wet with cold sweat, while your hands are still block-like and chill. These shoes crush your toes together and it makes you want to be sick to feel how your toes press close together and shift. You have to be somewhere and have to do something, and risk anger and loudness, and you have to move past cars and through wet leaves that stink of the wrong kind of rotting. Your bag is pulling on your shoulder. It’s barely ten past nine. You want so badly to cry.

A long time passes like this. A lifetime, maybe. Like leaves piled up in the gutter together it becomes hard to see where one day stops and another starts, and then all at once the leaves are gone, and the street is empty. For once you are warm as you wake up – you do not feel digit-bones clashing up together like splitting joints. The brightness at the window is still very distant. It is dark, and warm, and quiet. You want to cry, and you do. Your tears run smoothly down your face – your throat does not choke with the salt.

The itching at your neck has calmed, and your thighs no longer chafe and rip against each other. For once there is no intruding pain in your head, no constant whistling hum. For a while you are content. You lie in a warm bath, your ears beneath the surface, so all you hear is the thrum, thrum, thrum of heartbeat. Slow, and queerly familiar. You are wrapped in a warmth and a quiet, like dying, like womb.

The morning is bright and sharp when it comes. Your eyes wince and burn from even the slivers that sneak beneath the curtains. The noise of cars passing outside is like being torn apart. Now you’ve heard quiet the rumbling is beyond bearing. You feel your teeth grinding – your gums wet and mashing and clamped lockjaw-tight. Your clothes itch and rub and chafe and peel at you, turning your skin red raw after so long soaking. You cannot imagine opening the door – having them see you now. You cannot bear to live without the quiet and the warmth, but no more can you wear it with you beneath other eyes. To have them see your shifting – to smell the warmth on you and match, by eye, your wincing with their wide.

Phones ring – notifications screech and metal voices call on you to answer and account. You are embarrassed to hide. You feel disgusting to strip away the scratching things that bear your modesty. Perverse, still and slick in a dark you have made for yourself in the midst of daylight. But still they call – they bring their light and loud into your quiet. Their hands reach for you, their mouths gape to bite and chew your sloughing flesh, to fill their ravening selves with you.

“Why are you lessening? Why do you change? Why do you not feed us, who are so hungry for you, as you should be?”

You weep, constantly. Your tears are mucus slick now, wet and warm and almost sultry against your skin. They change you as they drip down you. Layer after layer coats your skin. Sickening like hunger and sweet like rot. You are afraid. You try to resist it, as your digits draw close again and tight, as they press together so tight as to pop, and shift, and skew.

Your skin is mucus wet. It lingers, cracking and itching and dripping and itching. You reach for the seam of your neck. Like a choker of silk, wending its way over skin-that-is-not-skin and calling, desperate, for your touch. You resist it – it is disgusting. To imagine pulling at the rich, wet mud you have made of your body – it is wrong in every way. But it is yours. It is warm – it calls to you in a voice you know but fear to hear. It is not like any skin you have known. And so you reach into the seam of your neck. Digits brush against tender, newfound flesh. You pull, and writhe, and twist in the pain and rapture of being born, not of any other but of yourself at last.

You need no bath now – half formed and secret and hidden. You pull yourself, slowly and darkly, through a world that cannot hurt you. Its stabbing whiteness cannot reach your hidden eyes. Its humming cannot breach the soft flesh that seals what once were your ears. You crawl – exalted – across tarmac and gravel. Your belly is wet and soft now, but it feels right in a way your bound feet never did upon this graven earth. You feel the water before you touch it – a scent above smell, a taste above devouring. Perhaps a watcher screams to see your eyeless face – spade-like and pallid. Perhaps their eyes widen in horror as your violet heart thrums in your see-through chest.

As at last you slide down into the cool, dark water – the silence within silence – you do not see.