Petals of the Rose
Pollock's Dreams - 1
She drifted. Her world was absent of sight, sound or touch, only the vaguest feeling of floating enveloped her. Time passed, immeasurable. Then, the colors began to sing.
It was distant at first, nudging in at the edges of her perception like fingers of frost creeping over a window. It drew closer to her, or did she float closer to it? The colors whispered and sang, harmonizing into the kind of deep vibrations that roll through your chest and down your spine, rattling your teeth and settling in your bones.
She realized her eyes were closed; they opened, curtains parting over a stage.
They were below her, rolling banks of fog humming ancient tunes of chromaticity; tendrils of the shifting color cloud slid towards her, encircling her like a star caught between waves of aurora borealis.
For a moment it surrounded her, obscured her, was her. Just as the last fragments of herself were poised to dissolve into it… it stopped.
The abruptness struck her as harshly as a slap across the face. She was left shocked as the color slipped away, draining rapidly back to the depths below her. She turned her face upwards and saw a rumpled silver-gray sheet rushing towards her.
She broke the surface of the water and gasped, taking in a lungful of pleasantly warm air. She shook her head, knocking the water from her eyes and spraying diluted watercolors from her hair.
She looked around, finding herself treading water in a dark ocean. The inky waves spread out in all directions, mirroring the black, starless sky stretching out endlessly above.
A pang of sorrow sat sourly in the back of her throat.
“No matter,” she told herself, “what’s next?”
She scanned the horizon with curious amber eyes. Glints of light caught her gaze, black and shiny. Shiny and hard like rocks, not shiny and soft like the mellow waves of water. She struck out towards it, pulling herself along with a strong breaststroke.
It was sand, actually. A long crescent of shimmering beach sliced through the equally dark water. The black sand felt cool on her bare feet.
“Basalt?” she wondered aloud, scooping up a handful to examine. “Is basalt black because it was angry once, and it’s rage has burned out?” the dark stream of grit slipped between her parchment pale fingers in even streams. It was bone dry despite the water lapping rhythmically over it.
“Basalt must be lonely,” brushing her hands together to clean them, she started up the beach towards the coppery bank of jungle further inland.
As she progressed towards it, a sound came to her. It was a scraping or a rasping, like tin can wind-chimes brushing against each other. She could see the foliage shivering as if a breeze was continuously dancing through it, playing with the leaves and branches. She reached the edge of the jungle and paused.
The air was here perfectly still; but the leaves continued to tremble. She blinked and her head tilted to the side. The large palm-leaf before her appeared to be sculpted of rusty, banged-up bits of old sheet metal. The leaf was attached with screws to the dented rail that was the stem, which was attached to the oil barrel-like trunk with an industrial bolt. Hesitant fingers reached out to the frond and gently slid over the surface.
The rough texture mimicked rusted metal exactly; scratchy, covered in dents and tiny craters. She grasped the leaf in both hands and bent it easily in half, it sprang back when she let go.
Cerulean shimmered in her eyes as amusement crinkled folds of skin at their corners, echoing a smile that didn’t reach her lips.
“Rust is a compilation of neglected intentions,” she realized, “not a true hue of it’s own. It must be the variance and inconsistencies of pattern that make it so stubborn.”
She pushed the branch aside and stepped into the forest.
She walked for a while, brushing by broad-leafed plants of oxidized aluminum, ducking under dangling clusters of glossy ball bearings and stepping over twisting crooks of pipe-roots.
The ground underneath her seemed to have taken on the same stubbornness as the rust. It was hard clay and left no footprint where she stepped. The mottled dirt varied between dark reds, oranges and browns to patches of sandy black.
Chuck… chuck… chink.
The sharp line of sounds cut through the subtle metal-on-metal buzzing of the woods around her. She found her way towards it.
The tree line broke at the edge of a clearing, the hard ground continued evenly onwards. She slunk forward, hidden behind a curtain of chains that cascaded down from the branches of a tarnished willow. Her pallid hand snaked forward and gently parted the vines; lilac eyes peered out.
At the center of the small clearing a stone rose from the ground in a proud, uniform pillar. It tapered at the top into a strange form. It moved as she watched it.
Chuck… chuck… chuck……chink.
She squinted, biting her lip a little as she tried to discern what she was looking at. Realization sparked bright scarlet and flowed down her hair in ripples.
The strangeness of the odd stone was that it was completely void of any color. It wasn’t even a morose gray or shy white. No color existed upon it.. but..then how could it exist? She wasn’t sure how she could even comprehend it… but there it sat before her.
She followed her hand through the vines and slipped out into the clearing, She approached the eight foot tall obelisk; little piles of stone chunks cluttered the ground around the base.
At the top, a smooth, human-like figure was being carved out. It’s head, neck and shoulders were already defined. Unhewn stone began again just under the figure’s collarbones. The arms swung about, fully formed and functional. The statue placed the chisel in it’s left hand gently against the stone where its chest should be, and tapped the tool with the mallet in it’s right hand.
A hand-sized bit of stone broke off under the steady pressure of the chisel and fell, clattering down and meeting the hard clay with a gentle thump.
Her gaze lifted and she found the statue looking down at her. It’s stone face was crafted of simple, flowing lines; high cheek bones and arched brows that swept down the center of the face into a sharply defined nose. The places for it’s mouth and eyes were blank, just smooth patches of stone. The sleek, hairless head bore no ears on either side.
The arm clutching the chisel lifted it from it’s chest and dangled the tool down towards her, offering it. Trickles of fine dust slid off the statue as it moved, leaking from the joints in tiny sheets of silt.
“You should do it,” the statue told her. It’s voice was a lilting murmur, neither male or female; smooth and rough at the same time, rather like running one’s fingers along wet concrete.
Her brow furrowed at the chisel before her. Glossy honey-pine wood handle and a dark gray tempered steel shaft.
She shook her head slowly, “I don’t carve.”
“No?” the statue examined her for a moment longer. The arm bearing the hammer swung up in a wide arc, disappearing for a moment behind the statue’s pillar body. It reemerged a split second later clutching a paintbrush, which it held out to her as well.
Her eyes widened and she took a half step back. Polished mahogany peeked out from between the statues thick fingers. It tapered at one end into a smooth, rounded point, at the other a concise bundle of perfectly trimmed blond horsehair sat neatly anchored by a steel band.
“No…” she whispered, taking another step back, “no, I don’t…”
“Don’t what?” the statue chuckled, a sound like gravel was rattling around inside it’s chest, “are you going to tell me you think you’re too good to do it yourself?”
She shook her head again and took another step back from the accusing effigy, “it… it’s not like that…” she stammered.
“Do you not remember how to do it yourself?!” the statue snarled at her, the gravelly sound churned, growing louder.
“I.. It’s just that…”
“You pathetic creature! Forever enamored with what you are too cowardly to create yourself!” it bellowed at her.
“No!” she shouted back, “Stop it!”
“STOP THROWING YOUR TOOLS AWAY!”
A crack appeared where the thing’s mouth should have been. The ragged fissure quickly split open, the statue’s face elongating like a snake unhinging it’s jaw. The gaping black maw pointed directly towards her, the gravel-like roaring had reached avalanche proportions.
In an instant, cold panic overtook her, she cried out and turned to run. The once even ground churned beneath her, she stumbled, trying to escape.
The roaring behind her grew deafeningly loud, accompanied by a high pitched shriek that whipped her fear into a frenzy.
She lost her footing on the boiling ground and collapsed to her knees, the gnarled roots of the metal forest burst out of the sandy red clay. They twisted over her, latching onto her arms and legs, stopping her from getting back up.
Something horrible was looming behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, terrified ice-blue eyes. The ground dropped out from below her. She cried out as she plummeted down into the darkness, reaching out for anything to catch onto.
She felt her foot connect with something.
“Ow!” Rajah’s deep voice cut through her terror.
Pollock lurched up, a tangle of blankets around her limbs. She felt cold sweat trickling down her back. Her tiger-striped roommate rubbed his jaw, squinting at her with one golden eye.
“Jeezus woman!” he huffed, “fine, I won’t shake the damn bed to wake ya up no-more. No need to get violent.”
“Get out!” she grabbed her pillow and chucked it at him.
“Alright alright!” he threw his hands protectively over his head and ducked out of the bedroom.
Jerking herself free of the blankets, she snatched the pillow up off the floor, jumped forward and slammed the door shut. Rajah’s black and orange tail whipped out from the door jam just in time. Polly locked the door and turned, slumping against it and sliding down to the hardwood floor.
Polly closed her eyes, waiting for her breath to slow, her body to stop shaking. The dream-statue’s words still rumbled in her mind… was she just a coward?
Bright teal watercolors welled up under gossamer lashes and spilled in slow, salty drops down her pale cheeks. She hugged the pillow to her chest, her jaw clenching. A sob hit her, and she buried her face in the soft folds, muffling the cascade that followed.