“East of the Sun” (I Suppose Someone Should Read This…)

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted to this blog, but it’s not for lack of writing. I mostly write short thoughts and post them to Instagram, but I’ve been playing around with this piece for quite some time. As we all know, I use cannabis as inspiration, although the time I put into this work I had not smoked pot. I wrote this during the morning hours, perhaps the residual creativity carried over from the night before. I will tell you this, it’s nothing like stories I’ve written before. It’s unique, and after setting it aside for months, a stoned thought occurred to me that I should share this with you all. I hope you enjoy it, if for nothing else than the escape it provided me as I wrote it.

Working Title: East of the Sun

The study was getting cluttered with records of fading timelines; they were symbols of both life and of death. As an apprentice, I would ink a line for the start of every soul. It was a simple process, really. We were all assigned a brush, to be used exclusively for the ink wells which came to us by way of Proctor, Magnus’s portly assistant, with rosy cheeks and a full head of white hair, in the inventory room, twice a day, and usually just in the nick of time. A small roll of parchment from Mr. Seeds’ separate inventory room, a jar of ink, and a brush. The process was simple, check for the seal on each inkwell, the parchment should simply be stamped “Seed’s,” and the inkwell should be sealed with heavy wax and sealed “TSF.” “Pop the inkwell open, dip your brush, draw the tiniest line,” my preceptor’s voice always went up when he said that, “listen closely now, and wait for the ticking to commence,” his voice recited in my head at the start of every line. Drawing time became a singsong, which many grew tired of the repetition, fueling their desire to perform and hopefully be among the three chosen for The Loom, their chance to become the successor for The Father himself, but not me, I had become enamored with the process.

My recruitment to Nod, twenty-two years ago, came by way of my birth into a tiny village of warriors. Amongst my people, my romanticism noted at an early age, had clearly left me at a disadvantage. So, I was brought one night, to The Land of Nod, to begin my training in the construct of time, amongst countless other would-be soldiers, craftsmen, and needleworkers. I took my studies seriously and upon commencement, found myself assigned to the third dimension, along with my friends Bebo and Seb. We worked mostly harmoniously, save random quibbles and brawls over this or that, with about one hundred other apprentices in rotating shifts in the clocktower’s secretary pool. It wasn’t just us, however, there were hundreds of apprentices inking those lines in the clocktower, for every dimension upon each being’s conception. 

The bustle of parchment, popping inkwells, and the usual sounds that come with a productive office space was regularly interrupted when a voice called out from the receiving lobby of the clocktower, “Ink delivery!” This heralding always sent Magnus on his familiar path, from his station at the clocktower ink inventory to reception at least twice a day, log book in hand, which accurately recorded every delivery from the Village of Sisters, which was happily situated on the eastern most boundary of The Land of Nod. 

Only the apothecary of The Sisters had the authority to seal the jars, which resembled tar. His seal pressed into the thick wax “TSF,” which ensured its authenticity. It seemed almost magical, at least to me, that those tiny lines would soon begin to knit themselves into the parchment, which was delivered from Millworker’s Lodge. Millworker’s Lodge was purposefully built on the opposite end of Nod, and deliveries from the Lodge and the Apothecary were scheduled to arrive at alternating intervals at the clocktower to eliminate the risk of unintentional creation.

It was quite remarkable, never a drop of ink was spilled, nor cast without intent and if you listened closely, you could almost hear the ticking of the Sister’s needles which wove each line. The lines all seemed straight to the untrained eye, but everyone’s timeline is unique, no two with the same knots which became fused to the parchment, created unique peaks and valleys. But the structure of a line mattered little to The Father. At some point, the thread was cut, and the lines ceased to grow. Upon each death, you would hear The Father’s aged fingers picking at the lines, the thumping against the parchment and snagging of the line created that familiar “tick tock tick tock” from his study above in The Father’s clocktower study. The Father would scratch at the tip of the line, usually from the beginning, because that is where memories are usually lost and damage to the line had the least implication, and gently pull it off the parchment, leaving behind a scar. He would thread his loom with the line and continue to weave the unending tapestry which represents what you would call The Fabric of Time. Invisible to most, but it is what gently supports all that you know, and all things you don’t. 

The paper on which timelines are recorded starts out small, and only grows if the timeline grows, which is all up to The Sisters. As it grows, the ticking of their needles creates a melody, quiet, almost undetectable, at its end the sound of sheers cropping the thread with finality. Once The Father removes its thread, as I mentioned, the parchment is always scared with its memory. Most are rolled, and placed in The Father’s study, as reminders that these threads were representative of lives. In the beginning, The Panel of Eyes, the overseers of all, deemed that as the lines disappear into The Father’s tapestry, they should be recalled by someone, even long after the human mind, and history, forgets. This was part of The Father’s assignment, until his beard grows long and his eyes grow weary of his timeless task of weaving, and his mind grows tired of remembering. That’s when it comes time to select a successor.

As an apprentice, I grew obsessed with individual timelines. I wondered how decisions of mortals were made under the influence of The Sisters Fate, which created the knots of high and low points in each thread. The color which is inked is always black at first, which indicates the darkness from which you come, but the color changes as life is lived. Varying shades of reds, blues, and yellows always emerge. The most unique souls, however, would turn to something different, a color inconceivable to the human mind, but remarkably striking and beautiful. But when the lines are woven together, now that is a sight to truly behold. The tapestry of Time is a remarkable image, pulsing with palpable beauty. I would marvel at the tapestry with the same awe I had when inking those thin black lines. Despite what you may think, there is no depiction of war, actually, there is no depiction of anything that humans experience. It’s, well, how can I say this? It’s more like a melody, sheet music, perhaps. The echos of The Sisters’s needles playing in complete harmony. The fabric reads like a song, romantic and breathtaking. Each of your timelines, no matter how poisoned you perceive your life to be from moment to moment, always come together to design the flawless song, whose tempo you can vaguely hear through the ticking of your clocks’ second hands. 

As I would think back on my own life, I always secretly regretted that I would have no timeline; that was a luxury which was stripped from me when I came to Nod. The song my timeline would have played, undoubtedly would have been a sad one. A romantic boy born into the land of warriors – a timeline such as this couldn’t have sung such a beautiful song. I’m inclined to think that the passion I felt for my job and the feeling I got from watching the tapestry grow and hum was obvious to The Father. By the time I would’ve been 18 in the third dimension, I had achieved a promotion, of sorts, working tirelessly beside him for hours on end, inking lines, fetching parchments, rolling them, and storing them. Some were simply rolled, but some, the ones whose color was different, incandescent, The Father would deem necessary to be stored in books, bound, and placed in a bookshelf. I did not know why, but I did as I was told, without question.

The Father was kind, gentle, and quietly commanded respect. He held the fate of everything that was time, and tended to it with such care. He was everything I wasn’t when it came to wisdom, and I wanted to learn from him. It was something, at one time, I thought The Creator gave him upon his creation. I wanted so much to be like him, but little did I know then, that his general countenance was won, not bestowed. 

The Land of Nod is east of the sun, so by day, the clocktower was lit from the west. The beaming, radiant ball of light filtered through the clocktower’s windowed face. By night, he preferred his study be lit by candlelight, which illuminated the clock’s face for The Land of Nod to keep track of time, at all hours. I understood why he loved the candlelight, it was enchanting the way it lit the room, the way it glowed against the rolls of papered timelines and countless books upon the shelves which surrounded us, the way it danced across his tapestry with a shimmer, especially at the best parts. Of course, no one who was summoned to The Father’s study at the highest point of the tower, could miss the Cabinet of Memories. It called to each of us. The wooden, double doored chest, with what inside, we could only guess. We knew there were memories, and we had all seen The Loom’s closing ceremonies in the past. The chancellor of The Panel of Eyes would always say, “Thank you all,” in his effortlessly strong voice, which bellowed through the stadium. He was speaking to the contenders, as well as the crowd. “It is with mixed emotion that we deem no successor. The Father will remain upon his chair, and the Cabinet remains upon his shelf. That is all.”

At once, all of the once hopeful apprentices, covetous of The Father’s time weathered chair – a simple wooden chair, one he always said was quite comfortable, but to a young apprentice, that chair might have well been a throne – had been commended for their valor and returned to their duties. Truth is, none of us would ever truly know what was inside the cabinet, or how all of this really worked, unless we were selected for The Loom. The Loom is, from what we can piece together from the rumors in Nod, a three-phase event of the most harrowing kind for contenders to compete for the title of The Father. Another inconvenient truth was, we were all guessing. In all of our years, we had never seen anyone bestowed the honor of succeeding The Father, and the Father of Time had remained the same for as long as we could all remember. What’s more, apprentices who ran The Loom and failed, were forbidden to speak of it. They were returned to their duties inking lines until another opportunity arose for them to graduate. Some would go on to weave parchment at Millworker’s Lodge, under the careful instruction of the head Millworker himself, some would learn the alchemy of the inks in the village of The Sisters, while others would build the book’s bindings. Failure to succeed at The Loom meant they would never have the opportunity to try again, and if my intuition was correct, it didn’t seem that any of them wanted that opportunity.

The Loom, the Cabinet, and the chair, were topics of conversation every day on our way to and from the clocktower. Seb would go on and on about his imaginary conquering of the coveted duties, “When I go to The Loom, I’ll conquer ALL who stand before me!” he would say, swiping his brush handle through the air. We would get a chuckle out of his antics, but we all knew that any thoughts of The Loom were guesses, no matter how much conviction we wanted to appear to have. 

I arrived in my quarters in Nod late one evening. The other Time Keeper’s apprentices had already eaten and retired for the night. It wasn’t unusual, though. I had once again become enchanted, as I always had, with the tapestry, and heard The Father say, “It’s time, Dolob. Return to your quarters and rest yourself. There will be plenty more to do in the new day.” I turned, unaware of how long I must’ve been standing there, and saw that my relief apprentice had already taken his place at my desk beside The Father. The Sister’s tune which vibrated through the tapestry hummed in my mind, so much so, I didn’t realize I was humming it myself. I crossed the gardens toward the square in a daze, it was twilight, my favorite hour, and the garden did glow. The kitchen in Nod would still be open, at least that’s what I told myself, as I felt my stomach growl and knot.

I made my way back to my quarters that evening, across the small garden between the apprentice dorms, where I saw a cluster of butterflies resting on a cherry blossom branch. Their wings were white, blending perfectly with the flowers that bloomed all year, and shimmered as the moonbeams glowed from above. It was a magical sight, but then again, everything in Nod was a magical sight. Just before I entered the hallway which led to my room, I turned to see the clocktower gently glowing in The Father’s candlelight, the hands read seven o’clock on the face, and amidst a wash of fatigue that came over me, I felt a small rush wash over me when I thought I heard the tapestry singing to me. With a sigh, I opened the wooden door and made my way down the hallway.

As always, I walked passed Bebo’s quarters, his door was closed, the green sign with the name“Bebo” had been painstakingly carved by Bebo himself, when we first came to Nod and began our studies. Woodworking was one of the first trades which we practiced to determine where we should fit in the community. Our name signs were to be used on our rooms, and were also part of our final assignment to determine if we would be good enough to be assigned to The Village of Craft, a tiny community of wood and ironworkers, who made the shingles for each of Nod’s industries. Bebo’s sign, although crooked, and the letters choppy, was decent, and although he passed woodworking, he just wasn’t good enough to be assigned to The Craftsmen. Not that Bebo minded, he was a spirited young man, with aspirations of greatness, but lacking in self confidence. Amongst his friends, he was animated and jovial, but outside of our tiny circle, his freckled face, auburn hair, and strangely green eyes rendered him self-conscious, and practically mute. He worked hard for The Father, and dreamed of The Loom, but we all knew that he would have to find a mental fortitude if he were ever to be chosen to attempt the challenge.

Just before my room, only steps away from Bebo, were Seb’s quarters. The same hand carved wooden plate rested on his door, only reading SEB, with more lackluster conviction as any would be woodworker. Carving just wasn’t his strong suit, neither was millwork, masonry, alchemy, or even sugar tempering. Seb was literally only good at keeping time. It was like a beat within him. I smiled at the memory of Seb in our early years at Nod, he came from the big city, west of the sun, and somehow its tempo was the beat within him. He knew how to brawl, he knew how to work hard, what he didn’t know was patience, back then. That would take years for him to master. As I was getting ready to carry on to my own reprieve, I noticed that Seb’s door was slightly open. I mused, Seb was notorious for not pushing that old wooden door hard enough to latch. For me, my door was like the entrance to a fortress, one I didn’t want breached. I could never understand why I was so fearful of leaving my door open, in all of our years, there was never danger which came to Nod. The Panel of Eyes had fought the wars that established our grounds, and cultivated warriors to ensure its protection, as well as sought treaties with those outside of our borders. I pondered for a moment, before I pushed the door open a bit. Perhaps that sense of trepidation in my belly stemmed from my roots, born into a warrior culture, always ready for a skirmish, or even war. Yet, no matter how deeply the warrior was within me, it was never my aspiration. I was forever in search of finding peace, and I had found it in The Land of Nod. Now, if only I could put to rest the haunting feeling of impending doom, which always rose when I found myself in situations which created doubt. I pushed down that familiar feeling in my belly as I pushed open the door. Mustering confidence through all of the doubt, I forced myself to believe that I would see Seb’s black curly hair and olive brown face resting peacefully on his pillow, as I had so many times before when I returned late from the clocktower. There he was, lids closed over his eyes that shined like aquamarine, and a peaceful face.

“What are you doing Golob?” he said, eyes still closed, face unmarked with animation. 

“Your door was open,” I said quietly, as to not rouse him or any of the others in our dormitory, “I just wanted to make sure everything was OK before I pulled it closed.” Seb didn’t seem to know that I had done this hundreds of times over the years. As I pulled the door closed and heard the latch catch, I heard his muted voice almost whisper, “Thank you.”

***

The night should have been like any other in Nod, my things were as I left them as the sun rose, but tonight, something seemed different, although I couldn’t decipher what it was. I peered out the perfectly divided windowpane toward the clocktower, and watched for a moment, just to see the hands move. A warmth washed over me as I witnessed time continue to tick by. There was reassurance in the familiarity. All was, indeed, right within the land.

I often dreamed of Nod, the wilderness I had imagined existed  beyond the borders. The trek across the land that The Widges made, east of the sun, and over the sprawling landscape which led to Nod, to bring the newest population to our village. It was an act of mercy, truly, that The Widges rescued the mortals from their world, to give them a chance to experience existence without the perils of their inadequacies dooming them to a life to which they were never intended. 

I remember the day Meril, The Widge who rescued me, I paused at the realization that is has been more than twenty years ago now. With a sigh, I went back to my memories. Meril came to me in the night. It was cold, frigid really. A boy of 5, well on my way to being seasoned into a man. I remember his tiny feet tapping upon my shirt, which was remarkable, in and of itself, as it was the top layer of many I used to keep warm in the frigid nights among the land of the dancing lights. I woke to see his tiny nose pressed firmly against my own. He was trying to look me in the eyes, but he was much too small, and I, much too big. With the snap of his fingers, and a twinkle of dust, we switched sizes and I giggled. “Hmmm,” he said as he looked me over with a close eyes. “Mmmm,” he muttered a bit quieter. “Yes, yes, you’ll do!” with another snap of his fingers and another poof of dust, things were set right and he pulled a tiny cloth from the breast pocket of his frock coat. He set to cleaning the spectacles which had sat upon his tiny nose. He inspected his work as he continued to rub the lenses. “Now, the choice is yours,” he said, as though I knew exactly what he was talking about. “What choice?” the tiny voice in my memory said. “The choice to leave all of this behind. Venture with me to a land where none of this matters,” he said as he shook his cloth to indicate the entire one room cabin where I resided with my people, yet still inspecting his spectacles, “A land where you will be free to be your own man, safely, and without judgement,” he added with an inviting whisper. My tiny mind leapt at the opportunity, after all, I struggled so hard to maintain the favor of my father, a mighty warrior, and even my mother saw that I was destined to be cast out of our village for failure to meet the standards of our clan’s warrior code. Meril could see the excitement of opportunity wash over my eyes, and that’s when he grabbed me by the collar and growled, in his most serious tone, “You will never see these people again! Do you understand?!” I recall laughing, he looked so silly through his fearsome scowl. It took me less time than blinking my eyes to decide, “I want to leave,” I said, forcing myself not to smile. “Then away!” he said, a snap of the fingers, an even bigger puff of dust, and we were gone.

What became of my body, I’ll never know. Had I died? Had I disappeared completely? I suppose I could ask Meril, I often saw him in the confectionary, but truth is, I never truly cared to know what had become of that “me.” I was simply grateful that whatever magic resided in the land for The Widges made it possible for him to see me, and save me. That was long ago, when Meril had been among the couriers of The Widges. That was a temporary job, the place he began doing the hard work of a Widge, with the goal of gaining experience which would hopefully lead him to his passion. Meril, quite literally, stumbled upon his passion, just as The Widges knew he would, and his passion was baking. A discovery he made when he was amongst the land of the mortals, recruiting for Nod. His sights had been set on a baker’s daughter, a raucous girl who was wholly unwanted, and destined to live a life unfulfilling to her adventurous spirit. As he made his approach, Meril, who I would learn was notoriously clumsy, had stumbled over a tiny crumb in the baker’s kitchen and landed SPLAT into a small piece of lemon chiffon. I could only imagine how he must’ve looked, covered in cream. But that was it, upon his return to Nod with Alta, who would go on to join the Keepers of Nod – a band of savvy protectors, posted along our borders – he put in for a transfer from courier to the confectionary. The waitlist was long, and the studies and subsequent exams were rigorous, but he would bring his tiny books with him everywhere, even west of the sun, determined to gain admittance.

Now, Meril ran about the confectioner’s kitchen, in hot pursuit of the title of Chief Confectioner. Watching his tiny frame run about the countertops, stirring this, whisking that, and tasting, ever so carefully with his minuscule pinky finger, always punctuating a taste as he pulled his finger out with a POP. He was so tiny, though, that the POP sounded more like a snap to the apprentices. Some of the apprentices would laugh at the sight before them, a tiny widge running about, scowling, tasting, and shouting. A former Time Keeper’s apprentice was now working in the confectionary alongside The Widge. He was always amused by Meril’s antics, and profoundly happy to be there, although noticeably a bit plumper than the rest of the Time Keeper’s team. We all whispered that he must’ve been to The Loom long ago, but none of us dared ask him.

As my mind drifted off into the night, my mind surveyed the gardens from above. The butterflies’ wings twinkling in the moonbeams more radiantly from this vantage. I continued upon my familiar course and zoomed across the clocktower to peek in at The Father. There he was, weaving, and there it was, singing. It was then that I always took to the borders of Nod, to look across the vast and glorious landscape. There I would hover, looking, dreaming. It was then that I would drift off into my slumber, only to be greeted by greater and grander images. The Widges, The Sister’s Fate, The Father, The Keepers, and of course The Eyes, were all in my dreams. The Widges tiny, yet impeccably dressed, gowns for the ladies, and frock coats for the gents. The Sister’s always with their needles, two knitting, one with a set of large, fateful shears. The Father, his beard long and fingers nimble. The Keepers in lean warrior tights, agile, with their trained patience cultivated alongside their tactical skill. The Eyes, ever watchful draped in their cloaks, an air of serenity surrounded them, yet they stood erect, a Staff of Wisdom in each of their hands. It seemed that they were anticipating something, though nothing came. Scattered about my dreams were ideas of imaginary beings, beings I had yet to encounter. These were the ones I had only dreamed of, those who lived in far and distant villages upon this oasis. 

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