The city was a large oasis, renowned for its bathing pools, lush trees and wide avenues. A woman with child was traveling, and came to bathe her tired feet and rest. The turquoise water felt so good, she drifted off into sleep. The sound of weeping and frantic speech awoke her, but she saw nothing unusual. Young maidens in soaked gowns cooled their thighs, philosophers in immaculate loin cloths walked slowly, holding their bright umbrellas, and youths swam and splashed. She got up and walked the shaded streets, following the mournful sound, until she came to a dark and deserted pool, where a skeleton sat on the stone edge, dangling its legs in the water just as she had done moments ago. In between fits of weeping, the weathered and cracked skeleton praised her own beauty, spread her femora wide open, and promised infinite pleasure to whoever would caress her and praise her beauty. The mother stared in disbelief until a passerby explained that it was the enchanted skeleton of a once wealthy princess who had practiced starvation and meditation in order to become the most beautiful woman in the world. Cursed for her arrogance, she was doomed to live without peace and weep as a skeleton, mocked by all who passed by, unless someone slept with her. Lay with me, lay with me, the skeleton whispered and sobbed, her phalanges stretching out in a seductive gesture, as she overheard the exchange of words. Almost in tears herself, the mother went over, picked up the skeleton, and cradled it in her arms, carrying it and walking the broad streets leading out of the city, while the skeleton hissed and hissed. Beyond the gates, where the oasis faded into stones and pebbles and mountains of rust and snow, the mother kissed the forehead of the skeleton. She asked it to sing. The skeleton sang an old air beautifully in a distant and soft voice. Laying the skeleton down, and holding it like an infant, pressing its skull to her breast, the mother said that she was indeed very beautiful, and they would sleep together for awhile. The mother sang a lullaby as the bones broke into dust, and the sobbing and whispering returned to the peaceful rustle of sand and gentle sough of wind.
Long after the writer died, new works of his kept appearing in the bookstores, lovely codices of excellent binding, fine paper and elegant fonts in rich, dark ink. One of his readers set out to investigate, and hurried to the winter cemetery, where the black shadows of tombs rose from blankets of snow. At last he found the desecrated grave, and the writer sitting up in his coffin scribbling away by the light of a hurricane lantern. One can never sleep, the poor writer moaned, as he penned another line of bravura prose. There are mounting death taxes and debts in this world and in the other world. Are you not miserable? I am miserable. I now have the infinite time and silence I always wanted, I write better prose and poetry than I could ever have imagined in my waking, breathing life, but all I want is to sleep, to sleep and dream of something different!
The dried herrings hang from the smoke-blackened rafters. It is possible that consciousness is indestructible. Have the herrings counted the straws they cannot see in the thatching above their tails? Are they afraid of the spear with a detachable hook? Should they stare into the embers of the charcoals below? Is there a great famished brown bear awakening from hibernation and walking through the birch forest in the snow? Will the herrings dream tonight of the dark blue waters of the northern sea, as if staring into an unimaginable kingdom that only exists in folktales? Is hanging upside down the correct posture for thought? Why have they left those smoking charcoals unattended? And what are foxes?