The Breaker

Through curling tunnels of blue-green glass, through curtains of white foam, he moved at breakneck velocity, his feet firm on the board, every muscle alert and receptive to the motion of the breakers. The light and sound coursed around him and through him. Whether he was freefalling sideways or diving upward, the green water followed him and he followed it through depths and heights, always searching, searching the vertigo, the curves and cascades of shimmer and thunder, his body left far behind in sand and sky. The last breaker was the one he had been waiting for. It was high and hard, rising up swiftly, a beast of furious water. And he mounted the beast and soared into the great blue of sea and sky, almost touching the sun. Within seconds, he knew that it would throw him hard, and this certainty lifted his soul through seven heavens of angelic winds. Life was endless. The impact was cruel but not fatal. A stone or brick struck his cheek, and the pavement shredded his legs. For several minutes, he lay on the concrete, just breathing and remembering. The wheels sparkled on the asphalt not far away. All of the abandoned buildings looked like black and white postcards. The skater got up, his mouth full of blood, and walked on air towards the skateboard. The gray pigeons were gathering by a lake of blue spring rain.

The Radio

The one thing he could never tire of was the sound of the waves. Wave after wave curling, lapping, foaming and hissing, receding back into the silence. The only conceivable sound for silence and solitude was this rhythmic sough of the ocean. The first time he had discovered it was as a child in the north country, either by one of the volcanic lakes or on a gray beach facing the sea—he could no longer remember—and it had remained a constant longing and fulfillment inexplicably twined into the very being of his soul. This was the only thing that kept him sane and pure. To live without the surf would be a kind of spiritual death for him. Or so he believed. Now and then, however, distractions and temptations came. And he would return to the radio that played the music and news of every continent and planet. And with a furious and desperate hunger his hand worked the dial, seeking and seeking every frequency and channel, every broadcast that traversed the great worlding. It always ended the same way. The cheerful bulletins, sultry whispers, alarmed voices, brass bands, orchestras, violent screams and mournful guitars all announced the monotonous death of civilization. Everything sounded similarly hollow and forgettable. The hand then touched the switch and the buttetscotch glow of the console faded into the darkness. Dispirited, his body walked slowly through the nightfall to the beach. There was no golden age, no elysium on any of the earths. The worlds were disappointments. And then the man of waves would walk along the shore and sit in the sand and listen to the breakers. The sounds of the ocean enveloped him. One evening, after meditating on the beach, he decided to invent the radio that others needed. And so night after night he brought a kind of blackbox or phonograph to the shore to record what the great seas whispered and moaned. This was the starting point of his invention, which he later built and exported to other lands. Not everyone found it useful, but wherever his radio played, people tended to find peace. It was a radio that poured out silence from its speakers. Not a mere absence of sound but the very sound of profound tranquility. It was a radio of the sea, of silence and solitude. It was a radio of prayer.

The Last Days

In the last days they came for the coyote to punish him. They said that he would have to build every day for eternity. And he could only build with scissors, paper, and rock. It’s not much to build with, the coyote thought. It would be better if I had some cornmeal, tobacco, and clay, or even just the empty blue sky.

The Archivist

The girl escaped the riots by traveling through mesas, prairies, and deserts. In the sanctuary of an abandoned white mission crumbling at the foot of the iron-gray mountains, she met the almost immortal archivist. The shadow introduced himself with immaculate manners and a gentleness she had never seen before. The man had burning, green eyes full of mystery and tenderness, like a young child still amazed and excited by the world. Dressed in a black frock, a white ruff collar, and long leather boots, she thought he looked like a figure from a history textbook or a character in a renaissance play. The archivist said that he had sailed on galleons six hundred years ago. The interior of the mission was practically a museum exhibit from bygone times. There were bookshelves of ancient codices, polished oak tables covered with manuscripts and charts, and coffers stuffed with relics. They stood over a table, where he showed her pictures resembling an unknown continent. She saw it begin as an almost formless mass in blank, bone-white oceans and acquire firmer and bolder edges of ink, more promontories and inlets, more precise curves. She asked him what the drawings were about. The archivist explained that they were the diagrams of thought experiments, or a succession of related thought experiments that had been acted out in space and time. And he spoke of handwritten thinking machines, diagrams, mind maps, memory palaces illuminated in old manuscripts, geometric drawings with proofs, astronomical tables and charts used for calculation. One by one, he showed her more pictures. Something was beginning to form in her mind. At last, she saw that the drawings were nothing more than maps of her own land. The archivist looked into her eyes with suffering or desperation and asked her what the thought experiments meant.

The Sheep

Into a land of emptiness, a mason was transported and abandoned to live and cultivate and build a world. The mists were thick in those days, and it was almost impossible to see anything. For days the mason walked, stopping now and then to hold pebbles, to speak, to gaze into the open, to try and make an event. All he had in his possession was a an army backpack filled with strange things—a long knife, flints, wicks, fuses, some candles, shaves, chisels, a trowel, a hammer, gunpowder, rope, coffee, tobacco, paper, ink, and a fountain pen. None of these worked to make a landscape. Now and then he thought of what was missing from his backpack. Sometimes, he amassed arguments to explain to himself why none of his tools worked. Nevertheless, he felt there was something in the mists and stones. The only living thing in the wasteland was an adorable sheep. One day, it began to follow him, bleating in a friendly way. At first, the sheep was a nuisance, but before long, the mason found the face beautiful, and it was pleasant to feel its fur, to be followed, to have a warm creature nearby throughout the dreadful, ghostly nights. One evening, he spoke kindly to the sheep, and found it could converse in his language. The sheep was quite philosophical, and patiently explained the holes in the mason’s arguments about his tools and work, but encouraged him to keep searching and trying. The mason loved the sheep and longed to build it a nice pen in a field of delicious grass. Nothing came of his efforts. The world would not happen. As time went by, the mason grew weaker, exhausted, and stared off into the gray matter without form, wondering if he would die. Then the sheep brushed up against him, insistently pushing its forehead against his leg. It is time to live, the sheep whispered, and you have all you need to live. Eat, and you will live. The mason broke down and wept, slit the sheep’s throat, dressed the carcass and roasted its meat over a campfire. In the morning, when he awoke, the mists were clearing to reveal beautiful wastes of red sand and elegant black volcanoes smoking softly into the blue sky. The world was beginning.

The Drowned

She took off her clothes because she was a river into which he had never stepped once or twice. Dark minnows froze in her crystal veins, shadows of the dark thoughts she could not rein. Now they would stay somewhere within her. Even he could not leave this body submerged. Strange flowers melted off her liquid skin, the wild blossoms of worlds nobody would win. And now he was here, in this somewhere in time. It did not matter—to be or not be. To drown was enough, and just not to see.

The Buried Skeleton

It was in the other land on another planet. An island washed by green oceans, with rusted mountains of snowy peaks, ash-gray fields and great mesas of red sand. For a long time, the shadow stared into the sea through the open window. Sometimes, he painted the walls. At other times, he stopped, holding a paint brush or a box with both hands, staring at the window again. The sky and sea called; the wind called. Something infinite was missing. And he almost remembered. The shadow went downstairs and out the door, crunching his way through the gray and red sand. Night was falling. It always seemed to have been falling forever when it fell, and yet distant and impossible when it had not yet fallen. The shadow was barely distinguishable from the darkness now. In the middle of the great field, he began to shovel up the ash and sand until he found his own skeleton. After digging it out, he ran his hands over the bones, brushing off the dust until the skeleton awoke. The skeleton whispered and tried to stand, but was too weak. The shadow carried him on his back. The lights from the house by the shore guided them. I should have brought some dust, the skeleton whispered. Then the world might return. Do not worry, said the shadow. He carried him into the house and up the stairs to the bedroom, laying him on the clean white mattress on the iron-frame bed. A lamp with a broken shade sat on the floor of the almost empty room, pouring too much light onto the ceiling and walls, radiant with their moist new coat of blue paint. It’s like a real sky or a robin’s egg, the happy skeleton exclaimed. The shadow was pleased. What now? the skeleton asked, but the shadow had fallen into a trance again, staring through the window, waiting for something–perhaps the sea, the sky, or only the wind.

The Old Beggar

In the beginning, the old beggar welcomed the visits. They brought him star maps, atlases, and charts. There were always new lands, new worlds, new comets and new stars, which they would explain to him. The beggar could travel vast distances without leaving the shade of his favourite tree. The visitors also liked to hear of his years of walking from peak to peak, chewing his coca leaves, leading his herds, and making sure the villagers scattered in the high country had enough to eat. One hundred years of life had passed, and he could walk no more. Memorizing as much as he could, he daydreamed of other worlds. Our world is a view of other worlds, he often whispered. Later, the visitors became more intolerant and belligerent. It was no longer an exhibit of the worlds beyond, but an interrogation, a list of everything the beggar did not know, and he felt as if he never had time to ask a question, argue, or share something of his past. The visitors were a black cloud. They collected around him like flies on a loaf of bread. One day, he asked them to leave. You are blocking my view, he said. I want to see my mountains and my llamas.