Sunday, December 20, 2020

SHORT STORY: My Own Private Dollhouse

A long time ago, out of sheer boredom, I can assure you, I created some tiny people.  I fashioned them out of mud and clay, moulding them in my own image, careful to replicate every detail precisely.  Once I’d completed my homunculi, I imbued them with life and set them aside on a small rock to play.

I watched from a discreet distance as the tiny people began living their lives, bravely traipsing about the jagged landscape I had fashioned for them.  I provided them with vegetation - trees and plants - which they could consume and seek shelter beneath.  They carried on about their business blithely - blissfully unaware of my presence, so I sat back and contentedly allowed my creations to entertain me.  It was as if I had built my own private dollhouse.

James Patrik My Own Private Dollhouse

As time passed, the mud men grew industrious, constructing rudimentary homes for themselves.  They used the vegetation to construct tools for hunting and soon began consuming the other forms of lower animal life that occupied the rock.  A basic economy was formed, and, as they began to discover the pleasures of their own bodies, the first mud babies appeared.

The population exploded as I viewed from the sidelines, quietly and with great interest.  Tribes became villages.  But as the mud men’s mastery over their environment grew, so too did their capacity for wickedness.  Soon enough, one mud man had murdered another – his closest friend – whom he decapitated over the affections of a woman.

What an intriguing development, I thought to myself as I marvelled at such a terrific act of barbarism. 

Villages became towns.  Towns became cities.  Mud huts once covered in hay soon became thatched, then reinforced, then built out of concrete and tiles and innumerable new materials that my mud men concocted to keep themselves alive and comfortable. 

But with their innovation came arrogance.  The mud men had become proud - too proud for my liking.  Groups of them splintered across the rock, forming factions derived from superstition and superficial differences.  I could see that some of the men in the eastern hemisphere embraced ideas of wisdom and accomplishment, but far too often such notions were obfuscated by a veneer of false virtue.  Weapons of war emerged – metallic machines that pierced the sky and were decorated with jags and spikes and painted in the colours of combat.

It was at this point I began to grow weary of the mud men, regretting their creation altogether.  Their industry no longer amused me and I felt the urge to teach them a lesson in patience.  Through my boredom, I had imbued them with sentience, but I still regarded them as mine to do with as I pleased.  Destructive yearnings welled within me. I could wash them away with floods or scorch the surface of their rock with flame.  Watching their tiny bodies burst and burn would surely entertain me, if only momentarily.  But of course, once they were gone, they would be gone for good, and I would have only the endless groaning of the cosmos to keep me company.  Faced with indecision, I sought counsel from my father, the King of System.  He listened thoughtfully as I conveyed the nature of my dilemma, and then, after a long silence, offered the following advice:

“All truth is a matter of perspective”.

I considered my father’s words carefully, and after much deliberation, resolved to obtain a fresh perspective.  A further experiment was required before doing away with my mud men entirely. I would manifest on their rock, occupying one of their bodies, and would live out one of their lifespans.  Annoyingly, I would not be permitted to retain any of my memories while on the rock – a wretched condition of the place itself.  No matter, it would only take a small amount of time – mud men rarely lived longer than 100 years – and it was sure to provide an amusing diversion. Curious about procreation and recognising that grace would be required for this endeavour, I decided to manifest in my female aspect.

The first thing I observed was the heaviness of the mud men existence.  Matter was solid and leaden, as was the tiny body I found myself encased in.  Initially, I was defenceless, beholden to my mud men parents to tend to my various needs.  The construct of linear time – a mud man creation – impacted me greatly as my physical form gestated and matured.

As my primitive neurology developed, so too did my avatar.  It was an unusual form, meat and bone bound by oily skin.  Months and years passed, and my arms and legs became stronger.  The growth of my extremities was curiously paralleled by my parent’s deterioration, slow but noticeable.  As I grew more capable, they grew weaker.  My father’s hair and beard lost its colour, and my mother’s movements became tired and deliberate.  Though I was loath to admit it, I had grown attached to them, fond even, if only in a minimal sense.  With gormless affection they had shepherded me into womanhood and watched over me when I was nothing more than a mewing potato in a blanket. 

More time passed, as it did on the rock, and my official instruction began.  Years upon years of indoctrination in what was laughably termed a “school”.  Ideas of group conformity washed over me each day as the other children – they too mere simpletons – forged tribal identities.  It was in spending time with my fellow juveniles that I came to understand the concept of cruelty, and the depth of the mud man capacity for it.  The children were exquisitely cruel to each other, ostracising outsiders and brutalising others they deemed unacceptable.  I wondered if the deep-seated sadness felt by all mud men was somehow the result of these awful little people.

But I had little time for lofty philosophical musings.  As I began my transition into my final form, my attention was turned to more pressing matters as my body began to scream out for the basic mud men appetites.  Food.  Sex.  Food.  Sex.  The compulsions were all consuming and surprisingly overwhelming.  I had noted, with disinterest, the primitive mud man desire to pair off, forming couples and other social units. Living together they engaged in a perpetual cycle of eating and mating.  I failed to understand the appeal, much preferring to keep most of myself to myself.

Then one day he appeared.

As if out of nowhere, he stood before me, as though he had manifested from outside of space and time, somehow separate from the reality I occupied.  I gazed at him longingly, intensely, at once astonished by the potency of my own reaction to him.  I’d never conceived of finding a mud man attractive, but there he was, resplendent in chestnut hair.  Emotions and other strange desires fermented inside me as I realised that while I was encased in this woman’s form, I too was nothing more than an animal, responding to instinct as any animal would.

The brown-haired man spoke, and his words showed me nothing but compassion.  Those words led to a life together, and that life led to the birth of a child.  For a brief period, I wondered if in the uncomplicated act of procreation, I had finally comprehended the meaning of mud man existence.

My brown-haired man and I busied ourselves with the minutia of everyday life, allowing the years to wash over us both as we stared at the television screen in a happy stupor.  I dutifully played the part in which I had been cast – wife and mother.  Surrendering the employment I had diligently obtained, I resigned myself to a life expended preparing frozen lasagne and cleaning the house.  Initially, these tasks held a certain fascination, and I was able to derive some simple satisfaction from them.  But, as the years wore on, I grew bored with the monotony.  Equally unrewarding was the task of raising a child.  My offspring, a daughter, was herself rapidly becoming an adult who seemed to resent me more with each passing day.

The subjective experience of life was akin to the waves of an ocean, with discreet events fading into memory forming either peak or trough.  There were good decades and bad decades, each peppered with episodes that provoked immense joy and profound sadness in equal measure.  The sight of my brown-haired man – his body broken inside a primitive automobile – was particularly distressing.  I shrouded his body and placed it in the ground as per the mud man custom, then spent many years alone in silence.

My child, now a woman of ferocious temperament, left the house where we had lived in order to seek her own adventure.  Secretly glad to be free of her burdensome presence, I pondered how to spend the remaining years of my life before I too succumbed to death.  The absence of my brown-haired man had left an empty chasm which I attempted to fill in varying ways.

I embraced material possessions, surrounding myself with “things” – filthy, useless things.  Clothing, elaborate jewellery and items of convenience filled my living space.  In spite of the considerable expense I’d exhausted acquiring them, I found their presence empty, and their silence quite objectionable.  I turned my attention to art, but found no solace there.  All works of art by mud men were amateurish and simplistic.  Whether examining the works of Da Vinci or the childishness of the Sistine Chapel, I felt nothing but scorn.  Truly, I experienced the full spectrum of mud man emotions, cautioning myself that while sometimes uncomfortable, no feeling was final.

Now, my body had grown infirm.  The bitter passage of linear time had degraded that vessel which contained my consciousness.  I slowed, generally speaking, both physically and cognitively.  As my bones became brittle, my thoughts turned increasingly towards death.

Residing in a prison not unlike the school from my childhood, I cohabitated with many other unwanted people who spent their time staring at walls and waiting for phone calls that never came.  This was the place where mud men discarded their elderly once they had outlived their usefulness.  Ignoring the false beliefs that the mud men designed to stave off fear of oblivion, I prepared for the end.  Mentally taking stock of my life’s accomplishments, I looked back at the road behind me and saw nothing noteworthy at all.

When the moment came, it was surprising, and without fanfare or ceremony.  I had simply fallen asleep in the place where mud men spend most of their lives – in front of the television.  It was fittingly poetic in its own way, emblematic of the sheer meaninglessness of it all.

I awoke – milliseconds later – in the exact place from where I had departed.  I had lived a life, and the dying embers of its imagery flickered across my consciousness, but soon faded.  I remembered my existence as a mud man – a mere mortal.  Fallible and vulnerable, breakable and prone to disease.  I was glad to have sloughed off that odious form.  As my recollections fled from me, I recalled my brown-haired man’s face, but could no longer remember his name.  It had all been sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The purpose of my experiment had been to gain a new perspective, and I had done so.  I no longer experienced the urge to cleanse the mud man rock with fire.  They were nothing more than an irritant, an insect buzzing past as I proceeded with my existence.  After my life among them, I wondered why I had even bothered.  They were unworthy of my attention.  I placed my experiences – and the rock on which the mud men lived – upon a forgotten shelf in my mind and turned my attention to other matters more befitting a being such as myself. 

I barely noticed, a short time later, as the solar winds of the cosmos dissolved the rock and all its inhabitants entirely, winking them out of existence, never to be seen or heard from again.


No comments:

Post a Comment

SHORT STORY: The House Always Wins