In the beginning, he somewhat leaps at you – seemingly out of nowhere. With a distant knock on your door, he interrupts your playful questions, your guileless grazing, and seamless gaze. Innocent and welcoming, you open the door – asking him to join your festival of questions within. He will. With brightly coloured toys of his own, and gifts you have never seen before, he will play with you – bringing you to smiling worlds you never thought existed. Without a word said – except the occasional muttering sounds under his breath – he will dazzle and entertain you.
When the night is spent and it is time to rest, you will seek to escort him to the door, without much success – for, in that moment, the others around you will rebuke you for being so rude, and entreat you to play with him a little longer – or at least take him to your bed. Sleepy-eyed, you will grant him access to your room – hoping that in the morning you can resume your flippancy with your toy-questions.
But in the morning, you will find that your questions are gradually getting missing, that your play-things are either broken or lost. In their place, you will find him, seated glib-faced in the confounded midst of your scattered toys – still muttering under his breath. When you start to protest, you will be harshly rebuked, silenced or, even more insidiously, cuddled and courted by the others until your resistance breaks down into a slumbering submission to imposed demands.
And every day, when you come out of your room, another toy will go missing, and you will learn to sit and listen to the jabbering visitor who refuses to leave quietly; you will walk with him in the fields – and memorize his way of seeing everything. What once was a ‘blue Dragon’s Lear’, ‘a black hole to Universe 14’, and the ‘gaping mouth of an Incubus’ will very simply become a ‘hole in the garden’. Nothing more. Nothing less. You will be seemingly disallowed from exercising those innate powers to read the world in multiple, pleasantly paradoxical ways; you will be disciplined into one vision. One exclusive paradise of meaning.
Without recognizing it, you will come to see that the more you play with this guest, the more you are rewarded with exciting things from the others; and, in those dwindling, increasingly sparse moments when you seek out your old toys – buried away in the dusty and webby basement – you will be seen as troublesome and ‘needing discipline’.
You will come to see everything through his eyes, and you will begin…with infinitesimally small doses of fear…to see that the only possible way to go outside is with his hand in yours.
Do not worry about the fear. Down the lane, you will forget that you were once ruled by fear’s sinewy grip. In fact, you will take that fear – that noble thing – and lock it up with all your questions in the dark basement. And their hearts will beat in near-harmony, reverberating through the walls of your certainty, seeking to remind you of them. As expected, their symphonies of bedevilled confusion will alight on deafened eyes and blinded ears.
And then you will become one of his many defenders. You will concoct sweetly reasoned tributes to the logic of his presence. You will assure differing others – yourself most of all – that the time you spend with him is praiseworthy and necessary, and that those who cannot see or understand this are wicked, ignorant or stupid.
You might even go one further and sign up on the neighbourhood vigilante list – watching out for those endangered few who yet play with other toys, and have not yet seen the glorious light of his mute eminence.
For reasons beyond you, he will start to grow faint…his body weak and fragile. You will have none of this – and so you will attach him to a life-support machine in order to keep him alive. The tides will come and go, and many seasons will weave coats of many colours for the nomadic skies. Death and decay will turn the green leaves into a blushing brown – making them ready enough for the loamy-dirt, stern brown of the earth below. But, with your last breath you will fight those terrible twins away from the side of your ancient friend.
In keenly quiet moments, the throbbing, waning heartbeats of your orphaned toys in the cellars of your soul will stream to you, conniving with your visions, confounding your experiences, challenging your certainty, disturbing your foundations. Calling to you. You will however fail to heed them, and brush them aside like a hungry lioness, invested in the bloody abundance of her freshly bruised deer-prey, brushes aside the distant ruffle in the bushes behind her. You cannot afford to let them in.
And one day, after victoriously shrugging of the unfriendly drumming of those critters in the basement, you will smile at the healthy carcass of your old friend. Still alive. Still hinged to your stubbornness. Still muttering unintelligible words under his breath. In a moment of curiosity, you might move closer to decipher what he has been saying all these years. All those years when he walked with you in the fields, when your toys started to go missing, when you started to condense the participatory wildness of the world into an offering of exclusivity to your beloved. As you move closer to his peeling flesh, the same seamless current of nonsense will ring true in your ears. But as you pull even closer, the formless flow of mutterings will gradually take on the discontinuity of sounds, of syllables, of words. And then in a shocking moment you will make sense of what he is saying, what he has been asking – again and again.
“Can I leave now? Can I leave now? Can I leave now? Can I leave now? Can I leave now?”
The dreadful insolence of that moment will send your world spinning out of control – as you discover that he, all this while, was your captive – when it might have been said that you were his. And through that portal from chaos, the orchestrated heartbeats of your one-time friends – the toys in the basement – will flood your senses, disorienting you. And each of those voices too will sound much clearer this time:
“Can I come in? Can I come in? Can I come in? Can I come in? Can I come in? Can I come in?”
What will seem particularly strange to you is that in those hours, his words will seem to be sung in harmony with the echoes from the basement – as if they…as if they were the same song!
Enraged and frightened, you will fall hard on him, and consume him. To save him. To save yourself. You will eat him up, so that you might become him. So that you might preserve his voice within you. So that you could shut him up.
Long after your thirst is done, when your gluttonous crusade is vanquished – and the threads that once dispensed drops of life into the veins of your friend shudder sporadically on the floor – you will lay in your deathbed, satisfied. Your son will walk into your room; he will tell you that someone is at the door. You will shoot up straight from your bed and rush to the door – urging your child to make haste for the visitor. You would have waited long for the day to introduce him to your son, the day when you could silence your son and clear out his own toys into the basement. Your child opens the door and there, standing in the doorway is your old friend, still the same, still muttering something under his breath, still ready to dazzle and entertain.
For a brief fleeting moment, your eyes will notice something slightly different – something that wasn’t there before. In his hands will be brightly coloured toys – no longer dusty, no longer yours to imprison, no longer in your basement.