Venus & Mars
"You are Fire,
Conflagration of creation.
The incandescence of passion.
Burn, flaming hell, be my lamp!"
Venus, silhouetted against the inferno engulfing her land-yacht, squatted on the center line of a dark dessert highway cutting her hair with a big sharp hunting knife. Red-orange flames and dense black smoke roared into the night sky as the vehicle’s metal popped and groaned in the intense heat. The tires exploded as did the propane tank, gas tank and other items inside the RV. Venus cut her hair, haphazardly sawing off fists full, leaving it ragged, long and short. Her tattered and dirty dress twisted and flapped violently in the wind as a disheveled and wild-eyed Venus chanted in a husky voice which started softly and grew louder with each line:
"I am a font of possibilities.
I am the gathering storm.
I am born to cleanse and die.
Yet, nothing less than the whole is possible.
Chaos rules the universe.
I dance with my antithesis.
Formation and destruction are one.
Nothing escapes creation."
As the asphalt boiled beneath the red-hot metal of the burning RV, Venus, knife in hand, rose to her feet and slowly walked off the highway into the throbbing shadows at the edge of the bonfire’s light. She and her long, eerie shadow approached a large smooth outcropping of sandstone and the two of them began savagely attacking it with her hunting knife. "If I am only a part of the whole," Venus asked aloud. "what is the face of the whole?" Then in a louder voice, "I hereby assert myself permanently on the geography of this dimension! I have existed here in this stone forever, and to prove it, I will cut away that which hides it. Then forevermore I will greet each new Sun." She violently hacked, scraped and stabbed at that rock formation, as if her life depended on it. Venus climbed all over it's face stabbing at it in one spot for a while then moving to another location. She chopped and stabbed until, days later, her knife wore down to a nub. Retrieving a piece of the RV wreckage she resumed her assault on the stone. She continued her task for weeks with the fervor of one possessed by an obsession, occasionally pausing only long enough to howl her poetry at the sky. A giant face more and more resembling hers, slowly took shape under her labor. The face of Venus carved in stone for posterity.
"Will I live or will I die?
I feel this way and I don’t know why.
Should I laugh or should I cry?
I shake my fist up at the sky."
Mars decided it was time
to leave the sanctuary of his mine forever. Even though he had almost come to
enjoy this inescapable nightmare that his life had become, he was convinced
that it was time for a change. It was time to go home. He thought that maybe
there, he would be rid of Venus. Dressing himself in clothes from the long dead
miner, he soon found himself one last time at his favorite spot, on the tallest
point of the small island in the lake. His private Shangri-La now invaded by
the tourist industry. He surveyed the lake for the last time, wondering which
direction he should go and he came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter.
He merely had to begin walking. Any direction he went would be the right one.
He walked down off the peak, through a small wood then right out into the water.
He swam all the way to the other shore, almost a mile. When he reached the other
shore he strode, dripping wet, right past the tourist campers staring at him
and muttering to each other, his soggy shoes squishing as he walked. He walked
in a relaxed but steady gait almost in a straight line right up past the new
mini-mart, across the highway, oblivious to the honking and skidding cars all
around him. He continued in a straight line up the hill, into the woods hiking
and up and over the mountain. His mind was focused on some point far in front
of him as if hypnotized by it.
Partway up the next mountain unfamiliar thoughts began to ooze up from the depths of his mind and it wasn’t long before they came in a steady stream, flooding his consciousness. It was as if he was remembering things that never happened. First person scenes from somebody else’s life played across his mind. The strange thing was, he recognized the scenes in his hallucinations. He recognized people in this dream too but couldn’t remember their names. In one of his hallucinations, Mars looked at his reflection in a mirror and saw someone else’s face but how he recognized it as his own, he couldn’t explain. Somehow it almost made sense to him but he wasn’t sure why. As he progressed into the monotony of the march these dreams gave him a sense of de je vous.
Crossing roads and streams, as he made his way up the next mountain, marching, as much as possible, in a straight line. Marching home. Home is a hard place to find. He knew that it wasn’t a matter of geography. He knew too that it wasn’t a matter of where he grew up and had nothing to do with his family. He couldn’t explain why but he knew too that he couldn’t get to his intended destination on foot. Mars began to wonder: if it was impossible to get there on foot, why was he doing all this walking. This contradicted his belief that he was doing this thing right. However, he was sure this was the way home. Though he didn’t know what to call it or where it was, he knew there was such a place.
Mars had lost all sense of time and wasn’t sure if hours or days had passed but it had been a steady uphill march. He never tired and never got hungry, he just kept moving in a steady forward direction. I wasn’t until now though that Mars noticed that the trees and other plantlife grew perpendicular to the ground, not at an angle as one would expect on an uphill grade. It was as if he and the landscape had their own separate gravities. A little further on he came upon a stream and it too defied the law of gravity for it ran sideways across the mountain instead of downhill. It seemed as if he was on nearly flat land and it only felt like he was walking uphill. As if the landscape had been tilted. His ascent from then on became more and more difficult. Never the less, he continued on his way determined to reach his goal. Though he never reached the tree line, he climbed through the forest for days, maybe weeks, up through the clouds higher and higher. The mountain kept getting steeper and more difficult to climb until finally it felt as if he was almost climbing a wall with trees and shrubs growing straight out of it. To the bird and deer it looked like he was crawling along the ground. However strange it may seem, it never occurred to Mars to stop or turn back. Then again maybe this was just weird enough to convince Mars that he was heading in the right direction. It went on like this, climbing ever upward, until finally it was just too steep to climb. The wall he was climbing began to curve out away from the vertical, as if turning into a ceiling. He held on to the base of a sapling and looked over his shoulder at the distance he’d climbed, down through the clouds drifting by far below. Not even considering the possibility of turning back, he thought to himself that if he’d just rest for a while he’d be able to continue his climb. However, just as he began his climb again a sapling he was hanging onto tore out of the ground.
Mars swung his arms, propeller-like for a second or two, the broken branch swishing in the air, before he tumbled backward into space. Down he fell, away from the face of the cliff, into the clouds, until he could no longer see the cliff. He did not panic but he was taken by surprise by this turn of events. Mars smiled, he knew this was it. He laughed at himself as he realized he was still holding onto the branch. He opened his hand and let the branch go, slowly disappearing behind him. He felt no fear. He was confident this was the event he’d been waiting for, this was the way out. Home, whatever that is, was waiting for him at the end of this fall. He closed his eyes feeling the wind in his face and sailed straight down head first, singing. Yeah, singing like a baby at the top of his lungs. Death hadn’t even entered his thoughts but he did wonder for an instant what it would be like where he was going. Regardless, Mars firmly believed that the state he was about to enter, what ever that might be, was the rightful state of being and when it happened balance would be restored and a part of the universe would be set right again. Mars put his arms close to his sides to lessen wind resistance and quickly reached terminal velocity, dropping like a human missile through the vast and silent sky.
"I stand here now in stone
To forever face the rising Sun.
Denier of my existence,
I dare you mock what I have done."
It was mid-day in the blinding sun when Venus put down her tools long enough to shout one of her poems at the sky. As she stood before her nearly finished portrait in stone and loudly recited verse to the giant white clouds in that vast expanse of blue, she noticed a tiny dark speck against the clouds. It didn’t seem to be moving across the sky like a bird or a plane. It seemed to wobble slightly. Then she thought it seemed to be gradually getting larger but she couldn’t be sure. She squinted into the sky, trying to make it out while she continued her raving;"You cannot take or send me away.
Venus squinted into the bright sky trying to make out the object. A balloon maybe? She wondered if her eyes were playing tricks on her.
As he broke through the clouds, Mars felt the heat of the dessert far below him and he opened his eyes. As the buttes below slowly rose up to meet him, he thought he saw a tiny image of Venus in the landscape below. As he got closer to the earth he could make out the unmistakable portrait in the stone. This was no optical illusion in the rocks and shadows, it was obviously sculpted and he knew Venus would be standing next to it. He knew because he was heading straight for that spot. Within seconds he could make out a figure standing next to the giant stone face. A second later as he zoomed toward her, he recognized Venus and at that moment their eyes met and they both understood. An instant later there was a smoking fifty foot crater where they made contact. The lower half of Venus’ monument to herself was blasted away, leaving only her eyes now to witness the birth of each new day.
There was no fear or pain associated with their collision. There was no sound, or any other sensation accompanying this event. Their existence in this world simply ended. At the moment of impact their physical bodies ceased to exist and that part of them that is not physical was fused into one entity. Gradually that entity began to become aware of itself.
The muffled sound of a man’s
voice grew clearer as sensation came back to the newborn entity. "That’s
it, you’re almost there." The voice coaxed in comforting tones. "Good,
now try to open your eyes." The person in the chair lifted heavy eyelids,
uncovering eyes that felt tired and sluggish. Their gaze attempted to focus
on the white coated figure before them. "Ah, that’s better." The man
in the white coat said smiling. "Welcome back, Mr. Venustokov. I hope you
had a pleasant trip. I hope you’re feeling better now." the voice said
in cheery tones. "We had the dickens of a time getting you back but we
made it. Just relax for a few minutes while you acclimate. A technician will
be with us shortly to disengage the therapy device but first we’d like you to
sign this form." The man in the lab coat said handing the one in the chair
a pen and a form on a clipboard. "It’s just a formality to make sure the
person leaving our clinic is the same one who came in. Just sign right there
next to the X on the bottom of the form." The disoriented man in the chair
took the form with one hand and the pen with the other and watched as his hand
automatically signed his name: Marshall Venustokov. He looked at the signature
for a moment before handing it back, as if seeing it for the first time. The
man in the chair now knew who he was.
The technician entered the room and began to disengage Marshall from the device he was connected to. She removed the helmet he was wearing, instantly improving his hearing. Then she began to unhook the other wires attached to various parts of his body as the man in the lab coat, who introduced himself as Dr. Crane , reoriented the still confused Marshall.
"You’ve been doing wonderfully with these treatments Mr. Venustokov, up until now that is. We’re very close to correcting your personality disorder but I’m a little concerned with the difficulty in bringing you out of virtual reality this time." He said in a serious voice. "I’d like to suspend our treatments for a few weeks. We’ll meet for our weekly sessions as usual but we won’t be using the device. I don’t want you to become dependent on this machine, it’s highly addictive, you know. During the development stage of this device, some of the test subjects went mad from spending too much time using it. That is why today use of the device is strictly regulated and it is used only under professional supervision. We must maintain careful control of the length of it’s use as well as the content of the experience. That is, the content of what we introduce to your subconscious mind. As you know, we introduce preprogrammed ‘seed’ scenario’s into your subconscious. From that, your subconscious mind builds the reality you experienced." Dr. Crane then proceeded to debrief Marshall on today’s session. He had Marshall retell the story of his visit to virtual reality land. Dr. Crane would pause at points in the tale to interpret the meaning of something in the story and then had Marshall continue. It took the better part of an hour to tell the story without a lot of detail. Dr. Crane then gave Marshall a synopsis of the symbolism in the VR Dream. He explained that generally Mars represented a longing for an independent and challenging yet idealistic life. It was his opinion that Venus represented all those things that he, as a man, was not allowed to be; artistic and sensitive in a nurturing kind of way. He concluded that the story as a whole represented feelings of frustration because of the belief that Marshall’s life has become dull, routine and domesticated, coupled with the conflict for balance between the masculine and feminine aspects of his psyche. With a deep breath and a smile Dr. Crane brought the session to a close. Shaking hands, he bade Marshall good-bye with words of encouragement meant to tide him over until next week.
Without even thinking about it Marshall found his van in the parking lot and instinctively headed in the correct direction home. He thought that Dr. Crane had missed his mark with his diagnosis, but hey, he was the doctor, right. Mainly, Mars was preoccupied with his VR dream session, trying to remember and relive as much of it as possible before it evaporated from his memory. It was so real, so incredibly real. The dream-story which appeared to last more than a year, in reality lasted about a half an hour. The session was only supposed to last fifteen minutes but Marshall was unusually strong-willed making it difficult to induce him out of his dream state. The concentration required to drive his van made it difficult for Marshall to hold onto the dream pieces and by the time he arrived at the Camelot apartment complex they were all but gone. All except the memory of Venus. She stood out large in his memory. He parked his van and made his way up three flights of stairs to his apartment but the only thing he could think about was her. Venus. The problem was, he couldn’t remember her face. He could remember everything, the sound of her voice, what she felt like, what she smelled like but he could not remember her face. He unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped inside. He closed the door and facing it, eyes closed, rested his forehead against it with a soft thud. He leaned there for long minutes attempting with great effort but in vain to resurrect that face that he knew intimately but could not visualize. It seemed the harder he tried, the faster it faded, until it was gone. When it was gone he slipped into an unconscious state in a heap on the floor.
It was midmorning the next day when a sound in the hallway outside his door brought Marshall out of his sleep. Sunlight filled the apartment through a large open window. Birdsong wafted into the room on the balmy summer breeze. As Mars stretched the sleep out of his stiff muscles, the noise in the hallway outside his door grew louder. He rubbed his stiff neck, wiped the sleep out of his eyes and peered through the peephole in his apartment door to investigate. There was an agitated woman, walking back and forth in the hallway, ranting and waving a candelabra.
Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: Scherer@tesserak.net