Stories

Phantasm – Mariam Onipede

“the birth of the subconscious which is then formed in a refined vessel, creativity. this birth stemmed from being in solitude with oneself and being wary of one’s consumptions”

i am sat cross-legged opposite a boy, man speaking 

he has an afro and looks to be in his 20s

we are on a cold concrete floor in a small bare room with no form of entrance in sight, no doors; just concrete walls and a small window with iron bars and light seeping in from the outer world of this room via this window

i’m not sure how i got here, i’m not sure of anything right now

“ridding one’s self of the negative that topples the balance of the preferred state of mind. one should breathe and be with one’s self. to close one’s eyes, not to sleep, but to travel into the sea that is one’s mind

when one feels certain discomfort, one has to question the necessity and justification for this feeling, one can’t let one’s soul entertain this…”

i see the afro boy’s mouth moving but i can’t hear him speaking anymore

the image of a girl crosses my mind,

a young child in a blue floral gown with a puff puff hairstyle on

i can’t remember or make out her face but i know that gown,

i wore it for my five-year-old birthday and ogbono poured on it

i start to feel the ground pulsate against me, a gentle thud thud

i close my eyes and place my palm on the ground, i feel the literal bop of the ground against my palm

it feels like my senses had just been awoken and i am just for the first time feeling with every one of my sense organs 

the air smells moist, like wet clothes 

do you feel it?, i hear the voice of the afro boy 

ultimately, the base point of it all is to resolve a want. a want to live, a want to express, a want to die. you could reach and surpass levels you never thought. you are a multifaceted entity and you have to let yourself be that. 

i open my eyes, my eyelids feel heavy like i was waking from a deep sleep

i don’t know why i’m here, i don’t remember a lot of things

the boy is not in sight

i get up, i am barefooted and i feel the bop of the ground beneath my feet

the small room is now larger with no wall barriers

it is a seemingly unending vast space and the pulsation of the ground of this space is more intense

i see a bald girl at a visible far end of this space, she has a plaster tape on her nose and she is sat hugging her knees as she rocks back and forth mumbling some words 

at the opposite end is a huge rectangular blank canvas the size of an entrance hung in the air

the sky above is filled with fire flies that illuminate the space making it look like they were flying stars

you close your eyes and feel the presence of the unseen,

i hear the boy but i don’t see him

but you see the unseen now

a luna moth is flying towards me, i let it land on my palm

there are these thin lines on my wrist that have scarred

i look closer at it,

an image of a naked girl sat on the ground bawling beneath a running shower head crosses my mind

i trace the lines with my finger,

the moth flies away from my palm, towards the bald girl with a plaster tape on her nose that is sat, rocking back and forth

i follow the luna moth

i feel the pulsating flesh of the ground with every step i take, it feels i am walking on a beating human heart

i think of the naked girl beneath the shower head, i think about the vast number of people that have to stifle their cries as they hug themselves beneath a shower head

i am now in front of the bald girl, her mumbling is louder 

the moth lands on my shoulder

i still can’t decipher her words, i squat to the level of her mouth,

“…death to poetry, goodbye to language, unreality is new religion, paranoia is new philosophy, perception is subjective, perception is subjective, perception is subjective, perception is subjective, perception is subjective, perception is subjective, perception is subjective…”

and the bald girl keeps repeating the phrase,

-perception is subjective?

the bald girl stops rocking back and forth and looks at me,

her eyes are bloodshot and filled with tears and she hugs me

i don’t feel her body as she hugs me, i know she is hugging me but i don’t feel her hug me

“thank you”, the bald girl says

i hear the melancholy in her gratitude

there’s a heaviness that seeps from within me and ties me to my bed. i dread sleep cause of the inevitability of wakefulness, my eyes stay heavy and i just lay scratching and scratching at my wrist with the flat knife

that feeling is what the melancholy in her gratitude sounds like

i get up, she gets up too

who are you?

she doesn’t reply to me,

who are you?

she just stays staring in gratitude, i don’t think she hears me

the luna moth leaves my shoulder and begins flying towards the visible opposite end of this space where the huge blank canvas is hung 

i try again,

who are you? 

still nothing

i give up and follow the moth

the bald girl stays behind staring with her bloodshot eyes and tears running down her cheek as i leave

i am now at the blank canvas 

it’s a see-through blank paper

the moth goes through the canvas

i try to put one hand through the canvas and it goes through but i don’t feel the paper

i withdraw my hand and touch my face, i feel my face

-huhn 

i walk through the blank paper

at the other side of this canvas is another vast space but this space is like one was suspended in the sky with a sea of dancing stars and these dancing stars being fire flies

at the centre of this space is a wooden bench and sat on it is a man wearing a pink plaid shirt 

he is reading a book with a black leather cover and the luna moth sitting on the edge of the book

at a side not too far from the canvas is another man weeping 

“he lost his lover,” the man in the pink plaid shirt says without looking up from his book

“and we peel layers and layers off a person like they were an onion or a cabbage until there are no more layers left but still hoping and praying it doesn’t end, the layers that is,” he says

the man in the plaid shirt looks up from his book, 

“the great enjoyments could never last a lifetime and love unrequited is the pain of a crushing boulder. some things aren’t meant to be”

the luna moth flies to my shoulder, i am still by the canvas

pink plaid shirt man continues, “victims of the unrequited forever suffer great pains and the literal crumble of worlds; stay wishing wishes and dreaming dreams where they are the star in your darkest dreams and you are forever not theirs. that is great pain that cannot be erased but only dulled. like kneeling on uncooked rice and waiting for the boiling water of their kisses to soften the pain but they never come…”

the man in the plaid shirt keeps speaking, “…the paradox of the more you know of a being the lesser the crescendo gets; it does not apply to the one who truly feels. there is compromise, its backbone is sacrifice and this feeling in its true form is devoid of great pain in its journey, but at its end is a great pain that awaits in any form it wishes to take”

the weeping man is now sobbing 

the man in the plaid shirt gets up, holding his leather cover book by his side, he walks to the sobbing man, squats to his level and begins rubbing the man’s shoulder-consoling him

 the sobbing man is now wailing

the canvas, still the size of an entrance, now has a painting on it

i move closer to the painting; it is like nothing i have ever seen

it is pure perfection immortalized on this canvas, 

the man in the plaid shirt speaks again, “of the billions of souls, random events and occurrence leads you to one soul that is the definition of a home, your home, in a being. the solace and comfort from the aura of this being. there is a fusion of souls that creates a new form which when lost feels as though a part of your existence is not alive. the great pain…”

the voice of the man in the pink plaid shirt fades away and so does that of the wailing man

there’s a non-physical draw i feel, a pull

i am moving closer and closer to this painting, i think i am now within an inch away from this painting

i hear my breathing and nothing else

i think i hear the painting breathe too, i feel the life emanating off the painting 

i touch it with my index finger and close my eyes

iwasasuicidalmaniacayearagonowiamaselfharmingmaniac,iamboundedbythishumanvesselthatwontletmeout,iameverythingiwanttobeall,starrynightsandtheorionbeltmightsaveme,theprophetisaliarandheknows,thebabydieditsbrainsplitopen,thereisasupremebeingornot,itsyourrisktochoose,youarenotadisappointment,youdesignyourselfwithcutsstop,perceptionISsubjectivedontbeafool,thisisnotadejavuthisisreal-

the rush of overlapping voices that are all mine gets overwhelming 

my eyes snap open and my finger recoils from the painting

i feel actively-flowing tears run down my cheeks

i remove my hand from the painting

an image crosses my mind, 

this one is of a woman whose clothes are soiled with blood, wailing on a bathroom floor holding a dead foetus 

i feel a pang in my chest, i think i know this memory

i hear the wailing man now, the man in the plaid shirt is nowhere around

the wailing man begins reciting, screaming a poem 

“WILL YOU RETURN BEFORE I ETCH THE LINE,

AND SOL DESCENDS BENEATH THE PLAINS OF HOPE,

OF HOPE CONSUMED IN FLAMES OF TIME’S DESIGN, 

AND OATH BINDS TIME AS BEASTS ARE BOUND WITH ROPE.

FOR OATH, WITH PATIENCE STILL I CHASE THE DARK,

WITH STICK AND UMBRA, TIME MY LOVE TO BRING,

I GAZE UNSEEN AT LOVE WITHIN THE ARK,

THE ARK OF FLESH WE BOARD WHEN LIVES BEGIN…

MY BROTHERS CLAIM THAT LOVE WILL NOT RETURN,

‘HER ARK WITHIN THE EARTH PROFESS THE FACT’

BUT BOLD AND BRIGHT MY HOPE WILL EVER BURN,

FOR HELL NOR HEAVEN WON’T OPPOSE OUR PACT,

   …ALAS I GAZE AND HOPE TO NOT DEPART,

      BUT HELL, OR HEAVEN PULLS OUR STRINGS APART.”

as the wailing man recites, a group of fireflies form the shape of an analemma on the ground in front of the man

the wailing man finishes reciting and still sat on the floor, bends over and is now weeping

the group of fireflies forming the analemma disperse

“sometimes you exist in a space, you feel like you are stuck in a limbo. you would stare hard at your fingers and the linings on your palms and get entranced by the detail. you become aware of all the huge breathing structures around you, you stare at their barks”

i turn around to the direction of the voice, it is a young woman clad in iro and buba with tiro that runs from the corner of both eyes towards her ears

she is now walking towards me 

“you hear your voice echo in the eigengrau of your eyes, feel the weight of your bones, your exhausted mental and physical; there is pressure from every sphere but you do not care. your only solace is either beneath your running shower head where you stifle your cries into your hugged knees or beneath your running shower head where you block your ears and listen to the water trickle on your forehead and closed eyes”

she is now in front of me and she places a hand on my shoulder,

“the crisis of your existing is not a crisis, inhale, let these heart pangs go, sit where you see more sky. the vast expanse of those starry heights is so consoling”

i feel my eyes water,

thank you

she doesn’t hear me, i don’t think she does 

“you are welcome”

i want to say something to her but she is walking away and she is now or seems very far away

i let her go

i feel utterly empty

the luna moth from earlier flies towards me and i let it land on my palm

the scratches on my wrist from earlier aren’t there 

i look closer and rub the area, smooth

the moth flies away 

the whole space around me is now bare, the wailing man is nowhere 

the young woman from earlier has walked off into nowhere

i turn around to check for the otherworldly painting from earlier, it is nowhere too

i am suspended in a starry sky of fire flies, i lay down on the ground or what could relatively be referred to as a ground here

all alone in a never ending forever, sounds too familiar

i think of the bald girl with the plaster tape on her nose, the melancholy in her gratitude oozes my state of mind

i feel my eyes water, i feel heavier too 

i think i’m floating

i am starting to remember

i can’t afford to remember but i keep remembering anyways

i close my eyes, i feel a tear drop