He crawled deep into the earth because it was warmer. He clawed through fistfuls of sod until the glare of the stars was sopped up in distant memory. Thick mud encased the borders of his body and there was no air left. It was a peaceful retreat from the cold breath of space. Then he held still, feeling the ache of the earth, the howl of distant traumas softly throbbing through subterranean veins. Impossible to keep time with it. Persistent but growing. Or ebbing? It was a formless, changeless static. He remembered having read the word geotrauma once before.
Then he felt something shift. His fingers stiffened in the dirt. Was that movement? Did someone else mimic his plan, dig themselves down? Was his retreat at risk? His beautiful solitude about to be shattered. Or was it that they buried him? No, he decided to go down. He remembered being adrift on an island of refuse. How long ago? Or was that another dream? His body strained with waiting but no one came. That was not the alteration he felt. Could he feel the world revolve with him inside it? Swallowed up in a maw shut tight and sucking, there was the sudden feeling that all his pieces had separated apart and were being held in place solely through stubborn pressure. It was an echo of the pulsing earth, extending through the body. It was a sound reverberating to the point of collapse. He tried to ease his bones and release himself out into stillness. Not yet. He felt the tickle of root tendrils where his left foot should be. Desperate shoots could push through him, could taste the dull alkaline. It filled his nostrils and flooded his ears. And he could discern, even as deeply as he was buried, the sick slick seeping from above, the parasites on the crust hemorrhaging oily pieces of poison that soaked through to pull itself down deep and push its way throughout everywhere. He tried to writhe farther, delve down to the warmth, closer to where the heat was radiating. It was too tight. No more room for motion. He was fixed. An absent humm, like a dream once had of the soundlessness of a room where all the electronics were unplugged, pervaded. This burial was intended to be an escape – from the noise of it and from the light of the heavens that illuminated all the mess. Long ago as a fleshy little boy, he learned that stars and planets and celestial bodies generate time. Their vibrations and circulations make meaningful the arbitrary words like days, months, and moments; each bit of movement contributes to a temporal cacophony. But if I am submerged enough, I can do more than hide, I can become part of something that defies the noise of time. To just be matter. To be dense and dull and time will pass by without me. He was on the verge and each pulse that choked the life from him almost seemed to draw him closer, his life drawn outward to merge with something vast, instead of simply extinguishing like a suffocated flame. He was past moisture now. It was absolute terror that he felt in all the hairs on his body, waves of panic as his body still felt upside down, having burrowed head-first into the damp ground. Struggling to feel that he was up, to reorient the earth, desperate for his body to be carried away in a void of stillness. I have done the research and thought it through and with chalk no less – boxes and boxes of chalk surrendered to the pores of his skin and the weave of his clothes. In that dust he had understood so clearly that one could separate history from its temporality. Like an echo, time can reverberate until it collapses on itself, and such a history has not been desanguinated, it has been liberated. After all, orbits and circles are not flows, they are enslavements of tension. He dug to find this for himself. Entombed like a fossil, he waited beyond recognition.
Where was it and would it come and the endless waiting was a dry, hot flash of darkness. His stomach dissolves, opening with the vertigo of freefall. He thinks he remembers that. He thinks in sweating circles. And then there is a sudden drift of stillness. His body begins to crumble and his sinews stretch out without him. He couldn’t be there yet. He knows what he was looking for. He thinks he remembers. But will never find it as long as he looks for it. He would shrivel with fruitless waiting. He cannot struggle there. Stillness and release. No pushing through. And then— No burst of transcendent light or technicolor tremors or orgiastic apparitions of flaming blue lobsters or tearful surging of music as the particles crackle and burst apart into great cosmic circles to define wrinkles and glitters in smiling monad eyes.
It is simply peace supreme. Stillness. Release. Silence. End. Continuance.
Little shoots will continue to poke through the surface. On the ground mushroom caps will expand meaty and fluorescent in rainbow pools of runoff. The surface of the liquid will be marked with flakes of bark shed from pale trees sloughing off old layers to give their smooth white skin a touch of air. The wind, heavy with matter but resilient, will wrap around iridescent trees and skim over the skins of water with pollen and more along its way. It will continue to wind around churning as it stretches along valleys, mountains, and ruins without any memory of them. It will gasp on indefinitely in the dying light of the sun, moon, and stars.
Patrick Scorese is a writer, historiographer, and performance-based artist working in New York. His original performances have been presented in theaters, museums, galleries, bars, parks, and street corners throughout the city. His writing has appeared in various publications. Rag and Bone Aesthetics (Small Editions, 2021), a transdisciplinary art book on liberatory time is set to come out this December. He also co-edited Pandemic Performance: Resilience, Liveness, and Protest in Quarantine Times (Routledge, 2021), a monograph exploring the intersection of activism and live arts in the United States at a time of ubiquitous death during the COVID-19 pandemic.