Croix de Guilan

Hey, so today we’re live-reviewing a two-day old bottle of Buzet’s Croix de Guilan that’s been hanging out in my fridge. It’s in the Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon family and it pairs well with boiled chicken (poule au pot). It also pairs well with stir-fried mushrooms (poêlée de cèpes), wild boar stew (civet de sanglier), and a tray of cheese (plateau de fromage). I don’t know if that’s supposed to be all at once, or if you’re having any one of those dishes separately you’re good to go, but you’ve definitely got options. I’ll be drinking this wine with a meager side of nothing else, because I already ate my supper.

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This wine is meant to be served at 17-18°C, and since I don’t really know too much about Celsius other than room temperature was always 25°C in chemistry class, I’m gonna say that 17-18° is prolly about the temperature of my fridge. As I said, I opened it two days ago with some friends, so it’s had a little time to respirate. Should be a pretty relaxed and chill wine by now—let’s go!

First, we’ve got to do the swirly-swirly around the glass. At first glance, I notice that this glass is a lot dirtier than I originally thought. To be honest, I didn’t know we had any wine glasses in the apartment, otherwise I would’ve been using them instead of mugs for the last month and half. I found this one tonight, actually, while doing the dishes and if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, that’s the reason I started writing this review. It’s probably fine though, shouldn’t interfere with my assessment. Looks like we’ve got about ten or so bubbles slippin’ down the side. Pretty good. Nice and smooth vibe I’m picking up. Maybe overfilled the glass a bit; there’s wine all down the front of my sweatshirt.

I’m getting pretty excited now. I know I’m not, like, a professional oncologist or anything like that, but I have to say, this wine tasting thing is really growing on me. Half the experience of wine tasting is in the build up: the anticipation of that first sweet sip is what heightens your senses and allows you to pick out every individual note that the wine has to offer. Two weeks ago, my buddy told me a story about an orthodontist that could tell you after one sip what perfume the guy or girl who was making the wine was wearing at the time of its bottling. He told me the story in French, so I may have misheard or confused some of the details.

Next we’ve got to look at a cross-section of this wine, shining a light through it while holding it up to a white surface and tilting the glass. Definitely massively overfilled the glass, it’s hard to get a good… oh, yep, there’s some wine on the table now. It’s alright, though, I still got a pretty good gradient going on here. Yeah, I’m seeing now that this glass needed a good rub and a sponge bath before the tasting. But still, strong reds and a clear sort of transparent edge. Definitely gonna be a full-bodied wine with that kind of nebulous red tone’d’ness.

So, we’re running this whole thing from the memory I have from two weeks ago in Bordeaux when my buddy showed us how to drink wine, as well as my somewhat abstract notion of how wine tasting works, and I think the next step is to give it a good sniff whilst slowly rotating the glass. The rotation helps relax the wine and make it feel more comfortable releasing its smelly-smells into your face’s scent port. I’m smelling it now; it’s got a good smell, very red, definitely notes of fermented grape. I’m going to say a certain sweetness as well, maybe like a juice-box grape or a grape lolly kind of thing going on here.

Giving it a taste now. Yeah, really hit it on the nose with the red. I’m going to say that’s the dominate flavor tone at work here, really the tonic note, if you will. I’ll go even further actually and say that the sub-dominant note is grape, with a leading sour raisin finish that brings us right back to the red tonic flavor.

I’m not gonna lie, I did try and look to the bottle for a little help here in my saveur analysis, but it turns out that Buzet’s main selling point isn’t the flavor of their wine, but rather their production method. They don’t use any chemical fertilizer, they promote the development of local fauna and flora blah, blah, blah… they did at one point say, “Le travail de la Terre, le soin apporté à la vigne, la sélection des grappes, le suivi attentif de la vinification et le savior-faire des œnologues, vows garantissent des vins dont nous sommes fiers,” and I thought, “BOW! Really nailed it on the grape tones,” until I realized that grappes in French is actually “a bunch/bundle of fruit.” Pretty interesting vineyard though, their slogan/motto/thing is “une viticulture respectueuse de l’Homme et de la Nature” (a viticulture respectful of both Man and Nature). I am a man, and I felt like the wine was very respectful when it entered my mouth, and it for sure had some earthy tones too, harkening its natural origins, but again, that might have just been the dirty glass.

Anyway thank y’all for tuning in for today’s review. I hope you liked my first foray into the world of oenology. I think this has been a very promising first step down the road to a kind of Dionysian awakening. I give this wine four Snowflakes for anyone thinking about buying it—it’s well worth the four to six euros I spent on it. If you enjoyed this review, or want to see more like it, leave me a comment, like my post, or send me a message.

The Square

Directed by Ruben Östlund, reviewed by me. 

Snatched this poster of Allociné’s site. Still not sure if I can do that or not, but here we are, giving credit where credit is due. 

Hey, everyone, so today I’m doing my first movie review. I should probably mention I’m a pretty avid reader of Rotten Tomatoes’ home page, and I’ve read a lot of their certified critics’ one or two line reviews. So, that said, I think I’m ready to go ahead and cut my teeth on this year’s Palme d’Or winner, The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund. I watched the original version of this film with French subtitles about a week ago in the Théâtre Gallia. I wanted to write this review while it was still fresh in my mind, but, like, also ripe enough to really dig into, so that’s why I’ve given it a few days to mature in my mind-garden. I’m sure other film critics would argue that it’s better to write a review right after you’ve seen the movie, or even watched it a second time, but you know what, I’ve never subscribed to that kind of Rorschach, first impression applesauce.

So, all in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than watching The Room with your parents, but worse than eating saltwater taffy at the beach. Or eating anything while watching The Square; Théâtre Gallia is apparently too good for a concession stand. Their philosophy seems to be that we’re supposed to feel adequately nourished by the experience of auteur cinema alone, without the aid of snacks or drinks. I even snuck food into the theater once, but I couldn’t eat it because no one else was eating and pretzel M&Ms are too crunchy to eat inconspicuously and alone.

For all my philistine readers who just aren’t in the know, ol’ Ruben’s a Swedish director from Styrsö, a quaint town of roughly 1,300 inhabitants and famous for its exportation of Ruben Östlunds. And this film is, for the most part, in Swedish with the exception of scenes featuring Elizabeth Moss, which are in English. Elizabeth Moss, however, wasn’t in most of the movie, so I spent the better half of two hours reading the movie with my adoptive compatriots. Actually, that reminds me: as I was leaving the film, one of my adoptive compatriots was discussing the film with the lad working the front, and complained that it was a long film in which nothing really happened.

I, on the other hand, would beg to differ. Christian, our film’s protagonist, goes through a whole roller coaster of awkward emotions and encounters. Sometimes Christian shares genuine moments of camaraderie with strangers, fending off staged aggressions against women who then rob Christian of his wallet while he’s distracted. Sometimes Christian yells at obnoxious little boys, who’ve broken in to his apartment, and who’re causing a ruckus during the wee hours of night, much to the abject horror of his daughters. Sometimes Christian tries to flex his affluence, only to arrive at a distressing half-chub of ostensible power that thinly veils his true status as yet another pawn in this cruel and pitiless world. This seemed like a pretty important point, you know, that even though Christian is a well-to-do, white, middle-aged, sexy-in-that-rugged-hipster-dad kind of way dude, he’s gettin’ the business just like everyone else.

And by everyone else, I mean mostly homeless people. This film really drives home the wealth inequality and destitution that the humans of Stockholm are experiencing. If Christian isn’t in the office neglecting his responsibilities as museum owner or at home pulling his screaming daughters off of one another, he’s out and about interacting with the other half. Usually by passing them by and ignoring them only to change his mind later and interact with them in some charitable or recompensing way.

I do see where my disgruntled adoptive countrywoman was coming from though. The movie doesn’t really end on a high note; we’re left with a disillusioned and jobless Christian driving his daughters home after his quixotic quest to right his wrongs against an underprivileged family is cut short. But my boy, Ruby Two-Shoes, was aiming for that glorious, murky sweet-spot of désespoir, weltschmerz and crushing absurdity. Really a winning combo. He stated in an interview that he was aiming to capture that feeling of trying to right a wrong that you’ve committed only to discover it’s now too late and the moment’s passed. Basically, if ol’ Rubes wrote the ending of Chamber of Secrets, Fawkes would’ve arrived a minute later and dropped the sword of Gryffindor on Harry’s petrified corpse.

So, like I said, I watched this movie about a week ago and it was in Swedish, so I don’t really have any good quotes ready for you. But I do have some quotes from my first review, John Green’s Turtles all the way Down, that fit the bill pretty nicely, so I’ll be supplementing square-quotes with turtle-quotes.

Towards the end of the novel, Daisy tells Aza this with regards to their own tale and how it ended in a somewhat unresolved and unsatisfying way:

“You pick your endings, and your beginnings. You get to pick the frame, you know? Maybe you don’t choose what’s in the picture, but you decide on the frame.”

And I think ol’ Ruben would agree with that. See, ol’ Ruben’s not the kind of guy to crop you out of his profile picture; he’s the kind of guy that crops you in and then also the older gentleman photobombing your photo with his fly down, pecker out. When Ruby edits a movie, he doesn’t just leave the fat on the final cut; he leaves a little bit of skin and hair on there too. His shots are just a little bit longer than you want them to be, and you get that extra screen time with moments you just wish would’ve already ended or never existed in the first place.

Midway through the movie or maybe even later there’s a scene in the film where Christian and his two girls are hanging out in the museum, checking out the Square, and Christian explains to them a little bit about what it represents. By the way, the eponymous Square is a piece of modern art that Christian spent way too much money on to have brought to his museum in Stockholm. Sorry, totally should’ve mentioned that earlier. Anyway, allegedly the Square is a place where anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can stand and feel safe. The poor can stand among the rich here, and if you need help, help will be given; if you need to talk, then good conversation will find you. Inscribed on a golden plaque near the piece are the words:

“The Square is a sanctuary where trust and altruism reign. Inside, we are all equal in rights and obligations.”

Or something. That’s my translation of the French translation from its original Swedish. Or maybe it was in English… this might be an English translation of the French translation of the original English plaque. Doesn’t matter, it’s a plaque with a kitschy slogan on it. Similarly, in Turtle’s All the Way Down, Aza and Daisy are walking through an old sewer and they see the words ,“THE RAT KING KNOWS YOUR SECRETS,” scrawled on the sewer’s wall. I don’t want to equate the potency of these two masterstrokes of genius, but I think one thing the Rat King has over The Square is its likelihood of actually influencing the life of a homeless person. Although, that’s more of a geographical commentary than a content one.

All in all, I give this film seven snowflakes, because as far as auteur cinema goes it’s pretty accessible in that you can watch it and be pretty interested without having Bourdieu levels of cultural currency. Also, it really highlights the misgivings social classes have about each other and how it can be hugely awkward when they try and interact, even with the best of intentions, and deflates upper-class philosophical philanthropy and idealism, which is good, because a lot of us like to talk a lot and at the end of the day we’ve changed nothing other than the way we feel about ourselves. Plus, Östlund nailed the tone and experience he was going for, leaving us in a uneasy state of moral ambiguity.

I hope you liked this review and feel free to like it, or share it, or print it out and throw it in a bin. Either way, I’ll see you next week!

Turtles All the Way Down

Written by John Green, reviewed by me. 

Hey, everyone, welcome to my first review!

Ouf, that looks a little funny… probably kinda weird to say welcome to a review. I mean, this isn’t, like, a physical space; I’m not opening my review’s front door and ushering you in to my review’s foyer, taking your coats and scarves and hats and all that. You didn’t bring me, like, a page-warming gift. No baked goods, or flowers, or edible arrangements. I mean, it’s not a physical space, I know, but wow, that would’ve been really rude of you to show up here empty-handed. It’s a good thing, I guess, that I’m not really welcoming you into anything other than, y’know,

Knowledge.

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of review we’re going to do here. Not really sure if I want it to be funny or serious. I definitely want to make you, the audience, think a little bit and, well, let you get a taste for whatever this book has to offer. Don’t really know how to write a review either… I guess we’ll just, you know, start this thing.

So, Turtles all the way Down. All in all, it’s pretty good. I’d say it’s definitely better than a terminal case of Clostridium Difficile, but worse than the first time you saw Orion pull back his bow on a clear summer’s night. This book is good, I’m not saying

Résultat de recherche d'images
Found a nice little cover shot on the interwebs. Got it off of Google Books, so don’t, like, sue me or anything. I thought this would be better than just a picture of my Kindle.

it isn’t, but I’m talking about a human experience here. Like the kind where you leave your apartment for once and actually go talk to human people. A book is still just, well, a book. I mean, it’s not like anyone’s gonna go and fight a war or kill anyone over a book. It’s all just pages and letters; the night sky is pretty much infinite.

I mean, listen, you’re sitting there, with your back against the grass, and you don’t have a care in the world. It’s summer, the weather’s nice, you’re enjoying this little vacation from life’s worries. Maybe there’s someone special there with you. You’re sitting there and then maybe you think about holding the hand of that special someone who’s fortuitously reclined next to you in the grass. It’s him or her, that boy or girl you’ve had your eye on for a little while now. You’ve never done it before and you know your hands might be sweaty, but perspiration be damned! You’re here, under the night sky, safe in that perfect moment you’re sharing with them. It’s rare, you know? To be sharing the exact same view as another human being. I mean it’s like Aza, the protagonist from this book I’m supposed to be reviewing, said:

“Anybody can look at you. It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

And you’re not thinking about class. You’re not thinking about biology. Specifically, you’re not thinking about your intestines. You’re definitely not thinking about C. Diff, about how you could have a life-threatening colony of bacteria growing inside of you as we speak, usurping the aristocracy of your current micro-biome. Now C. Diff is standing on the tables of their lavish banquet halls, pulling down its pants, and defecating on the food prepared as a commemorative feast honoring the many years of peace and prosperity within the micro-biome pffftabaleacdasaepoiavh…

Oh, woah. I just dozed off for a second. Also looks like my cat just walked over the keyboard or something, I should probably go through and edit all that…

What are we doing? Where am I? It looks like… right, a review. I’m in a review.

Ok, so the drama here is that we’ve got a 16 year-old high school girl trying to solve a missing persons case while juggling her social life, a new relationship, and a crippling case of OCD. There’s a lot going on there for sure. Definitely a lot to unpack… Not sure how I’m gonna get started on this…

Let’s talk about the author.

John Green is an author and vlogger, among other things, and runs a Youtube channel with his brother, Hank, called vlogbrothers. He’s also one of the creators of CrashCourse, an educational channel that puts out videos talking about everything from World Mythology to explaining the Nature of Reality through DiCaprio’s Inception. The videos they’ve put out are wonderfully informative, well delivered, and accompanied by simple graphics and animations that help delineate their points and break up the monotony. They strike a similar vein to KurzgesagtA channel as helpful and inspirational as it is hard to pronounce, whose animated videos are well structured and deliver incredibly thought-provoking and intricate ideas in a logical, easy to follow fashion. Better yet, just think Khan Academy, but with animated ducks.

Um, yeah, that’s John Green. He’s done that stuff and some other things and then he wrote this book and published it pretty recently. Uh, I guess, let’s see, why did he write this book again?

So, right, OCD is a topic very near and dear to Green; its an experience that he shares in common with the story’s protagonist, Aza. On his vlog and in interviews, he’s spoken out against the romanticization of mental illness, noting examples from film and television in which a mentally ill protagonist uses their illness like a superpower. For Green, this has not been his experience with mental illness at all (as he states in his video What OCD is like (for me)), and this has in turn helped inspire Turtle’s all the way Down. Aza Holmes is constantly at war with her “invasive” thoughts, and often times feels like she’s miles away from the world going on around her. For her, OCD doesn’t give her a leg up on the detective game. It doesn’t make her a better friend or a better girlfriend—in fact, it often times leaves her feeling quite the opposite. She’s painfully aware of how self-involved her illness makes her seem, and this awareness juxtaposed with her inability to express her situation to friends and family produces some of the most provocative and sincerely moving moments of the novel. Ultimately, we feel as though we understand the futility of Aza’s struggle, and that compounds our frustration when we realize the shortcomings of language in dealing with matters of the head and heart.

Another fascinating subplot of the novel is Green wrestling with his own existential crises. The same video wherein he denounces Hollywood’s portrayal of OCD, he also goes on to mention that the illness poses certain problems with regards to how he constructs his personal identity:

“If I can’t choose my thoughts, and I am at least in part made out of those thoughts, then am I actually the captain of this ship I call myself?

Pretty hard line of internal questioning there. But this question is ubiquitous within Green’s narrative; Aza is constantly doubting her own agency. She starts off “her” story suspecting that she may indeed be a fictional character in a novel, muling over her lack of agency before sharing this revelation:

“But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell.”

I mean, unless you write an autobiography. There were probably, like, brackets or an editor’s note in the first draft saying something similar. I mean, if you write an autobiography, then it’s both. Anyway, I digress and Aza goes on to say in the next paragraph,

“Of course, you pretend to be the author. You have to. You think, I now choose to go to lunch, when that monotone beep rings for on high at 12:37. But really, the bell decides. You think you’re the painter, but you’re the canvas.”

It just goes to show, any thing or place can be a platform for discussing existentialism and your place in the universe, even a… Whoowee! Look at the time. And by time, I mean word count. This review is just all over the place. I’ll probably edit all this, take out that part about laying in the grass, put in some simpler allusions to the text, and omit that shameless plug about Kurzgesagt. By way of wrapping all this up, let’s give this book eight snowflakes for lending you a tremendous insight into the life of someone with OCD, a kind of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time meets John Green’s obsession with micro-biomes, plus some philosophical musing and teenage drama. If you liked this review, let me know. If you didn’t, cool, maybe I’ll hit the mark next time.

Chapter 10

A lyric poem,
in the style of
Finn the Human.
Hit it.

Trekking through the desert,
With my lorn convoy
No food, no water
I’m a worn-out boy,

When I first came here
It was just me and FT
We got a little boat
And sailed out to sea

I dove real deep
And saw lots of things
Like fish, and sharks
And monsters that sing

I unplugged the ocean
And fell through a hole
Met a cool Zebra
And ate a lump of coal

Then I opened a door
And saw an old friend
Stabbed him in the back
And that was the end

Of that

Then I walked through a portal,
And now I’m here
Been walking for weeks
Hope the end is near

If I ever meet soul
I know what I’ll say
My name is Henry
And I’m wasting away

Chapter 9

I stepped out onto a decrepit front porch. Wood creaked beneath my feet, and as I tasted the air around me, a shudder ran down my spine. It was stale. It even felt stiff upon my skin, like it hadn’t circulated in years. I doubled back and reached for the door I came through, but it revealed only the inside of an abandoned home. Like the wood that supported the house, my bones were beginning to creak, and I hurried quickly from the porch to the road, looking for a way out of this dread neighborhood.

It was a cul-de-sac. I strained my eyes trying to see beyond the houses, but the more I looked, the more there was simply nothing at all to see, the horizon fading to an ambiguous grey. There was only one house to my left before… before oblivion. L’oubli. The road just ended, kind of graying out like the background of a distant memory. It faded away and blended into the misty haze that filled the skies above this ghostly neighborhood.

I walked to the house on the right. Knock on the door, enter, poke around a tad, exit, and repeat. A couple of the houses had fully stocked wardrobes, and I was able to trade out my tattered boxers for clean underwear, a pair of khakis and a nice button down shirt. I even grabbed a tie, just in case I did actually run into someone in this seemingly deserted neighborhood. Might as well look dashing for the occasion.

I entered the house at the bottom of the cul-de-sac, crossing the threshold…

“I wonder where everyone is? Surely, someone lives in this ghastly neighborhood…”

… and ran right the fuck back out.

“Snails. Snails, snails, giant-fucking snails…!”

I shuddered and walked, walked and shuddered, shaking my head to clear the image of that industrial snail-cage or whatever the hell it was. I stood at the brink of oblivion, at the end of the road, and to my left was a faded blue house. I hadn’t tried that one yet, so away I went, up the drive, up the stairs, and onto the porch. I rose my fist for knocking and paused.

Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea. I mean, if you think about it, what sort of humans or creatures would live in this sort of place? What if those mollusks weren’t the worst of it, what if I opened this door and something much, much more wretched inhabited this languid world. What if there were, I don’t know, giant spiders on the other side?

All this rumination was in vain because the door opened anyway to reveal a bearded man in a worn-out black suit. Around his neck hung an old instant camera.

Oh.

What, he breathed, taking me in with ravenous eyes. I was petrified, rooted to the spot. Not often am I at a loss for words but—

My shock was beginning to curdle, mildewing, and turning to a kind of skin-crawling discomfort at being looked over in this way. Hungry. Ravenous. All words that came to mind as I stared into the eyes of this haunting apparition.

“Yeah, I, uh…,”

What to say, what to say, I felt around my pockets, grabbed hold of a couple (magic?) pens I had leftover from that one time I de-rooted an entire office block and sailed it into a forest.

“Just, you know, selling some pens here.”

Help.

That’s all he said. One word. His lips might not have even moved, it might’ve just been his body language and then my mind invented the utterance. It was hard to tell; this world wasn’t quite right, and it kinda messed with my perception.

“Look, guy,” I was shuffling uncomfortably, in a general backwards, get-me-outta-here direction, “I’m just a man with some pens, tryna sell a—fuck, oh no, please don’t.”

He’d lunged. I stumbled back, somewhat parrying his advance, but wobbling still and remaining right on the verge of toppling over. Miraculously, I managed to back all the way down the steps, but there wasn’t much hope if I couldn’t get turned around. I fended off the dude’s wild arms and clawing hands while trying to get clear for a breakaway.

“Nope, nope, nope…,” I tippy’d my toes as best I could, but still mid-turn I couldn’t move fast enough to avoid getting knocked to the ground. The guy gripped me like he was a drowning man and I his only salvation. We were laying in the malnourished lawn, which was more dirt than anything else, and I looked up at my attacker who now pinned me to the earth. Kinda looks like David, I thought to myself, although my friend David was much younger and not at all bearded.

“You have to help me!” Screamed the David lookalike, “Please, get me out of here!”

Terrified as I was, I let the my reflexes take over. Fight? Flight? Maybe a little of both, I bopped him something fierce on the nose and rolled out from under him. I ran. I tripped. This was turning into a very cliché horror movie, and I was about to get munched on by the crazed zombie-loon.

“No, no, no…,” He was panting,

“You can’t leave.

YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME HERE!”

I crossed the street. There were only a few houses I hadn’t explored yet, and this was one of them. The door wasn’t far ahead, maybe ten meters more.

“NOT THERE! YOU CAN’T GO IN THERE!

It’s bad in there.

Can’t get in anyway.

Locked the door. It’s bad and it—

It was locked because it was bad, it was locked because it was bad, it was… Goddammit, My head spun. I couldn’t get my thoughts in order, even the simplest command RUN was muddled. I stopped, pressed my thumbs into my temples to clear away the mind-muck and remembered: RUN. I ran.

And where was this man’s voice coming from? Sometimes it seemed like he was shouting at me from behind, other times the voice came from the ground or… or maybe my own head?

I tried the door, but of course it was locked. It was locked because it was…

Thought loops. I couldn’t remember what I was doing, my actions and thoughts tied up in loops that came and went without warning. I kept readjusting the top-button on my shirt, fidgeting and speaking nonsense out loud to myself.

My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin, I work in a lumber mill there—

Wasn’t there a thing that needed doing? I swear, I walked into this room looking for something.

The people I meet when I walk down the street, They say,

What did I eat this morning? Hey, remember that zebra from before? Whatever happened to that fella’?

What’s your name? And I say

What time is it? I should check the time, I really should. There’s a place I need to be and you know what? I bet I’m running late.

“My name is Yon Yonson I work in Wisconsin…”

A moment of c l a r i t y. Through all the noise, I saw him approaching from across the street. My only solace was that he didn’t seem to be fairing any better than I; he was pulling at his suit, and tearing away at his hair. For an instant, I felt a bond, a passing moment of solidarity with my pursuer. Whatever his story was, we were both victims of this godforsaken neighborhood. That said, I was still 110% dipping out of this hell.

I still didn’t know where the portal was, but I figured I’d better try and go out the way I came. However, as I resumed my flight, it must’ve snapped my attacker out of his reverie. He took off, trailing behind me by a good five meters, neither gaining nor losing any ground; I may have been in better shape, but this guy had the added bonus of desperation and madness on his side. In total, it about evened out.

I burst through the door and ran right for a set of stairs. I slammed the door behind me and heard it connect with something other than wood.

“Uff,” grunted the man as he rolled sideways, knocked off balance by the door’s momentum. I’d reached the stairs—the wood was rotten, falling away and leaving a ravenous maw that snapped at my heels as I ascended. I danced the ballet of ghosts, skirting along the side of the stairwell, where the wood was most stable. I reached the upper-landing and turned back to face—

“Henry,” He was crying now, “I’m here, I’m back, I’m—fuck, what’s happened to me? How did we get here?”

“David!” I called back, now certain that it was my friend, or at least a facsimile from another timeline or some Terminator shit like that, “David, I—I have to go. You’re going to be alright, just… I’ll be back for you.”

“What? What are you talking about—Don’t leave me, Henry! Don’t you fucking leave me here. I don’t want to forget again, I don’t want to forget you, I don’t want to forget Will—Oh my god, Will, Will’s dead… Henry, If you leave me here I don’t think I’ll ever make it out.”

David, I’m…

But I don’t know that I even began to say I’m sorry. I’d already left the upper landing, and now I was in a bedroom. There was a bed, a desk, a pair of chairs, an armoire where I pulled out a pair of jeans to swap out with my dapper pants. Being nicely dressed was nice for finer occasions, but who knew where I’d go next and really jeans were a safe bet any day of the week and what the fuck was I doing leaving David in this grayish hell. He was still shouting from the bottom landing—

YOU BASTARD, HENRY, YOU FUCKING BASTARD

—There were monsters, and magic, and who’s to say whether that’s really my friend down there. I’d been through trials and tribulations, hell! this may as well have been a fanciful illusion, but still there was—

I HAVE BEEN TRAPPED HERE FOR YEARS. ENTIRE YEARS, HENRY, AND NOT A SINGLE OTHER PERSON TO SHARE THEM WITH. I’LL PROBABLY DIE HERE, YOU GODDAMN—

—What if it was him. My hand was posed on the side of the armoire; I was prepping to Narnia my ass out of here. Didn’t know if it would work, didn’t care, but what if it was really him and I left? If everything he was saying was true, if he really had been trapped here for years… could you imagine? What would that do to a—

The screaming had died down to something of a whisper. Really it was just the walls between us that made it sound so, David was speaking quite normally, talking mostly to himself now. He’d already assumed I’d left, and maybe that’s why I ultimately did, but still I caught these last, portent words:

“And we looked for you Henry, we really did. But at some point, you know, you have to move on.”

“Wait, what?”

But I never got a chance to ask him what he meant, my foot having caught the edge of the armoire and tipped me over into the veil of cloths that hung inside. I tumbled through the years, traversing space and time before at long last I came to rest in the center of the Nexus, the circle of doors that haunted the savannah. Now, standing in the middle of sometime and someplace, I had only one thought:

I am a truly weak creature.

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Chapter 8

The door, fortunately, was a push door. I doubt I’d have been able to pry it open otherwise.

That said, upon its opening the water sucked me down in a vortex that pulled me every which way-and-when. Past the threshold went little ol’ me, and head over heels I tumbled like Alice into an aquatic rabbit hole. Down, down, down and then up! My trajectory, best I could tell, was a parabolic arch that slung me down, then up, then down yet again. This way, that way, I didn’t know where I was but I did know I wasn’t gonna flush another goldfish down the toilet if this was what the ride was like. Granted, the goldfish is always dead in that scenario. Me? Less dead, more dizzy.

And then there was the noise. The rushing roar-howl of the marine banshee, the beast whose belly I was trapped inside of. It clawed its way through the tunnel voraciously, cleaving earth from dirt from rock and blending it all together in a soggy sandstorm that battered the exterior of my diving suit. A million little impacts and thank the gods that I never bashed the sides of the tunnel, but all the same pebble-bullets ricocheted off me. But I never saw a muzzle flash, never heard the gunshots; there was only the roar of the banshee.

Night. Night descended over the plains of my consciousness and my brain shut off, the current sweeping me from waking to oblivion like a piece of driftwood pulled out to sea. Night enveloped me, took me in, and then spit me back out upon a geyser that rocketed through the air like the angry fist of Neptune. The walls of the tunnel fell away in an instant and savannah plains stretched out infinitely in their place. So infinite was their domain that the Earth fell away well before I could spot their end, even as I soared through the heavens on a liquid throne. I was an eagle under the coming evening’s sun, elder rays of light drying my feathers as fast as the geyser could wet them.

At the peak of my ascent, I must have been thirty feet in the air. But the torrent of water shrunk, and as it did, I sunk lazily down until at last I was left sitting in a puddle of water, barely deep enough to soak my ankles.

A Zebra sat not ten strides to my Northern side. With its legs crossed, it looked quite peaceful from the other side of my suit’s protective glass wall. Its front hooves rested on its striped zebra knees and its chest rose defiantly up towards the amber sky.

I undid my helmet and pulled off the rest of my equipment.

Arumph.” I noised, clearing my throat.

“Sit.” Said the Zebra

And I Sunk. Now I too sat cross-legged upon the ground, my spine taught, a formidable tower that jutted from an energy well I could feel pooling in my gut. I didn’t know what to call it—my Chi? My energy? Something felt aligned in a way that I’d never experienced before.

The Zebra opened its eyes, two emerald stones that shone luminously in the twilight, like rainbow snakes coiled in a knot, writhing internally, chasing their tails.

“Tomorrow, the sun will rise and the day will be new,” Said the Zebra.

“The flowers will sing and the birds will bloom. Tomorrow will rise with the sun and the heat and by high noon the sweat will drip down your brow and you’ll think…”

“Boy,” I offered, “Isn’t this neat?”

The Zebra was quiet. It’s eyes closed and the rainbows were gone. The sun screamed in the sky and blood pooled on the horizon marking the end of a day. The tall grass sharpened their blades on the rustling wind, warring against the dying of the light. Silence was their battle cry and ~ me oh my ~ it was deafening.

The Zebra spoke again.

“Then the sun will set and we’ll weep once more. A glorious day gone by, a glorious day to mourn. Tomorrow as it is today as it was before and shall be again forever more.”

Breath, said the Zebra

And I expired, my breath drawn from my lips like a fish on a line. An indigo coy with flecks of orange, reeled in and cast into the sky, pulling with it a curtain across space, a rich tapestry smattered with stars and planets and moons of oneiric colors; every color of the rainbow that dances behind your eyes, every color you can chase but never catch.

Breath, said the Zebra once more

And I respired, my lungs now full, fully expanded, and I was sucker punched by the force of the expansion. The power of the Zebra’s words pushed me from my body and now I floated not five feet from my physical form. The astral plains of the savannah stretched out into a void, a shadow of the world I’d left behind.

“Henry?”

“Yes, Zebra?”

“Pick your god and pray. Pick wisely as you can, but know that this choice weighs far less than the million more you’ll make after every time you bow your head and speak these words in your god’s name.”

“What words are those, Zebra?”

“Gods are good, gods are great.
Mine is love, as well as hate.
My god is good, but what is greater
Is my eye, God’s Creator.”

My astral form had come around, drifted to face my body’s front, and saw a fire ignite upon the pool of energy that circulated through my legs and my core. Above my lap a flame rose, rooted to a single dark coal. It floated there, protected by my body, a marble guardian, dark like a frozen shadow. My silhouette was night, but my gasoline-veins had burst into flame like networks of magma in the Earth’s subvolcanic catacombs.

“Now open your eyes, Adventurer.”

Just as a rubber band, released after being stretched to the point of breaking, I careened back into my body and SNAP, my eyes were wide open, the sun reappeared, and—

~ Ô IRRATIONAL DAY, how hath thou come so soon, I doth not know how it could be, already, high noon ~

and the Zebra unraveled with an almost explosive force. Its many stripes disbanded and tore across the tall grass. They whistled and hollered as they screamed past my ears, succumbing to a chaotic episode before schooling together like a band of flying eels. I sat in the center of the cyclone, guarding my fire. The terrible winds threatened to choke it out, and seeing no other refuge a part from dousing it in the savannah’s dusty earth, I shut my eyes tight, braced myself and—

I swallowed the fire whole.

Silence. The winds had died down, and now the only sound for miles around was the rustling of a gentle breeze caressing the green, green grass. When I opened my eyes, I was looking down and I saw the warm glow of my flame burning deep within my gut. In raising my gaze to my surroundings, I saw that the Zebra had vanished entirely, not a stripe remaining. The cyclone had cut away the grass, banished the dust, and exposed the fecund earth beneath. From said fecund earth, oaken doors had risen, a Stonehenge of twelve portals surrounded me.

It should be fairly obvious what happened next,
seeing as I am, after all, the Great Adventurer.
I went straight for 12 o’clock and pulled back the door.

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