The music started. It was blue music, the color of midnight in a clear summer’s sky in a park called Paradise. A clarinet solo. The music started to rise and fall, the day’s passing; the sun rose, a bright trumpet melody, which was soon joined by a slower, complementing saxophone harmony, lime green clouds dancing across the sky in beautiful loops, swirls, and dives. Flutes joined in like the wind which shakes the trees and ruffles the hair. It all got louder and louder, the red kite that is the xylophone fluttering, being kept aloft by the flutes, moving faster and faster, until it stopped.
There was just enough time for me to see the kite flutter to the ground before everything started to turn white, like an overexposed picture; the white noise blocked everything out, muffled it, suffocating everything that wasn't white, leaving nothing but blank white, paralyzing everything it couldn’t drown out like a deer in headlights, except the deer is saved from this because it gets hit by the car, instead of being trapped there forever, always starving but yet always alive, somehow. The white noise is so tangible, but yet so far away, but so smooth, never-changing, untouchable, like something that could only be recreated by an alien device, something so terrible that the only way to assuage its effects would be to turn every component into dust and spread it so far away that every particle is a billion light-years away from the nearest particle. The noise wavered, changing timbre even though I knew that this is only my mind messing with it, that this is what will rub my sanity against its grain relentlessly, like a piece of paper being folded along the same crease again and again and again and again and again… This rubbing, folding, wearing, it’s like rubbing a cat the wrong way, but your mind can’t run, bite, or scratch.
Brrrrinnnnnnngg... Brrrrinnnnnnngg… My hand instinctively went out and whacked the nightstand, when I remembered that my dad decided to put the alarm clock on the other side of the room to get me up quicker. I groaned, getting up while clutching my hand to my chest. I whacked the top of the alarm clock, which was usually the highlight of my morning, and went downstairs. When I reached the top of the stairs, my dad said “Rise and shine! I made you your favorite, chocolate waffles!” In an abnormally cheery voice for 6:30 in the morning. I went downstairs while stifling a smile; my dad knew me well enough to know how I felt on Monday mornings. I went down the stairs and sat on the barstool at the counter. I sluggishly ate the chocolate waffles, relishing the sweetness of them, almost instantly feeling the sugar rush. The recipe came from my mother’s aunt, and it always reminded me of her a little bit, as if I was eating little memory flakes of her on the waffle, but it was more like, by mixing the waffle mix and then cooking it, my dad created the memory flakes as a byproduct.
My brother Otton stomped down the stairs and plopped himself down on the stool next to me. I tried to avoid his stench without him noticing. Otton was the pluperfect image of a stereotypical high-schooler; his hair was short, ragged, as if a kindergartener had cut it, always greasy enough that it seemed like it would be a good backup plan if we ran out of gas on the highway. The parts of his face that weren’t obscured by his hair looked like a cratered planet. He seemed to always be slouching, sadistic, everlastingly reticent, and on the occasion that we heard his voice, it sounded as cracked as his face looked. My dad said “Rise and shine!” He and Otton seemed to be exact opposites, as if someone had taken my dad’s DNA and reversed it. Otton grunted, took a waffle from the plate, rolled it into a ball and seemed to swallow it whole.
When I got home from school, my dad was waiting for me with his old laptop in hand and a worried expression on his face that was almost as rare as my brother smiling – that is – quite rare. He absentmindedly said “Oh… Come in.” Which was nothing compared to his usual enthusiastic greeting. When I asked what was up, he said that Anna, one of his coworkers, had died. “Oh.”
“She was the one that gave you that yo-yo.”
“I know.” I remembered her fondly, she had given me an old yo-yo with ‘Jake’ inscribed on it. She had said that she found it at a garage sale and had thought of me. The first time I tried it, it hit the floor and the string fell off my finger and it rolled away, and we all giggled. That was when my dad had taken me to work one day because he was trying to pay off his newish car, so he worked overtime and didn’t want to leave me at home with Otton. I wondered whether I could find the yo-yo, it was probably buried in my room somewhere.
I shouted down the stairs “I found it!” It was an old yo-yo, older than I remembered, with a matte, earthy varnish. When I flipped it over, I saw that the inscribed ‘Jake’ was inlaid with the same wood, but with the grain in the opposite direction. When I took it downstairs, Dad exclaimed “Oh I didn’t remember it being that beautiful before. It’s quarter-sewn Acacia. Musta cost her half a fortune.”
The park was back, but this time, the sky was grey with clouds. Everything from the tall grasses in front of me to the trees behind me to the brush at my sides seemed to have lost its saturation, as if the world was crying. I thought of Anna, how she probably would have said that most of the cones in my eyes had taken the day off. It seemed like I could still see everything in full color, but a heavy fog had set in. I looked down and saw that I could see myself like normal, as if I was being illuminated. I was reminded of when my dad had shown me the music video to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. It felt like the sun must feel, the rays coming from me cut through the grayness like rays from the sunrise cut through the night, lighting east-facing rooms and illuminating dew drops left from the crisp night. The boughs of trees and the tall grasses swayed, as if the light was wind filling their sails, the clouds began to clear until I realised that there weren’t any clouds at all, and the sun was overhead, but was not doing anything, like it had been doused and I was just a spark igniting it. I saw myself begin to fade, and looked down and I wasn’t glowing was semi-transparent. The world began to glow, like an overexposed picture, but it was glowing in a golden light, not a white noise. The glow became overpowering, über bright, until I opened my eyes.
I opened my eyes. The sun was coming through the windows onto a mirror into my eyes. I covered my eyes with a hand and batted at the mirror which fell from my nightstand and shattered into millions of pieces on the floor. I picked my way through the glass and walked downstairs. I asked my dad why the alarm clock seemed to have been replaced by a mirror. He said that it must have been Otton. As if on cue, he came down the stairs. When he saw me, he chuckled. I pretended that my alarm clock had gone off like normal, etc. to mess with him. It didn't work. I wondered if anything would.
The art teacher said "Draw something you see a lot, preferably something that makes you happy." I asked if it could be a someplace not a something. She said that it could be, but I would have had to have been there a lot. I said that I had every day. She said that it would be okay.
When I got home from school, my dad was the same way he was yesterday. When I asked him what it was. When he said it was nothing, I figured it was Anna, and that it would be wise to leave it.
The sky was white, overcast, and blinding. There weren't any shadows either, as if light was coming from everything. I looked down and saw that I seemed to be in shadow, which, in contrast to the lack of shadows, made me stand out like a black bear in an arctic blizzard. Everything seemed to be oversaturated, as if the colors were painted on the surface of my vision. A speck of dust flew into my eye and I winked, surprised that my vision didn't change, look flat. I opened it again, then closed it, then opened it. I almost wasn't surprised. I opened my arms and swam out, as my vision distorted, then refocused and I was in the same place, but everything was either a sharp, hard white which was almost hard to look at, or a dark, pitch black oblivion. I swam on, the world distorting again, until it refocused again, in a world of darks, then one with only hues, no dark or light, each one less real than the last, more artificial, more of an excuse and less of an explanation, shadows constantly moved around like they were dancing, a universe of specks of white, slowly congealing, two sides of opposites (of what I don't know) mixing, forming a middle ground, a buffer, becoming more complex until, finally, mixing completely to form one uniform existence that no longer changed. I now swam through them quickly enough that it was like changing channels on a TV. Once I swam enough, I couldn't tell whether the points of refocusing were getting farther apart or blurring together or some permutation or combination of the two. Or maybe it was one and the other but not both. The blurrings seemed to get more distinct, as if I was going through a tunnel painted in alternating colors, the colors changed, then changed, then changed, until I opened my eyes.
I got up and whacked my alarm clock (with great pleasure) and walked downstairs. The house was dark. My dad walked out of his room rubbing his eyes. He asked what I was doing up so early. I said that I woke up. He said that I might as well get ready now that I'm up.
I rubbed my eyes. I picked up my pencil and started to draw. I got static. I crumpled up the piece of paper and got a new one. I concentrated and got an image in the static. I had still just drawn loops around the page, but there was a clear image. I drew some more scribbles and saw an image appear before my eyes. It was an image of a beautiful park that I vaguely remembered. After staring at it for awhile, I figured out that it was a picture my mom showed to me several years ago when she said that it was the one place in the world she wanted to go the most. I now remembered it like it was yesterday.
We were all gathered in the living room talking. It was when Otton still talked, and we could see his face, and he was well-kept. He had an interest in whatever our mom was doing, he was mothers boy, I was fathers boy. I was too young to remember much of what went on then. We were all talking about whatever came to mind. What our favorite place in the world was came to someone's mind. My mom put her arm around my dad, who turned, my mom asked if he would get the picture. My dad said he would, and went into their room. After a few minutes, he came out with an old, black-and-white photo of the park cut out of a magazine. A closer inspection showed that it was not a photo but a painting. Titled "Paradise," it was the artists interpretation of a utopia. My mom said that when my dad met her, he read the magazine over her shoulder on a bus and when she seemed to be done with the article, he said that a life with her would be more a paradise than the painting. She said that she fell in love with him at that moment. This my dad corrected by saying that it took a couple of weeks for her to go out with him. Otton rolled his eyes. My mom laughed, agreeing.
Someone waved their hand in front of my eyes. I blinked a couple of times. You could hear a needle drop. I looked down at the almost replica. It was like the piece of paper was the painting and I was just scraping an opaque film off its surface. Someone asked how I had done it. I said something like I didn't know, stumbling over my words. The art teacher asked where it was. I said it was Paradise. Confused, she asked if I had ever been there. I said I hadn't. She distractedly asked why I said that I had yesterday. The words had just tumbled out. I knew this, but I said I didn't know. The teacher absentmindedly took it out of my loose hands and put it in her desk. As soon as she closed the drawer, the room returned to its chatter.
At the end of school, when I was about to return home, the art teacher approached me, wobbling on high heels. She told me to bring an envelope to my dad, not to open it. The envelope was the same as the kind report cards were given out in, letter sized with a clasp at the top. The clasp had tape over it.
When I got home, I gave the envelope to my dad, who opened it, pulled several sheets out, frowned, went into his room, and shut the door. When he came out, he didn't have the papers inside the envelope. He called Otton down and went with him into his room. When they came out, Otton had the hair brushed away from his face. He went to the bathroom and combed his hair in the first time in what must be years.
The blurings got less blurry, the gaps got closer together. There are now crisp color changes, green, blue, purple, black, a series of sharp grays getting lighter, until the light is ahead. It now seems that the the harder I swim, the harder the ethereal liquid flows against me. The light ahead shimmers, like the surface of water.
When I got home from school, I saw Otton having a conversation with my dad for what must be the first time in forever. His hair was cut short, clean, and combed. He turned around and greeted me semi-enthusiastically, which he has never done. My dad also said hi, but he seemed intent on returning to the conversation. They were talking about their favorite painters, their styles, and their themes. I think I heard Otton say more words in that conversation than I ever remembered. I learned things about him that I never knew before. Dali was his favorite because he wasn't afraid to look at the world in a different way, and his theme with melting clocks could also symbolize the fluidity of time. He quoted a sci-fi show with a name I recognized called Doctor Who. "People assume time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a wibbly, wobbly, timey, wimey stuff."
My head surfaced from the water. I was in the park. The sky was beautiful. Everything seemed normal, until I realized what was different. The park was now populated with animals, butterflies, squirrels, birds, the reminiscent of a scar that was torn open and let heal, now stronger than it ever was. Looking and seeing the animals was like feeling the soft baby-skin after a healed wound. I started to hear the music again, as if for the first time. The melody was beautiful, a slow line, dancing gracefully across the landscape, joined by a faster harmony that came forward when the melody faltered, for no diamond is perfect. This was soon joined by a slow moving, but acrobatic bass line that supported both the melody and the harmony. The melody grew faster, accented, while the harmony became slower, still supporting it. The music took turns, swoops, and dives, growing faster and faster until it stopped. The bass line quickly picked it up in a minor key, going at a slower tempo. This was soon joined by the melody, then a piercing flute solo that cut through the air until it suddenly stopped as suddenly as it came. The melody soon got quicker and switched back to major, resuming its previous motifs, with slight variations. The melody then got slower, the harmony faster, the bass line cut out, leaving the melody and harmony repeating the same motif over and over and over again. My view started to turn white, like an overexposed picture, but I fought against it with all my will, because when you have something amazing, you should preserve it as long as you can because you don't often find amazing things, and each one might be your last. Eventually I gave up and let the white sweep over me because I knew it was time.