Category Archives: grey

Pike’s Story

 “…his very own room, where his supper  was waiting for him, and it was still hot.  The end.”

“Are monsters gonna get me?  Where do monsters live?”

“Oh, monsters only live in stories.”

“And they want to get out?”

“Hmmm.  Maybe some of them want to, but they can’t.  Don’t worry. “

“Thanks Daddy.  G’night.”

 

In a house on a hill down in upstate New York, under the bed of a sleepy head given the name of Willie Farsted, hid an open book.  Laying flat under socks and trucks, somewhat torn but still very bright, page five and four gave life to a huge birthday party of silly monsters, dancing and cavorting with streamers, balloons, confetti and kazoos, banners and presents and a big red birthday cake.  Laughing and yelling and singing and hooting, all of the monsters pink purple yellow and green, round and square and with tufts of weird hair were so pleased to be in a story with such a fun party going on.  All the monsters, that is, but one.

Tucked in the crease between page five and four sat a lone figure, sullen and brooding on a stool by the door.  Less cartoonish than the others, he looked almost a man, with vague eyes, sunken grey cheeks and long-fingered white hands.  His name was Pike.

Pike sat on his stool, annoyed, his impenetrable gloom shielding him from the careless fun all about.

“Why must I be stuck here amongst these fools?” he groaned.  “There must be some more horrible place for a monster to be.  There must be more terrible and monstrous things to do and be, all more befitting the dignity of a creep such as myself.”

He sat and he thought and he squinted and schemed, racking his brain for some way out of his silly book.  How he longed for graveyards and dungeons and fiery pits!

“Look at you squeaking, chortling buffoons!  Disgraceful!” he’d rage, but the ridiculous party was too loud and carefree for anyone to pay heed.  Pike was alone with his dark thoughts.  He dreamed of escaping his pages and rattling bassinets, or unplugging all the alarm clocks on a Monday morning, whatever sort of mischief he could find to make.  And someday, just maybe, a little closet of his very own, where he could wake to the sound of a good night kiss and know he could look forward to a good night’s skulking. 

Oh what fiendish fun could be had!  There were no limits to the awful things that Pike pictured himself doing, if he could ever get out of that crease between page five and four.

He sat, gazing past his celebratory prison, staring at the bottom of the bed.

Pike would have gone mad, perhaps even mad enough to join in the fun, if not for a fantasy, a daydream he held tightly in his grayish heart behind his long-fingered white hands, and any time the pages were shut and the party was dark and muffled around him, he would dream this dream:

It’s dark.  Silent.  The book hasn’t been opened in ages, then…

Violent jostling.

                                        Voices.

                                                           Footsteps.

                                                                                 Blinding light, and, slowly coming into focus,

                              a fresh young baby.

The baby squeals and gurgles its approval of the boisterous scene depicted on the pages.  Drool splatters, running down the edge of page four.  The clumsy child bends the book backward, cracking the spine, and there is Pike, vague eyes peering out from the reversed crease.  The baby stops, transfixed.  Pike knows this is his only chance.  He summons every wisp of existence he has and asserts it, punching through the barrier between being and non-being with a tiny, reality shattering “boo.”

As if a whisper takes a shallow breath and whispers in turn.

“Boo.”

“Ha ha!  Boo!” the baby answers.  And with that, Pike had leapt from his pages and crawled deep into the baby’s mind.

Oh, the whisper that should have held its breath!

The broken book is soon disposed of, but the mysterious image of Pike is solidified as a common theme in the imagination of the child.  Pike is daydreamed of and dwelled upon.  As years pass he is doodled, giving him frequent tastes of being without the indignity of that chaotic birthday carnival.  Pike still wishes for more corporeal methods of malfeasance, the ability to loosen handrails perhaps, or to drain brake lines, but when the child is tossing in his sleep, Pike is living it up as the centerpiece of various emotional dreambursts.  Sometimes he plays the vile villain (with a natural flair), sometimes he is forced to be the adventurous hero, but usually his role is that of an indistinct, grey everpresence, a sullen fog through which other dream play is attempted.  As the child grows, carrying this grey under his consciousness, he himself becomes indistinct, grey.  People see him as somber, spooky.  He never seems quite comfortable in a crowded room, and if there happens to be a stool by the door, well…

People feel the melancholy radiating from him.  They say he has an “old soul”.  The child’s parents interpret his detached behavior as an indicator of an artistic temperament, choosing to see his slowfog dreaminess as a subtle sensitivity.  They give him creative outlets, trying to draw him out of himself.  They cannot know that it is Pike they sense, lurking.  When the boy is sent to a privileged school for artistic temperaments, it is Pike that is the grey smudge in the foreground of every charcoal landscape.  It is Pike that is the inadvertent minor chord at every piano recital.  It is Pike that is the ancient ennui in the eyes of every portrait.  No one can grasp what is different about this sad boy.  All along, it’s Pike…

Nearing adulthood, the boy-who-was-never-alone-with-his-thoughts veered his creative training toward the modern era, throwing aside his pencils and brushes for cameras and editing software.  He becomes passionate about his new art, producing an incredible number of films in college and earning acclaim for adept use of light filters and, in the words of one professor “an uncannily vivid use of grayscale.”  By the time he leaves school, mega-film conglomerates are lining up to fund his first major professional works.  The first of these, an arthouse-horror piece, is sketched around an unnamed figure with sunken grey cheeks…

The film, “Grey Me”, is an enormous success, both critically and financially, earning  the man-who-once-answered-“boo” millions of fans, the reverence of his Hollywood peers, and permanent creative freedom.  Sequels are a foregone conclusion, and in each film can be found a shady character with vague eyes, or long-fingered white hands reaching out of the shadows…

Each movie is a bigger smash hit than the last.  Younger and younger audiences clamor.  There are offers to put the iconic image of Pike on lunchboxes, breakfast cereals, but the filmmaker resists.  Now he makes each new project scarier and more disturbing.  In spite of this, because of this, the public fascination grows.   Before long, the image of Pike has supplanted all previous bogeymen in the collective imagination.  He is seen in every cemetery, heard in every night wind’s howl, felt under every bed.  And his legend continues to swell, until he inhabits the cold shivers and dark quakes of nearly every human child in the world and he is as real and undeniable as the night itself…

It is at this point in the dream, every time without fail, at this zenith of presence, that the book is opened and the murmurs of all the silly creatures surrounding Pike rise to again jar him out of his fantastic calm and stain his perfect black night with their childishly bright colors.  His loathing swells beneath his frozen frown as he realizes that he isn’t real after all, and he yearns for a roar, a scream he cannot produce.  A child’s face looms, but Pike has no existence to assert.

So he sits and he broods on his stool by the door,

deep in the crease between page five and four,

under the bed of young Willie Farsted,

Down in old upstate New York.

G’night.

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a Conversation

The Poet is perched on the rocky shore, pen in hand, puzzling over a notebook. His long frazzled hair and open shirt blow in the salty breeze. He muses, “What is the way to measure a man?”

The Candidate smoothes his dark suit, strikes the speechmaker’s pose. “It is difficult. All men are equal, yet not all make equal use of their talents.”

The Samurai is practicing kata on the sand above. “Self-discipline is the beginning of all merit,” he says. His controlled slashes are nearing the Poet’s head.

“Self-discipline?” asks the Poet, trying to shoo him away. “Self-denial you mean. A man’s capacity for life must be gauged by his capacity for awe, his ability to behold beauty.”

“We must take caution, though, in trying to measure men,” says the Candidate with quick, decisive gestures that make the Samurai spin and roll away. “There is no way of accounting for a beholder’s level of appreciation. Measuring men may be impossible.”

The Poet cries, “Then we must measure the impossible! And we will judge those whom deny life!” He thrusts his feathery quill at the Samurai. The Samurai parries nimbly and they fence upon the rocks while the Candidate orates at an imaginary podium.

“Each does what they are able,” says the Candidate. “That is the basis of our society.” The samurai scoffs and cuts open a sleeve of the Poet’s shirt. The Candidate continues, “A skilled man who will not work. A smart man who will not think. An eloquent man who will not speak…”

The Samurai yells at the Poet, “A strong man who will not fight!”

The Poet, running away, answers, “A living man who will not love!”

“These are the tragedies of our time,” finishes the Candidate. “The fear of discovering our limitations paralyzes all of humanity.”

The Samurai kneels, tired of toying with the Poet. He murmurs from a meditative trance, “In the end, only honor will distinguish men from beasts.”

The Poet leaps over him playfully, singing, “What notion of honor? All duty is born of the heart!”

The Candidate lifts a baby, kisses it. “Honor is addressing our debt to our forefathers.” He sets the child down among a dozen others.

The Poet storms toward him, fists clenched, eyes ablaze. “They left us with a debt to pay? Damn them!” The Candidate shrugs sympathetically.

The Samurai answers in a low and even tone. “It is not a debt that can be repaid. It can only be passed on.” The babies crawl all around him.

The Poet turns toward the ocean and takes a deep breath. “So what is the way to measure a man?”

The Candidate shrugs again. “Perhaps a man can only measure himself,” he says.

The Samurai stares at his sword. “The measure of a man is how much of himself he is willing to give.” He sinks the blade deep into his belly. He gives it a quick twist and slumps to the ground. The infants crawl away, up the shoreline. The Poet drops to his hands and knees and follows. The Candidate stands over the Samurai, gazing out across the ocean.