excerpted from The New Wilderness Gospel
Text and Sound by Joshua Levi Ian
Visuals by Kathryn Ian
Utter exhaustion. A crumpled mass clinging to the earth. Jacob desperately begged his skin for protection—for an inside once again. For all the doors in his flesh to close.
Mercy entered his body as night: deep, viscous, and tactile. He could feel it filling him up, soft behind the lids of his useless eyes, creeping gently between the webs of his fingers, and wrapping his organs in soft protective shadow. A new skin, grown from within—his witness body afforded the safety of a sleep where dreams were few.
Stalks of shadow. Trees by night. Wild and thin. Swaying. Birds. Frost and soft fur. Silent air. Falling petals of black fire. A hum and the dark blue shapes of distant mountains. Silhouettes hovering. Guttering dark. Sparks of fireflies and wisps of murmuring sound. The grainy texture of a voice. Then dreamless and deeper dark.
* * *
Enoch turned in his sleep, a peal of inarticulate sound escaping his lips. In the darkness of the cabin, the old man dreamed. He was wrapped in a thick fog of shadow, seemingly suspended from the world of substance. His feet could find no stable ground and the weight of his body dissolved. It was as if he were simply suspended, part of the shifting interplay of shadow and dim light that surrounded him.
Then a figure. No entrance or introduction—simply a presence that had somehow become present.
A strange man of indeterminate age stood before Enoch, rising up from a crumpled heap. He seemed to look directly at him. But Enoch saw immediately that the man's eyes were unable to meet his. They were scarred, frozen over with the strange pale blue of blindness. The blind man's hands reached into the swirl of shadows that enveloped them both. Enoch could not tell if the man knew that he was not alone; he tried to speak, to let him know that they were two in that soft dark place. But his mouth simply produced a slur of static, syllables, consonants, and breath, granulated into a thick wordless texture. The blind man's body jerked violently into a state of alertness...
Enoch awoke with a start. From the radio at his bedside, a deluge of white noise pooled into the stillness of the darkened cabin. Not yet fully conscious, Enoch muttered and turned the dials. Melody arose and coagulated slowly into song.
Poor old Lazarus, poor as I, don't you see/Poor old Lazarus, poor as I, don't you see/Poor old Lazarus, poor as I when he died he had a home on high/Hide thee old rock of ages clef for me.
An inexplicable ache gripping his body, Enoch arose, put a kettle on the stove, grabbed a tin of coffee, filters, and a small bottle of bourbon.