After People, a Sleek One Passes On

A sleek, mysterious silence has overtaken the landscape.

THE NOTHINGWOOD INTERFACE—And now, in the dishwater gray of early morning, a shape is found. A curvaceous gap has opened in the sprawling ground cover. The Sleek Ones approach and discover one of their own has fallen dead in the night.

The Sleek Ones take no special notice. They go about their silent, sinuous business until a new Sleek One arrives, one we haven’t seen before. It’s of a different coloration than the others: a highly blemished green, its head a burnished royal blue. Perhaps it has developed this special coloration as part of a life phase we haven’t yet seen, as some birds will change their plumage before mating.

As the sun rises and the others slip away into the forest, the green Sleek One remains behind with the body. Soon it has erected a ladder (to where?) and, on a nearby altar (to Whom?) it has assembled what appears to be the beginnings of another timepiece, though this one is made of stone instead of wood. The green Sleek One appears to serve a role unique to this moment, the performance of last offices.

Alone it nudges the body a few inches from where it was discovered and turns it in the opposite direction, so that the body lies obverse from its original position. A crude yinyang shape is composed between the body and the depression the body has left in the vegetation, between the body and the absence of a body.

A sleek, mysterious silence has overtaken the landscape. The silence is familiar—the Sleek Ones seem to have invented it, or to have been invented by it. But as the sun bends its path overhead and shines without sentimentality on the shape the green Sleek One has created, silence gives way to a kind of knowing. The landscape quivers to life. The trees and the ground cover begin to whisper like an audience shuffling in their seats.

This ‘knowing’ travels. Through sunken ravines and over the slopes of dry, defoliated thickets, it swirls and chatters in the duff, taps patterns in the naked branches. This knowing has gathered around a premonition that is primarily a direction. It picks up speed and focus. It has the determination of certain fish who, at life’s end, become overwhelmed with a sense of returning.

A sense of returning.

Unlike the fish that battles its way upstream against all odds as river divides into ever-narrower channels and rivulets, or the stream itself which gathers force and is joined by sibling flows as it tumbles back down to the sea—unlike these familiar systems, the flood of knowing, even as it accelerates, defies such logic. What raced down one shady bowl lined in swamp sumac does not pool in the bottom, but leaps a ridgeline and spirals precipitously upwards, arcing along cliff faces and rocky shelves. The flow divides, but one branch winds ever upwards to surge over a stony summit lost in fog, while the other presses into a cleft in the rock, seeking cracks and crevices, prising into the heart of mountain itself. A third line of knowing, turning from the cliff face entirely, projects itself into open air and beyond, lancing out to points unknown. And each of these paths bifurcates again, then once more, now by unseen ways above, below, and beyond the pitted skin of the Earth. The spread of knowing forms an inextricably intricate rhizome, its tiny fingers penetrate everywhere, unstoppable.

Though it has been said that the forked path of knowing is itself unknowable, we can imagine a representative strand based on the observation of a few examples, reconstruct the general from the partial and specific. Somewhere beneath the ground, a string of knowing winds between rocks, continuing to fission into smaller and smaller paths, until it is but a mesh, a fabric, a network of capillaries, linking individual grains of sand, then splitting even those into constitutive elements, salt and silica, threading the eye of the atom, negotiating the vast but minuscule non-spaces of the quantum world.

Here, we can follow no further. Observation eludes us at the edges of science. What is clear, though, is that the knowing energy of the Sleek Ones, in its racing course, permeates down to the base levels of reality.

There, perhaps, something happens. Because equal to this inward travel is another, quickening outward, leaping the hurdles of incommunicable scale and back to the macro of the visible world, where it alights, at last, on another rocky slope, not so far from our origin, overlooking the sea.

The knowing opposite the unknown.

At the rough edge of terra and sea, an opaque pool slow-quivers in the gloaming. It is here where—having completed its transformative journey through the very elemental structure of the earth—the purified knowing energy of the Sleek Ones has resurfaced. It is a humble location: the half-moon of silty fluid sits atop a simple platform wreathed by bare soil. Directly behind the platform lies a square concrete aperture, resembling a chimney or a narrow mine shaft. It is likely that this opening is where the knowing energy exited in its gathered form, thus to spill itself upon the waiting soil.

Facing out into the unknown of the open sea, the Sleek Ones’ energy hovers in its earthen substrate, cognizant of the dichotomy its current position embodies: the knowing opposite the unknown—each force confident in its own nature yet inextricably joined in symbiosis, each unable to exist without the presence of the other.

Below the pulsing energy a craggy peninsula juts out into the sea. Mounted upon this rock is an altar about to host a rare event. It is here where the Sleek Ones’ knowing will charge itself through contact with the void of the unknown. The frame of the altar encloses an interface in which knowing and unknown will mingle—bonding and separating at millions of individual contact points within mere nanoseconds before each force retreats once again.

The interface.

Meteorological conditions have now aligned and the event is imminent. With only a brief shimmer of light the nexus is made manifest—ending almost as soon as it begins. And as the altar resumes its benign stature, somewhere in a clearing not far away a stone timepiece creaks into motion.


Learn about After People »

Author: gpa

We create and disseminate interstitial texts and imagery, both online and in print, for the Anthropocene.

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