In an unfathomable moment of murderous unreality, I shoot the Master. He laughs uproariously. I shoot him again and again and after an interminable fusillade, he falls to the ground. But when I gaze at his crimson body, he disappears.
The red earth is dry and dusty and swirls into a road that eats the moribund souls traveling on its sinuous path. It penetrates the lonely landscape, splitting again and again into new and dividing trails which pass through the plateaus and enter the empty terrain within the tablelands.
The sprawling road cuts through the valley, carving slices of lonely space as it rushes across the landscape like a lost bullet, launched into eternity and never finding its vanishing target.
The wind slashes the road and whips even the phantom dust. It moves me against my will.
Beyond the road, the valley, and the omnipresent wind, I see a cavern in the rocks.
A stranger sits inside and waits for me.
The wind moves me.
Inside, the cavern fills me with a vast sadness. It is, perhaps, an ancient home. But now, it belongs to the stranger. It contains traces of things past. I reach for a vague memory and almost touch it. Almost.
Now, a hollow voice cries out, “Why did you come back, Adam?”
I rush through cavernous space.
The cold cavern dissolves.
I black out.
A ghostly figure rows me across a fetid river. He is a ferryman talking me south to an alien world.
I gaze at an invisible spot in the unreal sky. I feel an unknowable presence. It watches me from the other side of reality.
Suddenly, I am swathed in grotesquerie. Damned faces appear. They encircle the ferryboat. Disembodied heads, moribund eyes, huge deformed hands, bony flesh, emaciated lips, and skeletons trying to touch me-contaminate me with their madness-ugly souls.
The ferryman strikes them with the elongated oar. They retreat. Still, their feral eyes remain behind-pristine balls of fire. And down the river I go, the ferryman taking me closer to the Master.
A mist envelops us. My eyes sink into my bony chest. Soon, they drift into the iridescent ribbon of water. The water is frozen and fiery. It is ice and fire. Fire, ice.
And the dead lie beneath the ferryboat, hidden in a cauldron of damnation. When will they attack again? When?
Paradise and Hell are near. Will I find Heaven or eternal damnation? I am not afraid. My face glows, for soon I will discover who I am.
The ferryman stands tall, expressionless.
To my rights is a small luminous archway. To my left is an ominous, flame-streaked landscape.
The ferryman rows toward the archway. We come to shore.
I drink the yellows and greens of ecstasy which surround us. My eyes discover a pale blue landscape
I taste the soft soil. The glittering lights feed my soul. The azure sky is calm.
Long, thin lips whiz by. Dark, upside down faces sail through the air. Amorphous forms and shadows emerge from the glittering water. They crawl toward the archway. I follow the grotesque creatures
Inside the small archway, the unfathomable beings vanish. But I see a faraway city. Is it the Eternal City?
My eyes blink and the city disappears.
A serpentine road intersects sprawling green pastures and rises toward a painted house beyond, the house of the Master.
The ferocious road carves, chisels, and cuts the rolling landscape beneath the marbled clouds.
The earth is fragile and ready to split and heave.
The road howls. It is the voice of a sea lion flanked by the mute greenery. And the pulsating landscape dilates and swirls upward toward the Master’s house.
The road dissolves.
I stagger across infinity, lost in the kaleidoscopic desert that stretches intransigently.
The sun blinds my frenzied eyes. Yet the Master’s house looms in the distance.
I trek toward his house.
Stop. Go. I lift one heavy leg and slowly, with all my might, and against a paralyzing force, I take one step; sink into the sand, but will a second and a third step and keep going until…I collapse.
The ferocious heat of the desert bites my brain.
I black out.
Leaping lions flank my nonbeing. The shadows encircle me and freakish creatures shriek in the darkness beyond.
I turn left and follow a glimmer of light northwest until I find an opening to the world beyond.
The merciless sun burns my flesh. Then magically, it disappears. An icy chill cuts through my bones. The freezing cold bites my flesh.
Snow falls heavily to earth and slashes my weather-beaten face.
I hear music in the distance. I follow the hypnotic sounds and hope they will lead me to the Master.
The bestial blizzard blinds me. I stagger through the deep snow for miles and miles.
I come to a mammoth iron gate that swirls around the countryside and soars toward the Heavens. It is higher than the tallest building in the universe.
Above my head, I see a magical sign on the gate, snowless.
I gaze up at the sprawling sign.
Beware! This property belongs to me- Sir Joseph Adam Miles, the Master. Do not enter. On the other side of this gate is my universe.
I search for the entrance; can’t find it. The gate is impenetrable, without an opening.
I collapse in the snow.
I sail across a dreamscape of indecipherable worlds, like a runaway El train crashing and jumping the tracks and plummeting to the street below.
When I wake up, I wander 100 yards to my left and discover a small opening in the gate. I crawl through the minuscule hole.
The snow is gone.
I enter an opalescent universe. It belongs to the Master, who sits in the center of a vast luscious garden.
Dressed in a flowing gown of black silk, the Master is surrounded by 9 rings of glittering giant opals.
The outer ring is a cornucopia of yellow, orange, orange-yellow, and red fire opals. The swirling hot opals form a magnificent circle of ethereal beauty. And suddenly, the mammoth gems rise above the red-brown earth and whirl around the Master like a glowing whirligig. And in an eerie metamorphosis, the opals form a giant flute.
Magically, the gigantic opalescent flute plays itself.
Seven other rings form a mélange of iridescent circles of sundry gems. I see white or light opals, milk or crystal opals, blue opals, Mexican fire opals, Lightning Ridge opals that change colors, Morado opals of purple, harlequin opals with colored rectangles and diamonds, pinfire opals with pinpoints of fire, and cat’s eye opals with lines of fire dance around the rings.
The inner ring that encircles the Master is a swirling cornucopia of black opals.
I gingerly approach the Master and his 9 rings of opals as if I were entering a holy place. He appears to be in a deep trance.
I pass under the outer ring that is still a giant flute and high above me. And when I reach the next circle, it opens up. I pass through the iridescent opening. And the following ring opens up too. Ultimately, I pass through the celestial opening of the inner circle and into the Womb of Revelations.
Sir Miles sits in the center. He does not see me. Yet his ethereal blue eyes are wide open. He does not speak. But telepathically, he commands me to sit on the earth about five feet from his body. When I look at him, his eyes, the color of the cerulean sea, soothe me. I wait for him to acknowledge my presence.
The gigantic opalescent flute stops playing and plummets to earth, and becomes an outer ring of fire opals again.
Sir Miles looks intently at me and asks, “Why have you come back, Adam?”
“Have I been here before?”
“Oh yes, quite often.”
“I don’t remember…”
“It doesn’t matter. Just tell me why you’re here.”
“I’ve come to ask for your approval to marry Jenny.”
“Jenny is mad.”
“I don’t care.”
“Adam, she is my precious flower. I want her to be happy. But I warn you. Leave now and never look back.”
“Your love shall breed terror-within you, Jenny, and all those whom you touch. Stop now!”
“Come, Adam, let us meditate “
“But Sir Miles…”
“Come; bake your soul in roseate sunlight.”
We bathe in holy silence. Sir Miles communicates telepathically.
“We exist now within the 9 rings of my opalescent universe. Each ring consists of 74 magical opals.”
I observe the annihilation of the opalescent universe. A multitude of opals explodes. And the greenery divides, disintegrates, and splits into shards of reality; and disappears. Sir Miles withdraws into inner space. He draws me in-deep into the cerulean sea and the azure sky, deep.
I close my eyes and enter. Deeper and deeper I go, my heavy eyes closed tight. My breaths are long and deep; long and rhythmic; lodged in the lonely cavern of my lungs; long, deep, long, until my breaths are sharp, sibilant, and quick, rushing faster and faster until…I can’t stop. I inhale and exhale rapidly; can’t catch my breath.
Sir Miles is strangling me, cutting me off from the slender threads of life with his executioner’s hands-his almighty grip, choking me, chasing me toward the desolate cliff of finality, although he wears the mask of love, his face drenched with bliss, and still a face of farewell, a madman’s face-the face of darkness.
I enter phantasmagoria.
We sit in an infinite room of blazing reds. Sir Miles laughs uproariously.
“Taste the infinite reds, Adam.”
“I don’t understand. You tried to kill me, didn’t you?”
“No, I never touched you. Your faulty perception almost killed you, not I.”
“You’re a madman or a magician.”
Sir Miles cackles.
The red room encircles us. My eyes swirl around the vast circular tomb. I see exotic paintings of lions feasting on prey, the sphinx, the winged creature with a woman’s head and a lion’s body, and words from the scriptures painted scarlet and sprawled across the room. Blood-red owls with gold, yellow, green, and opalescent eyes gaze at us. The flesh-colored fireplace shoots ruby flames and flames of opal into the smoke-filled air. Wine-colored candles glow and everywhere, I see cosmic flames.
I’m a prisoner here.
Sir Miles wears a red mask. Soon, a crimson mood rushes through me; cascading reds cover me.
“I forbid you to marry Jenny,” Sir Miles ejaculates.
“Jenny will devour you; violence and beauty are incestuous lovers, brother and sister of Maya, the world of illusion.”
“I must have her.”
“Your love will kill you with one solid thrust of time. A red owl will sit on a wine-colored clock and watch your demise.”
“Is she really mad?”
“Yes, Adam, she is.”
“And so am I!”
We inhale and exhale the crimson flames. Scarlet candles cast shadows throughout the room. Flames fly out of the gold eyes of a large owl perched on the mantel above the fireplace.
Our room is a burning ghost ship.
The 74 giant opals of the outer ring rise again and recreate the gargantuan flute. And the haunting music reverberates throughout the magical universe.
I look quizzically at Sir Miles, the man I’ve come to worship. He stares intently at me.
“I’ll marry Jenny without your permission,” I say defiantly.
“No, you won’t.”
“You can’t stop me.”
“Of course, I can. If you persist, I’ll kill Jenny.”
“But she’s your daughter, Sir Miles.”
“So what?” he says dispassionately.
The magical flute swirls around us and its hypnotic music smothers me. I can’t breathe, for the preternatural music is a noose around my neck. But as I gasp for air and drown in the Master’s music, I experience a terrible rage. My battered brain’s on fire and my love for Sir Miles is now an overwhelming lust for murder.
The giant flute swirls around me at the speed of light and each time it encircles me, it comes closer. Now, it spins around my body, only inches from my flesh.
Suddenly, it becomes a ring of 74 opals again. Then it transmogrifies into a glittering opalescent gun that flies into my left hand.
Sir Miles stands up. His cerulean eyes glare at me. “Leave now and never return. Forget Jenny.”
“No,” I mutter as I point the glittering gun at Sir Miles. “I love you,” I confess as I clutch the glowing gun. My left hand trembles.
“What shall you do, Adam?”
My body shakes.
“Drop the gun and walk away.”
I glare at him.
Sir Miles growls like a mad dog.
In an unfathomable moment of murderous unreality, I shoot Sir Miles. He laughs uproariously. I shoot him again and again and after an interminable fusillade, he falls to the ground. But when I gaze at his crimson body, he disappears.
Suddenly, the 9 rings of giant opals transmogrify into 9 rings of 3-headed dogs. And the multitude of monstrous dogs swirls around my rotund body. And soon the grotesque creatures become one mammoth 3-headed dog that growls incessantly. It rips my flesh apart.
The red earth is dry and dusty and swirls into a labyrinthine road that leads to the Master’s house.
Stephen A. Solomon embarks on a sinuous journey to see Teresa’s father and ask him for permission to marry his enchanting daughter. The young man trusts the Master, a short, obese man who looks like a Buddha. His eyes, the color of the cerulean sea, soothe Stephen.
Soon, he will find the Master. He will find me-Dr. Adam Joseph Faustus.
Stephen trudges across the whirling whiteness, lost in the nothingness that engulfs him. A slave to love and his beloved Teresa, he risks everything to be with her and receive my blessings.
I too craved the love and approval of the Master, Sir Joseph Adam Miles. What really happened on that fateful day so long ago? Did I really shoot him? Did I kill him? Did he ever exist?
Am I real or am I a character in a dreamer’s swirling dream?
I wait for Stephen.
We are one.
Sir Miles and Stephen and I are one, prisoners of love.
We exist in this magnificent universe of giant opals and glittering love that never dies.
We are willing slaves.
Even now, I fantasize that the Queen of Beauty is dreaming this swirling dream, perhaps Scheherazade with her pulchritudinous face. And as she weaves her tall tale, she grants us eternal love (death and damnation) and herself-everlasting life.
I look inside an oval mirror that hangs above my apocalyptic face. And when I gaze at the creature within, I see (we see) only an unfathomable trinity-the 3-faced goddess (the 3-headed dog) beckoning the whirling dust to taste the sweet lips of the Void.
Dr. Mel Waldman is a psychologist, poet, and writer whose stories have appeared in numerous magazines including HARDBOILED DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, THE SAINT, DOWN IN THE DIRT, CC&D, PULP METAL MAGAZINE, INNER SINS, YELLOW MAMA, and AUDIENCE. A past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis, he was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature and is the author of 11 books. Four of his mystery, fantasy, and horror stories were published by POSTSCRIPTS, a British magazine and international anthology, in October/November 2014. He recently completed an experimental mystery novel inspired by one of Freud’s case studies and is looking for an agent. He has been inspired for decades by his patients and their heroic stories of trauma and survival.