Three Legends

by Maria Fusco

Legend of All Saints Day, 1755

There was once a tremor with no knowledge of itself, or of why it moved through the mantle in the way it did.

The tremor did not take this lack of self-awareness to heart. It continued to fault-creep through the world when something set deep—consciousness, some might say—certainly an impelling, insistent itch from within, bid it do so.

The tremor lay still for weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millennia in an inert state, snoozing and awaiting motivation from the itch to bid it to act. At such times the tremor tried to sleep. The tremor is almost certain it couldn't sleep last night, that it writhed and twisted into sharp wakefulness, but the tremor isn't sure. This is a familiar feeling.

And when the tremor finally does sleep what does it dream about?

I will tell you: the tremor dreams of icebergs.

Of free floating, multidimensional frozen water, forever consolidating, liquefying, melting into sea. The tremor dreams of the joy of such liquefaction, such simplicity of movement between tabular and nontabular forms. Through its dreams, for the very first time, the tremor experiences envy.

But there's something else, a feeling more troubling than envy. The tremor is mystified as to how the iceberg actually feels. It knows it cannot gain such insight. Worse still, it knows it does not have the means to even reason about how it can try to know more.

If the tremor were a little more self-aware it might well wonder at how it even knows what an iceberg is. It might well try to remember the time—as the Holocene bloomed—when it first got to know an iceberg personally. And maybe, to be fair, these frozen forms that the tremor dreams of are not icebergs at all, but simply resemble icebergs to us in the telling.

So, the tremor dreams of icebergs, always the same, secure in sleep yet full of spleen in the knowledge that something else exists with ease.

The tremor is not unhappy, it wouldn't know how to be. But in its dreams, it does know a little of what it is to want to be something else, to comprehend how something else feels. The tremor is sure of this feeling of dissatisfaction, but it is not sure of how it knows this.

The tremor shrugs off dissatisfaction with each new call to action rising from its itch. Such pruritic demands dispel the tremor's worries, returning it to a fulsome sense of purpose and place in the world. The magnitude of itch the tremor experiences is epicentric; so profound and so persistent that, as a clarion to act, the itch is superlatively efficient. Sheer stresses ensue.

This itch for otherness, this profound experience of desire to scratch, wakes the tremor at intervals over time, wakes the tremor so it may scratch its dissatisfaction. Having no hands or nails to scratch with of course, the tremor must shiver and quake and rub violently against earthly materials. Dip slip. Relief is instant, but sadly also instantaneous. The tremor continues to quake, amplitude increasing.

The itch continues, but the quaking cannot, and so the tremor must try to sleep to forget. And then, in sleep is when the tremor dreams of the iceberg. We can't be sure how long this dream lasts, but we can be sure it endures until the tremor wakes. The tremor rouses itself in order to forget the dream of the iceberg, and in order to forget its dream, it must scratch.

 

Legend of the Grid System

She, the grid system, is aware only of her corners, not of her straight lines. She perceives her own space and those persons who traverse her space as flat entities moving swiftly and without substance.

She, the grid system, can turn corners, can perceive the other side of her own corner, but cannot bring to mind how it happened that she knew where the last corner she turned was. For this reason, she, the grid system, is always lost.

She, the grid system, sees space only in this way, and therefore does not think of this as a lapse or an error in memory. There is a reasonable chance it is not a lapse or an error but a fact allowing her, the grid system, to retain her own unique individual spatial logic—her own sense—with authority.

She, the grid system, turns corners, each time they are surprising, new, and yet she, the grid system, remembers exactly the precise location of each. These precise locations do not calculate an overarching system or interconnecting plan; rather, they exist or perhaps coexist as a related but nonsequential collection.

She, the grid system, has nothing to say about this.

 

Legend of Girth

I resume. My perception of space is not two-dimensional. I cannot read this, it makes no sense.

The architect has spread his plan flush against a tiny area of my total surface. I feel the heel of his hand evenly pressing down on brittle tracing paper, applying firm yet light pressure to smooth it in all directions. The tips of his eight fingers and two thumbs support his bodily weight, holding the tracing paper square, steady at such an unnatural angle.

The plan hugs me flatly, trying to communicate, its ink schematic seeping somewhat. The architect's plan is describing intimate detail: touch; cross projections; lines interconnecting at more or less right angles, their depth spaced to depict the relative thickness of the palácio's interior walls; human stride rationalized in millimeters; doorways where they ought not to be; windows looking black; Pombaline sills; a useful legend; and there, just there, look: the evidence of a quivering nib.

I can't keep up: this architect's plan is describing me.

Surely the enterprise is a sin of pride, demonstrating entrenched planes and suffocating corners which expand and contract in search of their term, animus.

I peer at folly.

I imagine, I have no means of being sure: Thick lines are thick walls are old walls, many hands slowly, seventeenth century. Fortification. Heat. Cold. I regulate such factors in the palácio with the aid of girth. Thin lines are thin walls are new walls, many hands swiftly, nineteenth century. Subdividing. By erecting farther me, extra chambers were crafted, flimsy by comparison perhaps, smaller certainly, but doubling the space here all the same. This more of me is counterintuitive, this more of me adds space, rather than reducing it: where do all the materials used to create this space—to make this more of me—go? By redoubling the material and repeating the composition of my form, the palácio grows, building function. Yet the importance of the architect's plan is marginal, it means little as an actual document, for what does it in fact show? Nothing of significance, I will tell you a story:

There is an element that dwells within me. He is left behind. He hums when he is happy, he cries when he is sad. I have never heard him hum. He arrived on the final dearth day of the 1912 strike. He wore no shoes, so at first I didn't hear him enter. He slept deeply. The year ended. He awakened keen. Sharp with hunger. He cried. He cried. He slept deeply. He awakened weak. Blown and pale. He cried. He cried. He slept deeply. He awakened cold. Chewed mortar. Supped sand. His teeth ground a slurred song. His eyes leaked saturating my surface. He is not in memory.

If the architect now drew by hand a small figure, tracking its progress as it moves through the ground floor, first floor, second floor of the palácio, walking through the corridors and entering the rooms which I form, I would not know where I was on the plan, I would be the one who is lost.

 

Maria Fusco's "legends" will appear in Legend of the Necessary Dreamer, forthcoming from Vanguard Editions in 2017. Her Master Rock is a repertoire for a mountain commissioned by Artangel and BBC Radio 4. Her books include With A Bao A Qu Reading When Attitudes Become Form (2013), Gonda (2012), and The Mechanical Copula (2010). She is the founder of The Happy Hypocrite, an experimental writing journal, and is currently a reader at the University of Edinburgh.

Tags:
short stories
fiction
BOMB 138
Winter 2017
The cover of BOMB 138
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