Tuesday, 17 March 2015
Mansionland (a short story)
The land was expansive. Really expansive. I’m not really sure you could say it had a horizon, although it did, sort of. It faded away into immeasurable distance, and I mean a really, really immeasurable distance. Well that’s how it seemed.
But that was just one aspect, although I must admit a rather impressive one.
There was light. You know, just like in the movies and C.S. Lewis books, and near death experiences. That sort of light. But you breathed the light and it felt like air in a light sort of way.
Anyway, this place was awesome, in an over awesome way that transcended the awesomeness of any other awesome thing you could think of. So really, I don’t think I’ll bother even trying to allegorise it, let alone metaphorise it. Let’s just say it’s beyond metaphor, or language.
So there’s this place and I’m looking around, and there’s these huge mansions scattered around. Quite a few of them really, spread out way into the fading horizon that isn’t really a horizon.
There’s a lot of space between them all though, forests and gardens, beauty that’s disorganised in a non-minimalist crazy person kind of way. Wild but knowable, untamed but playable.
The whole place, the land, whatever it is, was complete. Nothing could conceivably or inconceivably be added or taken away. You just knew that the entirety of ‘all that is” is here, visible or hidden, searchable for sure, maybe not findable, but there none the less.
So yeah, it was just the other day, or maybe it was tomorrow, or did I dream it, or will I dream it in another life? Anyway, there I was, smacking my gob at this place and wondering about the mansions. So I set off to the closest one.
Not sure how long it took, maybe an hour or a week. Just can’t tell in this place.
As I approached I could see this mansion was huge, really huge! But it looked really strange. Despite the obvious ostentatiousness of the place it was really a hodgepodge of add-ons and extensions. So much so that I had no idea what the original might have looked like. The windows were boarded up, which I though was rather strange given how incredible the view was – and who the heck would want to block out this light?
So as I approached I met a couple of people wandering around outside in these outrageous suits – like diving suits. You know, all sealed up with air tubes going back to the mansion and an airtight helmet with tinted glass so I couldn’t really see their faces, and we had to shout at each other to be heard. It was really, really weird. Maybe they all had some medical condition?
Never the less, they invited me in.
The front door was very impressive indeed with very ornate symbolism in the carvings and pictures all over it. But instead of the whole door opening to welcome strangers, there was just a little door down one side – just like those big warehouse doors have a little one so they don’t have to open the whole thing all the time.
We quickly entered and slammed the door shut behind us while they took off their suits in the rather comparatively dim light.
Together they welcomed me to the “Mansion of Light”.
OK… it was rather dingy, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
I was then given a map of all the places to see, in the correct order with the correct viewing times and who would be leading the viewing sessions and their qualifications, along with all the correct protocols to follow.
They wanted to personally take me around to make sure I got it right, but I hate guided tours - you know how it is – you never get the time to really find out the whole story. It was a battle but I assured them I’d be fine and follow all the protocols, sheesh!
Of course I didn’t have any intention of following boring tourist guides and protocols so I set off exploring the moment they were out of sight.
All the boarded up windows were a puzzle, seeing as they had to rely on artificial light all the time and some corners, and even whole rooms, were really hard to see into.
As I went around the rooms I found endless groups of people mostly discussing what the land outside was like and the best ways to get around out there. Other groups were saying outside was a dangerous place and best not to venture out unless properly prepared, and proceeded to debate the best methods of protection. Many seemed to think that outside was actually evil and we shouldn’t even entertain the idea of going out there.
There were so many rooms some big, some small, some huge auditoriums, some little studies, but all with people discussing/debating/arguing, or just being told, how to deal with outside, or even if they should deal with outside in the first place. It was so confusing, even though each room seemed to basically agree amongst themselves.
Every so often though, I’d see someone sneak out and into another room, as if nothing had happened. But as I was going down one particular corridor, a whole heap of people suddenly ran out of one room down the hall and into an empty room, shouting wildly about the colour of the walls. Truly perplexing!
I began to wonder where I’d be if I’d taken the guided tour!
After a while I bumped into a quiet sort of guy walking slowly through a pillared gallery where some of the windows weren’t quite so well boarded up, and cracks let through small rays of light that shone on parts of some of the paintings and sculptures.
Thinking he might throw some light (as it were) on what the heck was going on this place, I straight out asked why the windows were boarded up?
He looked at me with a strange expression, as if I was either an idiot, or maybe it was a trick question and he was waiting for the other half of my question so it would make sense. After a few moments where he seemed to be trying to process the obvious absurdity of my question, he started on quite a long and eloquent discourse.
Around 5 minutes later he stopped to see if I was following, but alas, I couldn’t follow a single thing he was saying. It all seemed to do with ancient prophecies and traditions, and the elders of the ancient days who spoke of strange powers and beings and who knows what. I just wanted a simple answer as to why they didn’t like the light.
As he began his dissertation again I casually wandered over to a nearby window that was letting in a ray of light and went to look through the crack.
Well, what a commotion! He stopped in horror and began a tirade about respecting the light and having to wear special glasses, and you had to spend hours in preparation or be one of the elite before you could even glimpse outside.
This place was really beginning to creep me out. So I excused myself with many apologies and headed off for the stairs to see if I could quietly find some light and fresh air. After a while of wandering and working my way up, I found what seemed like a rather little used hall leading to a stair case that almost certainly went to the roof or a balcony, judging by number of flights I’d come up and the general layout as best I could figure it. As I reached the top of the stairs and began to look for a door outside, a very old guy suddenly threw open a door and light streamed in behind him creating a silhouette. He had been outside obviously, but was keen to come back in. He hesitated when he saw me and looked around, perhaps to see if I was alone.
He obviously didn’t know quite how to deal with my presence and stood there with the door half open, until he decided to ask what I was doing. I honestly stated I’d like some light and fresh air as it was getting rather oppressive inside.
Again he looked around and asked if I knew what it was really like out there. Well, of course I knew, although after being in this place for what seemed like ages, I was beginning to wonder if I did. All the confusion and different ideas that really didn’t make much sense to anyone who had actually been outside, were beginning to take their toll on me.
He grabbed my arm and pulled me closer. I saw in the silhouette of his face that he was wearing dark glasses, but he wasn’t in the suits that others wore outside. It all seemed very conspiratorial somehow, but never the less he seemed to think I was an ally of some sort who was in the know.
He reached into his coat and pulled out another pair of glasses, saying I’d need them before going out. I could see it was bright outside but not harsh or glaring, still, I put them on just to humour him.
We quickly stepped out on to the roof and I was hit by the incredible view. Simply amazing. But the stupid glasses made everything look dull and all the colours were wrong, and I couldn’t even see clearly into the distance. I guess it was my previous experience of the land which allowed me to appreciate it still. I put my hand up to take off the glasses but he jumped in horror when he realised what I was doing and knocked my hand out of the way, declaring me insane.
I stopped and decided to humour him. He was shaken but turned to look out with me. After a few seconds I pointed to another mansion some way off and asked who lived there.
He turned slowly and seemed to be struggling with my question. He then started a discourse, not unlike the other guy downstairs, about the ancients and traditions and evil forces and battles and who knows what, until after a few minutes I gave up trying to follow him.
This was all too much really. I politely interrupted him and said I couldn’t really follow him, but that was OK, I was just curious. I thanked him anyway and as I could see a staircase that wound its way down the outside of the building, I said I’ll just go and see them myself and took of the glasses to give back to him.
That was obviously a huge mistake. Apparently it was inconceivable that anyone could/should/would even think about doing that! He then preceded to pontificate in a strange voice about the curses of the ancients and the dangers of venturing out on my own and being blinded and deceived by the light because the nature of the land apparently could only be correctly discerned with their glasses.
It started to get rather ugly, and even though I apologised for any offense, and tried to reassure him that I was fine because the light was actually a lot better without the glasses and I just wanted to meet the other people and hear their story, he just got more worked up.
Oh well, I smiled anyway and quickly went down the stairs. I could still hear him shouting from the roof as I walked on to the grass and out into the wild/tame gardens towards the other mansion. He wasn’t making any sense at all by that stage and his abuse faded into the breeze as I breathed in the light and lost myself….