I remember chains on my feet, crouching in the dark of a cell hewn from rock, under the earth, far from the sun.
My hair and beard is a wild thing, untamed as I pray in my own filth.
A heap of hay is set on fire, so I know my captors want my strength again, to hammer steel into blades,shields, knives, arrowheads and other instruments of death.
I have become a slave to them, serving the ungodly king who lives above in gold and royal sunlight.
I am a prisoner but have no pain in my heart, no true loss of freedoms.
Sleeping in the dark, I disperse to other realms where I awake in the bodies of poets and shamans and gods from other times and places.
Only to be pulled back when the fire starts again and my hands are needed for wars.
—armour, axes, swords —
For years I live like this, but I do not die in this cavern.
It is on a full moon like tonight when I retreat into the dank darkness where my body and spirit disappears, displacing to live among dark matter that is dimly pierced by the farthest stars.
It is on a full moon like tonight when I come back, pulled from my house in oblivion after centuries, decades, days,seconds.
It is not the fire that pulls me back.
I am counting in seconds, eyes attuning to the blackest of basements. I somehow possess knowledge about an ancient prisoner.
How many years, since the war ended ? Am I a prisoner here as well? Was I complicit? I look and see no chains on my feet.
He is kept here to die,beneath the earth, in the cave that seem familiar.
I know I must go to him.
Was I to see to his body?
To take him into the darkness that claims me? To house him in the void that knows my name?
I sense no other people, air cold and abandoned, an unending cavern lit by distant fires.
I make my way, barefoot through the yawning space, sidestepping empty bullet shells and drying blood. No smell of gunpowder, echoes of those final gun shots long ago gone into wet walls.
In the distance I see the death slab he is chained to. I am expecting to find him dead, having died in sleep, body shrivelled from disuse, skin and bones and clumps of hair fallen unto timeless stone.
But when I reach his side, I find him struggling to breathe, coughing, a raw skeleton loosely covered by fragile paper thin skin, wrinkled and crushed by the weight of time.
I then understand the man from the west is also here. A bearded gunman with long blond hair, unchaining the dying prisoner of war.
I ask without saying, ‘who is he?’ then scrawl the answer on paper, in blue ink, the name Axiiom. The double ‘I’ is specific to me. Somehow, this is important.
I understand without knowing he is fighting for Axiiom, that I am following through, the second wave, and that the allies had lost the war.
The iron mask the prisoner had on is removed.
Loose, dirty plastic tape clings to his shrunken cheeks.
Weakly, he points to a window in the far wall, tattered, dark blue curtains bloating in slow motion, a stale wind circulating like thick blood.
“Open…” he says, the sound like a dying creature. I go the window and find it already open. Outside is eternal night, black and starless.
He will not die in a place like this, like how I do not die in that cave.
His voice is becoming more alive.
“I dreamt of walking the grounds of my castle,”
I share in the vision of his dreaming, seeing the walls of his high court, the fireless dearth, massive oblong blocks, stacked and structured.
He says, “In my Fathers house, there are a thousand doors….”
He is visibly becoming younger, fat and meat filling out around his bones, flesh, losing translucence, color returning, wrinkles vanishing, voice growing louder with youth.
“I dream of walking the grounds of my castle.”
I know he is both far yet close.
A fire burns in the dearth of his castle.
His castle revives him.
He reaches the prime of adulthood, sits up and gets off his death slab. I dress him, in a ripped dark green robe made from scales of a dead dragon, surface shimmering, despite the Aging of time.
No more is he dying.
His castle remakes him.
We leave his tomb together.
We walk through thin air, the cavern better lit by the invention of electric light. There is an arch like opening in the wall. It is near here where I lose sight of him.
Approaching the gaping maw, I look in and find two Viking like warrior women rising from sleep. Their breasts are robust and European. It is the female room of sleep and I am considered an intruder.
Turning away, I find the others.
Transvestites, seven feet tall, dressed in tight straps of gothic leather, red hair high like totems on their chiselled heads. Black tattoos of cults and horrors stand out against porcelain white skin. Their fingers and nails, elongated, foreign and painted. Their bodies, taut and stretched, alien and anorexic, bent and posed and painted for me.
“I know a friend who will love your work,” I say, to the tallest and the oldest of the suicide ones. She just smiles at me, not saying a thing.
I then see the cameraman.
The tall dark stranger, the one who was not caught, approaching me. He shows me a pair of tickets to a 4 pm film called WANTED. The profile shot of the man from the west is on the poster. Blonde, long hair, unkept beard, face well burnt by the face of the sun (the type of fire and not of halogen.)
I calculate the timing, and find we can catch the carnival as it begins at 7a.m
The carnival has taken over the cavern.
The allies have lost.
Old prisoners are set free.
I am just passing through once more (for this cavern will always know my name.)
I don’t know where the ancient (now, young) prisoner has gone, but I believe I will not see him again.