spaghetti squash or gluten free pasta
sweet italian chicken sausage or vegan italian sausage with a shitake mushroom and scallion pesto with truffle oil
salad with olives, peppedew peppers, canelloni beans, roasted garlic and a homemade lemon vinaigrette
iced chamomile lavendar tea
issue: incarceration and re-entry, and movement (getting from one place to another)
characters: a 14-year-old named sean, part of a group of people who can dismember (leave heart behind, leave body parts behind, transport souls – not just the physical but the soul and self can be dismembered). youth and elders have the capacity to carry other souls in dismembered form that they can access. sean is carrying the contraband of a guilty soul, and doesn’t know why. he loses hair and body parts as he carries this contraband, becoming obviously guilty. the soul is another central character.
setting: approaching 2100, in a detroit that is part of a great lakes region impacted by drastically failed economic policy. mi itself is dismembered from the surrounding land by rising water levels from toledo to chicago. the water is enhanced and somewhat glutinous. over time it is impacting the ability to dismember.
a y2k like fear is sweeping through the society. souls that have been dismembered as path or punishment need to be downloaded, backed up. prisoners minds are used as back up memory chip space. there are trainings for getting equipment prepared for the millenium. there are regular rituals and ceremony to honor the transference of the soul.
backdrop/assumptions: people do not want to be incarcerated. it is better to be closer to huron or ontario, that’s where wealthier people are gentrifying now. the gelatinous water makes your soul more likely to catch loose memory. there are ways to filter memory out of the water, though that is impacting memory. everyone talks with their hands. people forget their birth stories and are taught different creation stories. birth and death are mysteries. love is the answer, but everyone is terrified of it.
conflict: love and memory are connected and in conflict. you can forget the memory of someone hurting you, victims regularly forget the pain or persecution they experience, which makes forgiveness impossible. people go into prison with no chance of redemption. you have to connect with a youth or elder to remember yourself. there’s a penal colony on upper peninsula where a revolution has sparked and the escapees are heading towards the floating island hand of mi. there is a juvenile justice center there, and sean is the key to the next phase of revolution because of the contraband soul he carries. sean knows how to die. the survival of the region and possibly humans depends on remembering how to die.
note: charity hicks and ife were rsvp’d for this session. on may 31 charity was hit by a car in nyc and has been in critical condition since then. ife has been at her side most of that time. we held two open chairs for them, and invited to charity to find her way in this world. you can support ongoing medical costs for charity at http://www.emeac.org/donate
Instructions for Sean
When you arrive on Thursday, we’ll be working through Phase Four of the Transition. Jeb, Zu, and Reggie are aware of your arrival. Don’t expect them to acknowledge you. We maintain absolute distance from each other. We don’t risk suspicion.
Jeb manages the East Wing of the district. Typically regarded as the most vulnerable ward, we monitor the inmates with extra ULCs as membranes are prone to unwarranted transfer. Since we’re in Phase Four, you know all of the residents are stationed in those transmission stalls. Each one has three screened sides with an opening in the front that measures about 2×3 feet. As Jeb walks you through the corridor to your cleaning station, touch every stall through that hole. Don’t be extravagant with your gestures. Be subtle as you make each connection. East Wingers have access to water in Channel B, we’ll bootstrap the package to get ready for Derail. All in the touch. Easy.
I’ll be honest. Zu’s quadrant is a challenge. Residents are in Stage Four of membrane secretion. They basically have no pores. With these ones, we’ve opened Metaports for quick loads. Getting to the ports is the trick. Similar to Jeb’s zone, everyone is hooked into their transmission stall on Thursdays. You’ll need to find a way to access the backend. We think it’d be best if you spent a few days to getting to know Zu’s operator, Bud. He’s not one of us, but he has bad hands. If he thinks he can trust you, he’ll ask you to help him prep each Transition Port before the morning session. The man would do anything to avoid doing the work himself.
–Shawn: 14 years old (14 transitions of teaching how to die); Dismember; Keeper of rememberings; Holder of the Ways of Dying; Love-Warrior.
–Grace (inspired by Charity): Age unknown, cannot die; Shawn’s Mother; Healer; Knower of the secrets unseen and unspoken; does not speak, communicates through touch; Keeper of rememberings.
–m. Mekkah: Age unknown; Prisoner (imprisoned for killing Grace before she borned again without voice), carries the guilt of that crime; only remembers that pain; lives in solitary due to undefined gender, is isolated except visits does not remember they (Grace and Mekkah) co-created Shawn; does not know they can dismember, does not know they know the Word Stories of Creation.
The guard, shielded as he always was, screamed through the glass projecting screens that brought his voice about the visiting room in a bellow; “VISITING ENDS IN TEN MINUTES!”
Grace: I told you, I keep telling you, we all have our pain, and we live it through.
She did not say this, she did not ever speak anything, Grace simply looked Mekkah in their eyes, and stared with her strong gaze long enough for them to stop blinking. Once their eyes stopped fluttering, Grace knew they’d understood their non words.
Mekkah: All I know is you were dead, and I did it; my hands, these very same hands, these fingernails had your blood beneath them, and I could not wash it out for weeks, all that time I carried your death ‘neath these very nails. And you, you had screamed. I promise you had screamed, and loud, and now you do not speak, you are silent because of these very hands. Why do you keep coming back to me? What could you possibly want from me?
Mekkah’s hair had left their body long ago-by now the shame had closed up their pores entirely. Their skin, having less breaths became tight, so as to snug the muscles and the way they moved beneath the flesh. Their body looked strangely strong and able, and it seemed as though they could only move with grace and intention, any fast movements seemed very sudden and out of place on their bare and sculpted body.
“VISITING HOURS ARE OVER! STAND NOW (clears throat, breathes into projecting glass) PRISONERS WALK TO THE DOOR, PALMS OPEN, FACING OUT. VISITORS WALK TO THE WALL, MOUTHS OPEN. LAST WEEK WE HAD A LADY TRY TO LEAVE WITH HER TONGUE FILLED, DON’T TRY IT TODAY FOLKS, DON’T MAKE US SPIT TEST YOU!!”
The guard finished his announcement. Grace rose, and gave the same slight smile she gave Mekkah each time she left the visit. They always gave the same look back, but today, Mekkqh did not look stoic and void of any feeling to describe, as they usually did; their face was full of wonder. They squinted their entire face, as if to understand, their jaw had extended itself towards Grace, and their tight forehead, unable to wrinkle itself, turned its flesh upward. Grace knew then, at this look that Mekkah finally understood there was more; that soon the time would come; soon She would have to let Mekkah see her scars. Her scars had answers to questions not yet asked, but Mekkah now knew there were questions, that there was understanding to be had. Mekkah was far too powerful to not be freed of shame’s hold, and they had lost so many others who were needed, but could not be freed of their heavy guilt. Mekkah was necessary now. Their past, the pain they carried, was minor, almost irrelevant compared to what the times were asking of them. What mattered now was the love they’d shared with. Grace, before they had killed her; what mattered now was remembering all the things; grace knew that somewhere in that body, Mekkah knew. Somewhere underneath their tighten skin, they knew the story of how we had become ourselves. The last question they’d asked of Grace, it was not answered yet, but they understood, there were reasons she would visit every week, and now, leaving with the questions, the longing to understand, Mekkah understood that somehow they themselves were important, and necessary.
Grace opened her mouth as if to scream, as if to wail and let out every sound in her body, but by this time she had already lost her sound, she had died and been born again with child and no voice; and she, and Mekkah and the Holder had become accustomed to her silences. From within her spread and tired legs cam a head, filled with silver hair, who used its own fists to pull itself out and into the arms of the holder. The child, boy and long, screamed louder than any child had before, and the walls held his wails in echo. The boy opened his eyes and reveled his golden pupils, bright and close to the color of the sun. The holder gasped and she held the child in her arms, and he continued to wail, and wail, until the walls themselves began to move ever so slightly from the vibrations of his voice.
I ask for the strength of our warrior sister Charity to guide me across the bridge.
I’ve lost all sense of sound and my vision is impaired by the gray, sludge, fairy dust, coming from the water. I feel my soul being enveloped by the soul I carry. I can no longer tell what’s mine and what’s theirs. This mission terrifies me. I’m being led through the path of blind love. If love is my destiny, I fear I’m not strong enough.
What was it they told me at the detention center? I was born to re-member the dis-membered? I’m only 14 years old. Will the elders hear my thoughts? I’ve never met them. I’ve always been alone.
My heart is beating so loudly, they must know I’m here. This heart is a liability. I may have to leave it behind. If I dislodge it the pain will be unbearable, they’ll definitely hear me then. How do I muffle my screams? I either leave it now or I’ll be battling this heart throughout the journey. This heart is a liability.
Here goes, breathe together, breathe together…
Shawn feels alone – there is turmoil happening within himself – what is happening to him spiritually and what will it manifest physically. He needs to quiet himself but the thoughts keep him moving. On a wonderful sunny day in the dismembered Michigan – he happened to be in the section of the state where these folks are conscious and are putting forth effort to right the wrongs that have been done to the land, water and thus the people. He is walking in one of the parks where he happened upon one of the elders who has been on the road to Justice & Equality of water access for the last 30 years – she is well known for her knowledge about the issue. Shawn, due to his new spiritual inclination, can feel her energy and is drawn to her right away. She takes a moment and asks Shawn to sit for awhile. She is very spiritually in tune and can sense his internal turmoil. She talks to him of love (her namesake, Charity) and how when he moves within that, his turmoil will dissipate.
She commences to share her own story of how she became fearful when the policy was put into place that was the catalyst for the gelatinous water. She knew it could negatively effect the lives of the people she knew and loved. This was in her much younger days when she needed to find a source of connection – youth or elder.
Her connection came in the form of a 9 yr old girl named Selena. Selena being an indigo child, knew tht the present circumstances shouldn’t dictate our consciousness. Selena shared with Charity that the answer will be found in the quiet place. Charity went on to share with Shawn that after that point the answers began to come through the people and opportunities to act with least effort. Presently, she sees the light at the end of the tunnel. She shares with Shawn to embrace what is happening within himself – quiet the noise and know that he is giving birth to something great and please note – remembering in loves yields a different result than remembering in fear.
Shawn was truly changed through that interaction and through moments of silence – he came to know his calling which was to share what was given to him.
This is what it feels like to hold a memory that is not your own: As if a cold cloth is pressed to the nape of your neck, but never warms. As if its flickering picture contained needles that lightly pricked the inside of your temples. As if your insides, your soft organs, became heavier, metal; your tongue with the slight taste of iron. It is not painful, exactly, but it is not pleasant either. You are never unaware that a soul separate from yours has broached your body.
It is also embarrassing. Shawn grew tired of the smirks he saw when the telltale blankness washed over him. “See anything dirty this time?” his older brother Eddie would say. “Or still got that old lady on the coast with her water filter?” Shawn’s mother would look at him with a simpering sweetness that made him cringe. “Oh, my baby, you’ll grow out of it soon enough. But you’ll still be my baby!”
Shawn had had it. The memories were beginning to broach his dreams, and he was still groggy as he put himself together on the morning of his cousin Terry’s MakeShift ceremony. The knot on his tie skewed because he was blinking thickly as he tied it. His belt missed a loop on his good grey pants. His fingers didn’t quite line up his knuckles and his ears were noticeably assymetrical.
Terry’s MakeShift ceremony was at the old Shaker’s restarant on the lake, in the reception room where Shawn had been to many tiresome ceremonies like this before. It was always the same: the father or mother went on and on in a tearful speech, somebody clinked their glass to make a toast to the spirit of a wise and steady adulthood where all memories were your own, and the MakeShifter crossed a faux wooden bridge – an over-obvious metaphor, Shawn thought – and dipped a gleaming glass into the basin of pure old-fashioned lakewater, which they then drank sloppily while everyone clicked photos and clapped. Then everybody danced to a DJ whose idea of family-friendly music was something nobody like much, though they pretended otherwise, dancing with fervor and vulnerability and awkwardness. Inevitably, somebody lost a few toes, which would end up in the lost-and-found in Shakers, a bin that Shawn had had to sort through before (once for a pinky, another time for a retainer) – and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was a memory he’d like to forget.
Shawn’s mother gave him a once-over before they piled into the car, and made him re-tie, re-belt, re-finger, and re-ear before he was allowed past her. She played the radio as they bumped along. A public radio station had a bunch of comedians making jokes about the headlines of the week: something about a congressman chocking on a glob of Lake Michigan.
he woke up screaming, his sister shaking him from the darkness. he’d been dying just a moment before.
he’d been…something cold had been filling him up through his mouth and the breath couldn’t get into him.
he’d been…what was it, what was it.
charity pulled him into her softness and rocked him back and forth.
‘sean baby you can’t be screaming like that. you gonna get us all in trouble. hush now. hush hush now…’ she smelled like musk and incense oils. ‘tell me what you saw this time.’
sean whimpered, sweat beading at his temples. he’d wet himself again, and hoped she couldn’t tell. he was too old for this. he felt so ashamed.
‘i was in the lake again. i was in the lake, and i wasn’t able to process the water.’
‘what do you mean?’
‘i was in the lake! the lake was in here. it was inside this room, a room like this one. and it was filling up my mouth and i wasn’t able to breath.’ his breath was still shallow, panicked.
‘you breath in that lake all the time, sean. every time we cross. why – why do you keep dreaming like this?’
‘we have to get away from here, charity. we have to go away from here.’
‘why, baby? we always been here.’
‘but we shouldn’t be here. we didn’t do anything wrong. we shouldn’t be in here.’
‘baby you know better than that.’
they were generational prisoners, serving out the third life sentence of their grandfather. everyone in the juvi was like them. born into the system, knowing only the system.
‘anyway, where would we go? crisophus says that everyone can pick out the guilty. it shows.’
‘if we stay here we gonna die.’
charity furrowed her brow, pulled back to look in sean’s terrified face.
‘we gonna what?’
‘die. it’s like – turning the power off. if we stay in here, our power is going to get turned off and we won’t be able to turn it back on. i just know it.’
‘baby what the hell are you talking about? where is this coming from? we been together since the day you were born and i have never heard that word before in my life and it ain’t the first one you made up talkin about power going off – die, kilt, murdra. i am worried about you.’
sean dropped his eyes. he knew he didn’t make sense. he didn’t feel any sense inside him. for weeks now he hadn’t felt right – he’d stopped plugging into the center, because it seemed worse when he was connected, connected or sleeping.
it was like someone scraping along inside him, in his mind, in his dreams, scraping these new words inside his brain.
‘it’s ok sean. it’s ok. your calming ceremony is tonight.’
shit! he’d forgotten what day it was. she continued – ‘they say i was the same way before mine – didn’t make sense, couldn’t dream with any ease. i just never seen it. it will help.’
sean wasn’t sure. charity was an incredible sister, so loving, so caring for him. he didn’t know how he would survive this little world of theirs without her.
but she had no memories. she wouldn’t get them back til she was 65, like everyone else. and most people didn’t live to 70 these days.
the things that were coming to him were scary, but they were also…different. new. interesting. something beyond this little enclave on this big island cut off from the world. he hated being so frightened. but he was scared of the calming too. he didn’t want to lose these thoughts.
the largest room at the center had windows on three sides. from the pulpit, he and the other calmers were looking out over lake michigan. the center sat on top of the boundary where the failed canal passed detroit. off in the far distance to the east, when he squinted, he could see the towers of detroit. they would have been down river. he’d had dreams where he could see from one side of the river to the other, to another country. but sitting there now, it was just water ahead.
the general walked in and through the crowd. charity sat with a group of big brown sisters, waving fans and wearing bright colored cloths they had created and sewed themselves. he’d asked her once where the ideas for these cloths came from. she’d just shrugged and smiled – ‘don’t matter love. ain’t it beautiful tho?’
in the room he was grateful to see them.
everyone was here, everyone who lived in this center was here. this was everyone he’d ever known. every memory he had should have taken place here, with these people. but for weeks now he’d been dreaming beyond these walls, beyond that water, beyond these people. it was terrifying to wake up in it. but he felt deeply sad now that the moment was here.
would he forget these dreams?
the general reached the stage, his bright red hair under a green cap. ‘sit down everyone.’
everyone sat. sean sat amongst 17 others on the pulpit.
‘we are here today for this year’s calming, to welcome our newest class of citizens into the fold.’ the general looked proud, if tired. his face was droopy, his eyes a little blank.
‘repeat after me: we believe in the calm of the present,’ the general began their ritual chant.
sean opened his mouth to repeat, wanting to believe, full of his doubt. at that moment, the doors at the back of the room burst open. a seemingly endless number of young men and women came running in, some armed with knives and some with other things, black, silver, cold looking in their palms.
he felt recognition, felt a thrill move through him. the room shuddered as everyone realized there was no fight to be had, armed against unarmed.
a woman, brown and freckled with her hair pulled back into a wild ponytail, stepped forward from the group.
‘who here is sean markins?’ she looked only at the podium, as did the rest of her comrades.
sean started, looking around desperately. he caught charity’s eye. she looked afraid, but, as if guided by a power beyond her own body, she nodded.
he stood up.
the new mass smiled as if they all shared one face. in that instant, they seemed to glow.
‘sean – you are real!’ the leader said, laughing with joy. ‘we have come to free you. we believe you can free us all.’