(poem and fictional short, both entitled "Companions")
There was a woman
weeping in my dreams
I tried to console
her with words but
like wind to flame
only stoked intensity
in her cries.
who the woman is.
why she cries.
Things I have done,
haven't done, or never will do.
Images from my waking dreams,
carried over into sleep,
emerge into morning light.
I long once more
for dreams, to have this
live there, where nothing needs truth.
I wake to the sound of buzzing window blinds. I keep my eyes closed, and listen to the night surrounding. Nothing but a breeze through the fields. It is dark, for the moon is in its final waning stage. I lie on my stomach, my hands underneath the pillow supporting my head. Almost no light sifts through the windowpanes, and even though when I open my eyes I am good as blind, I can feel that I'm not alone. It's that inexplicable sensation one gets just before discovering they're being stared at by a stranger.
After a moment my sight adjusts and I see a form seated in the pea-green, antique chair with the stitched flower patterns, the one in the corner of the room, next to the bed. It makes no sound; it is too dark to see any features save for a black outline which looks like a human body. No face, no eyes, like if only a shadow occupied that space. A sudden panic makes an icebox of my chest; whatever this is, surely it knows I've stirred. Surely, as I do, it hears my beating heart, progressively louder like the engine inside an oncoming train.
I think of who I have harmed in the past, what acts I have committed that might explain this visitor. I get the same answer I would've had I asked the question when I was a boy of eight, hiding underneath the covers to evade the clutches of evil witches and closet zombies. I can think of nothing I've done, no past transgressional path that would lead me here; I feel orbs of sweat gather on my brow, wrapped in a swath of terror. Suddenly, my comforter seems to be choking me. I groan, as if sleeping, and push the covers down in a theatrical manner. Oh, to return to a dream. I roll over, face my back towards the figure in the chair.
"You may ask five questions for which I will provide an answer," says a voice behind. "All things I do know."
I cannot distinguish the voice as man or woman; it is not hostile, but seems to lilt from the corner of the room like a breeze.
Oh Jesus. Jesus. This is it. This is God, or the devil; or an alien. Maybe a ghost. Oh, how I've wanted to see a ghost! Then another chilling thought settles: Maybe I'm dead. I almost giggle, clenching my jaw so as not to, underneath the threshold in this house of no return. No.
"I am dreaming," I say aloud.
"I can assure you that is not the case," replied the figure in the chair. "Four questions remain."
"What?!" I swing my legs off of the bed and plant my feet firmly on the floor and sit up to face the voice. "That wasn't even a question!"
"Oh, but it was," replied the figure in the chair, "for you said it not with conviction but with wonder, and I have assured you that you are not dreaming. Four questions remain, Thomas."
It calls me by the name my mother gave me. I grip the edge of the bed on either sides of where I sit.
"Are you aware of the paradox of being told that I am not dreaming by someone who very well could be a character in my dream?"
This elicits no response from the figure in the chair, not a stir. Quickly I realize my mistake, and not wanting to waste another question, blurt out:
"I mean, are you God?"
"Possibly you'd be best served by better questions, ones which require more than a 'yes' or a 'no' on my part, lest all your questions be spent with little gained," replied the figure in the chair.
An omniscient herald in the form of a wise-ass.
"So you're not God?"
"I am neither of you nor of God," replied the figure in the chair.
"God exists, then?"
"In many forms," replied the figure. "You have two questions remaining."
"How do you know-"
"Before you continue, remember that knowledge of my origin is not what you seek, nor is it important or relevant to our cause. Please trust that I know all things. Take that as you would the knowledge that your name is Thomas Xavier Forray III. I am here because you have been searching for me all of your life. Sooner I would have come had there not been multitudes of others who have also been searching; thus it is my duty to be a traveler. See, we are both Searchers, Thomas: you seek knowledge, and I seek those whom it is necessary to bestow knowledge upon. You have warranted this not by your own doings, or by your intelligence or status. Simply, if one searches long enough, I am able to find them. You have asked, and continue to ask, the necessary questions."
The figure in the chair doesn't respond immediately. I start a ticker in my head, and reach thirty-three.
"You've asked if God exists," replied the figure in the chair. "You've asked-"
"I asked that just before and you didn't give a fair answer."
"Ah, but it was indeed fair. The answer I gave you was all you needed," replied the figure in the chair, and with barely a pause, continued on:
"You've inquired about the origins of this world, and about the universe; you've asked of the significance of death; you've asked about intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxies you've perceived. You've asked about the nature of your race, of good and of evil, and have traversed the space in between. You've asked yourself who you are, and if you have a purpose. You've asked yourself if you've ever known. You've asked about the existence of the Great Watcher.
"You've asked all of these things to yourself, and sought out the answers for yourself, often in the confines of this very bedroom, aloud, and silently, whispered and wrenched, with tears, with anger, with hope, and despair, and despite all conventions both modern and ancient, you have been unsuccessful in resting at a conclusion which satisfies."
No more words come from the figure, and years pass. I sit slumped with head in hands. Seasons change. Empires fall. There is vast rebirth.
One morning, as a blade of sunlight begins to skim the eastern horizon, I straighten up and ask:
"Will you answer the questions?"
In a whisper, the figure in the chair, unmoving, replies, "Yes."
Just then, the window blinds rustle, mimicking a rattlesnake just before strike. I look out towards the dawn. After returning my gaze to the old chair, no alarm do I feel when it is discovered that once again, I am alone.