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March 26, 2018

15. Image of Control

“All good things are wild and free.”
—Henry David Thoreau

* * *

Flora Sole was a real emblem of human health and constitution. Flora was vitality. She was never ill or sick. She took care of herself. No airborne or food allergies. Her sinuses flared once and she heard things as if underwater but that lasted 36 hours. If that. And that was over three years ago.

But this was different. Alone in her tiny apartment, Flora was trying to sleep through a cold sweat, unwell, tossing and turning. Her sheets were soaked through nearly to all four corners.

She focused and told herself to get up. Find medicine. New sheets. Or sleep on the couch. Anything. She stood up and stumbled to the threshold of her bedroom and leaned her shoulder against the frame. Her head slumped. Exhaustion pulled her into the deep end and her eyelids fell together. Did she sleep? She’d never really slept standing up. Just a doze maybe. What happened? Whatever happened was not clear. She collapsed on the cold floor.

Flora woke up slowly. Her head felt pressurized and only hanging by a thread on her neck. Then her neck screamed in pain. All of her back in unison with her neck and head.

“There you are.”

She could only mumble a response of sounds. She tried to relax.

“Don’t rush anything. Take your time.” The voice was calming and assertive.

She was no longer in her studio apartment, with its bare and stifling walls. She was in pain but comfortable: she was on an institutional treatment/infirmary/hospital bed. She could hear the beeps and sounds of automated care all around, in and out of her wakefulness.

Her head turned slightly to see the voice’s owner. He wore a white lab coat. Suddenly it grew and wound up and furled above his head and around him, turning him into a white lily of bleached cotton. Petals of lab coat surrounded him and consumed him.

A nurse in turquoise became a small waterfall, the colors becoming the soft spill of cool water. The beeping was coming from birds all around, chirping and speaking. Rustling paper and other noises came from leaves clapping and rubbing hands. All around Flora was a beautiful world. The sun poured in vibrantly and opened her eyes fully to the greens, blues, yellows, oranges, and purples that shown all around. Now the world was its natural self.

Flora saw this all without question or hesitation. It was beautiful and intentional.

Her hospital bed, she saw, was nothing more than a natural mound in the soft earth around her. She rolled over to stand up and surveyed her new and wild surroundings. Flora walked in aimless circles admiring the allure and strength of the magical and colorful world.

She came across an opening in the copse of trees to a view overlooking acres and miles of endless forest. Giant and colorful birds soared across her vision with long and flowing tail feathers like whips. The trees sang the songs of arboreal zoology.

Flora sat to take in the immensity of her perspective. Her legs dangled over the edge. Her shoulders relaxed, her breathing eased, casually she soaked in her view.

I am intensely alive. My senses tingle together as one and I can feel everything happening all at once. But nothing is happening.

As she peers out, Flora feels the life of the vines take hold of her wrists. Her ankles are bound to the edge. Her eyes remain focused in the distance, unfocused.

The vision of the forest and trees flickers. The sounds of animals and nature tinges with a hollow mechanical sound. White lines cross the landscape and a fuzziness breaks through the beauty. The warm air of the thick overgrowth quickly cools to a sterile chill.

All the colors fade into a prosaic and dry gray. A cool gray with no motion or spirit.

Flora looks down at herself: seated in a chair and bound, wrists and ankles to a sturdy and immobile seat, affixed facing a screen, now black and empty and void, showing her reflection. It was all a projection. A facsimile.

Her awareness peaked when a door clanged shut behind her. Footsteps slowly and softly approached.

“What did you see, Flora? Tell me, what did you see?”

I am aware of what I have become.

The title and concept are taken from the studio album, What One Becomes by Sumac. The story is a simple exploration of identity and reality.