The Gilded Swamp (Part 2)

THE REASON I don’t do a lot of blog essays with multiple parts is because of the tedious task of recapping the main points of the previous installment in order to bring everyone up to speed. It’s a delicate talent, and I fear I don’t possess it. Or maybe I just can’t see the swamp for the lily pads. 

“I try all things. I achieve what I can.” 

-Herman Melville 

Yes, Mr Melville, yes, yes, yes. Well then, here it goes. When we last left our “hero”: 

Suffering from a case of mental suffocation, or Daedalus Syndrome, I sought out my friend Astrakhan, the affable shaman of my neighborhood, to help lure me from my psychic impasse. After performing his assessment and realizing my case was one of the worst he’d ever seen, he suggested I go see his Uncle Linctus in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for an enhanced exorcism. Hilton Head, South Carolina, is a four-hour drive from my house. After leaving Atlanta, I realized I hadn’t been away from the city in an astounding 21 months, during which there was all sorts of madness, both natural and man-made. Oh, wretched stagnant horror!  

I feel we’re caught up. 

My car was traveling at a good clip across the rural nothingness that is middle Georgia, heading east toward Uncle Linctus’s house. Although his nephew Astrakhan had insisted he couldn’t help me with my Daedalus Syndrome, I began to suspect that his suggestion of me getting out of the city to see the master shaman in his family was his own clever contribution to my therapy. Since our minds are the interface of the outer and inner world, it seems reasonable that to mend the inner it’s sometimes necessary to shift the outer. 

As I drove along I thought about the Greek mythological figure known as Daedalus. He was an inventor, which is a fine thing to be, except Daedalus always seemed to be inventing inventions to solve the problems that his previous inventions were causing, which on one hand is brilliant and on the other hand is a complete fucking waste of time.  Maybe Daedalus is a symbol for civilization’s staggered progress. The ultimate trajectory of humanity, when all is said and done, may end up looking like a pile of yarn unspooled by a determined kitten. 

Speaking of ultimate trajectory, where the hell was I going? Astrakhan’s directions seemed to terminate at the edge of a vast everglade. Maybe the road would just dead-end at a misty swamp, forcing me to abandon my car for an old rowboat helmed by some sepulchral oarsman who ferries me through the fog to a stilted teepee surrounded by alligators in the water and vultures in the trees. After all, Astrakhan’s house, in order to emphasize his role as modern sorcerer, was affected with all sorts of unnerving decorations—bones and hides and whatnot. What would his uncle’s lair look like, the grand practitioner who’d been collecting snake skins and gypsy scalps for almost a century? 

I arrived by nightfall, and when night falls in a South Carolina swampland it hits the ground with a blind thud. I drove till the road ended, then got out and walked to water’s edge, darkness all around, like the beginning of time. Nature unaffected by humanity. I stepped carefully, not wanting to tread on a copperhead or wombat, for I could sense this was wombat country, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what a wombat was.

Then I heard it, for the first time in a long time. I heard silence, absolute silence. It’s a lovely sound, silence is. Maybe that’s why I’d felt mentally locked away for so long. I was avoiding the artificial noise. I began to emerge, in a way, and that’s when I noticed two golden orbs beneath the surface of the water. Now I was really present, as I realized I was being regarded by an alligator. Relax, I told myself, thinking that I’d heard somewhere that they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. This alligator, it seemed, had not gotten the message, as he lashed out of the water, jaws wide open, looking to take advantage of the fact that he was a superior predator and I a baffled hunk of meat standing like a fool in his backyard. And, as the razor teeth snapped at me, I realized this was the end, which leads me to my very first cliffhanger. Will I survive the attack, or am I doomed to consumption, and maybe even worse, doomed to a sequel of the sequel? 

More Alembics?