VOD Review: The Dark Tapes (2017)
1 day ago
An ashy tree, lifeless with life, stands as it does every day, collecting dust stirred by shiftless breezes. Sidewalk blocks endlessly imitate one another. Stretches of ordinary cement, shaded in ordinary light gray, are veiled by soiled reminders of footfalls. The sky is barren canvas pressing down upon the stillness.
Eroded sky, at last, becomes again The Heavens – black clouds layer above in deep dimensions as if the sky itself is unfolding its thick fingers, capturing rain in soft cupped hands. From skilled fingers lightly parted, rain sprays the sidewalks in patches. Through disheartened hands, rain escapes in big drops to dot the thirsty cement in splotches. As palms hasten to bury bleary eyes, the rain slips suddenly –pouring rain stains the walkways an angry grey.
The dispirited world beneath is overspread by a blanket of cloudburst. When the rain sweeps through the trees, bringing animated dance to sleeping leaves, all is imbathed in elemental purity – awakened by Nature’s virginal lamentation yet overwhelmed by its fierce restoration.
From Midnight’s throne come fistfuls of rain. Black trees wink in flashes of illuminated silence, and quail beneath voiceless shouts of thunder. Trees bow to intense winds borne from the eager lips of Spring.
Under hot sun, leaves shiver as cold raindrops roll down their slick breasts, dripping to a scorched mask where tiny rivers of cool tears descend in soundless exploration.
From sultry sun come splashes slapping down the trunks, softening piles of crunchy corpses on the wet ground below. When fainting autumn sun at last comes cold, rain slips across mirrored branches to taste frozen winter thorns.
And when the rain is gone, gathered weightlessly in wind-puffed pillow, the world stands straight again – brushing moistened sleeves with flick of hand as the pursed lips of Wind soften to weary yawn. The sky folds within itself once more as glistening leaves softly flapping flit past downcast eyes to the sodden earth restored.
The coffee was strong and too hot, but David drank it when his mother insisted. She was telling him that he needed sleep. The coffee, she said, would not keep him awake. She had carefully chosen the right kind. His head was hurting and she could tell.
It was Midnight, but his mother was straightening his house. David decided to go to sleep. He climbed into his bed and slept a long, dreamless sleep. When he awoke, the sun was shining through a crack beneath his window shade. He did not hear any sounds from the depths of the house and determined that his mother had left. When he entered the kitchen, the linoleum had been scrubbed clean and his dishes were stacked neatly within the cabinets. On the table were blue place mats. They were like the ones at his mother’s house.
David dallied as long as possible in the kitchen. He inspected his cupboards and refrigerator. There were frozen, homemade soups in the icebox. He placed one of the plastic containers in the microwave and thought about brushing his teeth. His fear of the bathroom, he decided, was real. He thought about the bathroom as he brewed coffee, drank it, and rinsed the cup. He set the clean mug and soup bowl in the empty dishwasher.
His eyes were normal in the mirror. The walls were empty. He heard only the usual sounds of the bathroom. When he was in the shower, David noticed the smells. He could smell the soap before he had picked it up and before he had wet it. The shampoo in its bottle made his nostrils flair. The toilet water, too, had a strong odor. It smelled like he was sick and heaving over it—-but he was in the shower and the lid was closed.
[Can I dream in the daylight?]
He sat on the couch with his too-long hair drenched and clinging to his face in wet chunks. He was shuddering and naked. He was cold and he had left the towel in the bathroom. His strong, callused hands were trembling on his thighs. David considered calling his mother. He picked up the phone, dialed, and then easily replaced the receiver. She would not understand.
[Who dreams all the time?]
The door was knocking. He could hear it, but he could not move. David was tired, and he was unclothed on the living room floor. The carpet itched his nose. He was too nervous to scratch it. After some time of sitting, he had decided that even his bedroom, next to the bathroom, was unsafe. It was almost dark in the room, lit only by the yellow streetlights outside. David was unsure how long he had been on the floor. He heard a key crunch into the lock and the soft sound of the door push open. He heard his mother thank someone, probably his landlord from next door.
She was bending over him and he could smell the artificial flowers dabbed on her neck. He heard her nails click the buttons as she dialed the phone. David didn’t care what she thought now. She had placed a warm, brown blanket over him and he was comfortable. He pulled the corner of it under his head and his nose ceased to itch. The knock of her thick heels on the kitchen floor, and then the soundless foot vibrations to follow, told David his mother was nearing the back of the house. She was using his bathroom. He considered calling out to her. She would be afraid of a place where she could smell and see and think and hear like she was in a dream. If she doesn’t come running out in fear, he thought, does that mean my bathroom is just a bathroom?
The washcloth was rough and hot. She had wet it and rung it out before placing it against his forehead. His mother seemed impatient. She was waiting for someone. She had not spoken when she came out of the bathroom, but he knew she had been in there a long time.
David sat on his bed. He wanted to protest when his mother was packing his clothes, but he did not. He wanted to ask her what she had seen in the bathroom, but she was unusually silent, and he did not want to disturb her. When the moving people came, they took his couch and lamps. They pulled the carpet from the wood floor. He watched his mother direct traffic and thought about all the strangers walking over his floors. He chewed his fingernails and the skin on the sides of them.
He slowly unpacked his belongings in his bedroom at his mother’s house. He unwrapped a shoe from wrinkled newspaper. She had wrapped everything. It was dark, and his mother was asleep in her bedroom. He could hear her deep, calm breathing through the wall. He could not remember what it was like to sleep like that. He decided to ready himself for bed, but he could not find his toothbrush. He flipped through the boxes on the floor. All were empty. As he sat on the edge of the bed, David found that he had not unpacked his shampoo, his razor, or his soap. There were no bathroom supplies.
He realized his mother had forgotten to pack in the bathroom.
While water rained on the empty tub, David studied his eyes in the misty mirror. They were fine. They were familiar. He reached into the small closet to the left of the sink and removed a towel. When he glanced back at the mirror, he saw a spider reflected on the opposite wall. He twisted around.
Exaggerated and dreamlike, the spider moved up the gray tiles of the shower stall. It was sliding in slow motion and David began to feel that they were both captured in invisible molasses. Time ran at one second to every three ticks of the clock. As he watched it, David at once felt an urgency to rid the clean, smooth tiles of the spider. It slowly climbed across white valleys between gray plateaus like car tires crossing illuminated lines on a black night. David was transfixed. He could not move to kill it.
Suddenly, David became aware of the room. His sense began to reverberate with the urgent hum of the toilet, the piercing squeak of the floor, and the resounding whisper of the spider’s phantasmal legs sliding up the tiles. The sound of water drops falling in the sink pounded in his ears. To David, the dripping faucet was a cannon blasting fluidic dream-bombs. He pressed his palms to his ears to muffle the sounds—the water, the humming florescent light, the air moving through the room.
The spider, unmoved by the paralysis it provoked, tilted its shiny body and eyes toward David’s hand, as if sensing the potential of his fist to smash its gross existence from the wall and from his mind. David slowly raised his hand, intent now on killing the spider. Time was suspended—in the darkness of hesitation, a flicker of light caressed flesh. The spider shattered in silent explosion. Polished pieces of the spider’s body floated to the floor, winking in their descent. The spider, David realized, had been made of glass. Falling to his knees, he tried to sweep the fragments of glass into a cupped hand. He cut himself. The blood was welling into a red droplet when his mother knocked on the door.
He opened the door and stepped out. Looking down, he saw that his hand was not bleeding. His soft palm was not cut. The spot of blood on his jeans was gone. His mother was staring. She glanced into the bathroom behind him. The shower was running, but he was clothed and he was not wet. Following her gaze, David found that the bathroom was in its usual condition. The hand towels needed to be laundered, there was soap scum on the sides of the tub, he was out of bathroom cups—but there was no glass on the floor. There was no spider on the wall. The running water sounded as it should.
[Could I have been dreaming?]
When the man looked into the mirror, the small beady eyes of a rat looked back.
[I am dreaming]
He rubbed rough knuckles into his eyes and, blinking, looked into the mirror. The face was his. A long, narrow nose still jutted oddly from beneath wild eyebrows. His chin was still a hard square and his tight skin, as usual, was pale and unshaven. Cheekbones, wide and pronounced, dominated his slender face. They were two 25 cent gum balls unnaturally buried beneath his stretched cheeks. His round cheekbones were familiar. They had always been there.
Framed between his hairy brows and bulging cheekbones were the new eyes. They were black and glassy. His eye sockets and lids had adapted to their size. In a different context, in a smaller face, the eyes may have gone unnoticed. In his large face, they were impossibly small.
[I must be dreaming]
David would not panic. His rat eyes flicked about the bathroom. They worked well. The bathroom was drawn with crisp, clear lines. The tiles above the wash basin were thousands of pressed grains. He could count each particle that formed them. From across the bathroom, the grooves of a soap bar in its shower dish were clearly defined. David could not tell if his fingers were broken or if the doorknob evaded his reach, but he failed his first attempt to exit the bathroom. His fingers were useless sticks of butter. His arms were useless rubber pencils.
The door opened. He stepped from the false bathroom light to the lamp-lit hallway. It was foggy. It was under water. David realized he was seeing with his own eyes. As his gaze traveled over the white walls and hung photographs, he did not detect the cat slipping around his legs and into the bathroom. When he reached the living room, he scanned for changes. He studied the black couch, the lamps and the coffee table. He did not notice the motionless rustle of the draperies or see the cold air seep through the window cracks. When he had crossed from the bathroom to the hall, he had awoken from whatever dream he had dreamt.
The phone was ringing. David melted into his couch and pulled the phone onto his lap. It was his mother.
[I just had the strangest dream…]
His voice was nervous and she offered to come over. The thought made his head ache, but he agreed.
She bustled in the doorway with a brown bag of groceries. Each light was clicked as she walked. David was annoyed by the invasion of his mother and the light she inflicted upon the house. He took her bag to the kitchen and placed it on the counter anyway. She was immediately unpacking it and making coffee. She told him he looked tired. His eyes, she said, were red.
He could hear the sound of his mother opening and closing his cupboards as he walked down the hallway. He could see her mouth twitch and her brow crease as she discovered their contents. He could hear her unpack broccoli and apples and bottles of vitamins—things he did not have or want. He decided he would take a shower. He would forget about his dream.
Once, many years ago, when there were more undiscovered lands than found, and dragons and unicorns were not merely creatures of myth, there was a far-off land, now long-forgotten, filled with many kings and many queens. The greatest of all the kings in this land was King Gerome of Bhellington. His enchanted castle, built of strong stones by strong honest hands, perched so high atop the hill on which it stood that wispy white clouds drifted around the peaks of its three tallest towers. Vivid flowers of every hue brightened the castle's stony visage, and trickled down the hillside to the warm homes of the hardworking villagers who lived below. The villagers' tiny, well-kept cottages scattered from the castle like colorful dots as far as the eye could see, connected by tidy little dirt roads that were carved into the lush countryside.
Oh yes -- Bhellington Castle was built as nobly as the members of the royal family who lived there. However, the most envied treasure of the Bhellington family was not the magnificent castle, or even its honored king. No -- the greatest treasure of the land was Princess Mandolyn, whose grace and charm captured the heart of the kingdom and all who knew her.
Indeed, Princess Mandolyn was quite the apple of her father's eye. Even though she was dressed and groomed as handsomely as her mother, the lovely Queen Tealina, Mandolyn's strong chin and warm hazel eyes made her look remarkably like King Gerome in female guise. Despite the striking similarity between them, however, Princess Mandolyn looked every inch a princess, and a lovely one at that. A sparkling tiara sparkled upon her gleaming gold tresses, which floated gracefully down her back to curl gently at her royal waist, encircled with velvet ropes and sashes meant to match all her fine gowns. Precious rubies and sapphires winked from her wrists and fingers, but these glistening jewels paled in comparison with her great natural beauty.
Every daydreaming girl in the kingdom wished that she could be the princess, coveting her beauty and riches, while every handsome prince in the realm wished her for his bride.