David-Baptiste Chirot

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. The clumsily whitewashed stone wall facing him he keeps unadorned, “the better to continue to project the unreeling spools of cinematic dreams, those visitations from the vast and various space-times of beings liminal, known and not known, familiar yet strange, a part of one and apart from one, ancestors and Nature, ghosts and gods.”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. On the walls he continues to see the tangled nests of underbrush and the matted, intermeshed and disheveled chevellure of a rhizomatic abundance of continuously, sinuously intersecting and interweaving lines. And, through these, with a remarkable clarity, to see the startling whiteness of a kind of stone which appears soft yet one knows intuitively must be hard, in which are incised neat rows of an intriguing and tantalizing hieroglyphic script.

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. Sitting up straight in the hard narrow bed, leaning back against the cracked headboard, he lights his day’s first cigarette. “To salute the morning with an offering of fire and smoke, a burnt offering in thanks for the visible return of the Imperturbable Eye, for its allowing one to behold its presence which during the night it conceals. For though one does not then see it, it sees one continually. For—'one cannot hide from that which never sets.'”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. Staring through the curling smoke he permits himself “a rapid, staccato burst of laughter, shards of automatic weapon fire amid the silence of the enmeshed lines and the scripts emerging from the tombstone whites . . . and putting a stop momentarily to the inflation and floridity which he feels invading his 'writings,' those spontaneous combustions of the conflagrations of thought.”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. The hieroglyphs are drawing closer through the matted nests and tangled hairs of the undergrowths, displaying with ever more austerity and clarity the clean and precise lines of their incisions, and, judging by the shadows cast at angles inside a number of them, their depths also. El Colonel “feels his eyes move among these depths as inside quarries, ascending and descending the sheer smooth surfaces of the interiors of the hieroglyphs with the audacity of the mountain climber and the supernatural skills of the dreamer. As he swings out and across the chasms, rappelling and arising, dancing and dangling, he feels himself bathed in the coolness of stones rarely heated by direct sunlight. He feels rather than hears a hum that emerges from the rock, and senses that it continually modulates, not only with his own movements, but with the movements of time. The humming is as of insects in nature and as of engines across distant plains. It stokes the imagination with visions of storms coming from immense vistas from across stupendous expanses of space and time; storms borne by winds that are felt ahead of even their rapid approach, as the first slender shivers of a coming coolness. Then comes a rushing, a flooding of all the senses, through an opening in time into the spaces of vision and from there into the chasms and quarries of the hieroglyphs, and from there into the spaces of the badly whitewashed room, and from there into his eyes and from there into, deep into, deep down into his very being.”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. His senses and being “flooded by this storm stoked and ignited by the humming within and between rock faces in the labyrinths of letters seen through the rhizomatic scrawls and meshes of underbrushes and disheveled hair, found in the unspooling cinema of the white washed wall, itself the continuation into the waking state of a film originating in dream . . . Asking oneself if it is not that readers and writers 'inhabit writing' as is so often said, but that it is writing, even an unknown writing emerging from dreams into the light of the whitewashed cinematic walls, that it is writing which inhabits the writer, the reader, writing that comes from outside, a storm belonging to no one, 'like a thief in the night.'”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. Staring through the smoke at the cinema unspooling on the wall, the focus of his vision shifts to the smoke itself, with its own writings in air forming, drifting, disappearing, an action “against the backdrop of the scrawls and ever nearer drawing hieroglyphic labyrinths. This writing that has emerged and fills being with its storms and writhing, rhizomatic speeds, he sees beginning to permeate all substances, so that wood grains and dust particles are writing, the smells of stone dust are writing and the light and sounds through the open windows are writing, the writings of insects and birds, of twigs’ shadows and the silhouettes of mountains. The continual movement of a myriad million scripts flowing he feels also flowing in the blood in his veins, in the electric impulses of the nerves, and in the sift flight of thoughts, of associations, flashes of memories and the steady humming of this ever present storm emitting signals . . . ”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. The birds singing just before the dawn are joined now by others and the smell of coffee brewing mixes with the white stone dust scuttering and drifting through corridors and rooms. “As the first pale light of day grows stronger, the cinema of the white washed wall begins to fade, and as its meshes and labyrinths slowly vanish, the movements of shadows traverse the cracks in the wall, the ridges and sworls in the paint. Moving from night to day, from dream to waking, from images to shadows, from labyrinths to cracks, the writing continues . . . ”

El Colonel wakes up from dreaming. From down the hall comes, along with the smell of coffee, the muffled sound of voices gathering, of feet moving on the time worn stone floors. “As the Heroic Patrol assembles to eat down the hall, he quickly and quietly dons the neatly folded uniform draped on the wooden rail at the foot of the bed, splashes his face with water from the chipped enamel basin, throws wide the windows to the cool morning air and stands at attention facing the whitewashed wall, carefully examining his shadow . . . ”

El Colonel permits himself another burst of staccato laughter, “as he carefully takes up his military beret and observes his shadow put it on, adjust it, and give it a final jerk into place . . . “ The staccato burst becomes a spasm as El Colonel “employs all his considerable restraint in not collapsing into full bodied laughter, and utters aloud to the unfeatured figure before him on the bright white washed wall—
Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass,
That I may see my shadow as I pass.”

El Colonel “reflects as he puts on his reflecting aviator sunglasses, how he, unlike Shakespeare’s Richard, prefers to remain in the shadows behind the reflecting glass, in which it is the others who see themselves. While he reflects in shadowed tranquility on their thwarted encounter with himself, they are forced to observe themselves observing themselves, knowing that he is observing their responses to this overexposure of their selves and self-consciousness.”

El Colonel gives a last look at his shadow from behind the aviator glasses, turns and walks to the door, hesitates one last moment, and before exiting reflects, “to be a shadow whose only features are reflecting eyes . . .”

El Colonel walks down the white washed corridor punctuated by large crude windows cut in stone walls, observing the movements of his shadow among the scuttering and drifting stone dust, the eddies of spores floating in from the fields and forests, the scents of coffee, cigarettes and dew-damp earth. Moving through all these moving things, the aviator glasses begin to gather a haphazard assortment of particles, a crazy quilt mesh of scrawled and blotched dots and lines.

El Colonel is murmuring softly as he nears the corridor’s end, preparing to join the others . . . “Writing goes on continually . . . is writing me now as I am writing . . . a shadow whose only features are reflective eyes dotted and lined with dust and spores . . . existence written and writing . . . ”

El Colonel slows for a moment to watch a large bird take flight from the branch of a tree. “The bird, the bird’s shadow, the bird’s reflection in the glasses, and the bird seen by my eyes—four dimensions of bird, four dimensions of writing, take flight in a fifth—the dimension of time—”

El Colonel, “as if by instinct, is pulling out his revolver and taking aim at the slow, low flying bird. Once again, he is filled with a sense of revulsion at the floridity of his writing, the exaggerated mannerisms of his style. He wants to turn the staccato bursts of laughter into a single blast of the gun and see the bird fall from the sky, putting a 'stop' to the endless writing that pours forth from the storm of solitude. Better yet, he longs to tear bone by bone the bird to pieces and scatter the blood-soaked feathers across the stony ground at the foot of a small cliff to the east. And yet in this very thought he finds a writing that intrigues him—the blood soaked feathers, the stones at the base of the cliff face, the presence of insects in late afternoon heat . . . ”

El Colonel reholsters the revolver, smiling to his shadow seen through the dust lined and spore dotted aviator glasses. Reading this scrawled and blotched writing, he traverses the rest of the corridor in a laconic and peaceful state of mind.

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