Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"The Tragedy of Tippy Cumber" (Part 1)

         It was a nasty couch. Once a richer shade of green, the fifteen years of sunlight altered most of it into a lifeless gray. It still served its purpose, though, which was to give its owner, Tippy Cumber, something to sit on while he ate his buttered noodles. It was during the winter months when he enjoyed his couch and noodles the most because the two worked together to foster the perfect relief from the cold workday. As a mail carrier in a suburb of Chicago, he grew to resent winter, especially when the lazy people on his route found it acceptable to leave snow and dog excrement un-shoveled between December and April. The daily mundanity of sloshing through the slop and poo gave him a certain entitlement to relish his nightly ritual of slumping onto his couch and enjoying his noodles.
         Tippy lived alone--not by choice, but by the wanton subjugation of perpetual singleness. He never allowed himself to like people, even though his workday consisted of seeing plenty of them. Everyone had their own business and their own lives, and Tippy believed none of them would care to listen to whatever he would say to them. After enduring their presence throughout the day, he found a type of solace coming home to an empty, cluttered house that reeked of day-old pizza boxes. 
         After one busy Tuesday, he prepared his buttered noodles and collapsed on his beloved couch, feeling the familiar indent of continual use. The local news was on TV, so that’s what he watched. Although he stared at the screen, he didn’t remember most of the stories; his focus was on his noodles.
         Once finished, he placed the empty bowl on the cluttered coffee table and nestled back into the couch with his feet resting on the table. The news ended after a short segment on the local animal shelter's twentieth anniversary. The Wheel of Fortune came on, and Tippy’s eyes invited the drowsiness that approached. Before the Wheel’s first spin, he had slipped into sleep. 
         The dream was ordinary at first, mixtures of realism with fantasy, but when the setting switched to his own house, it became something more. He saw himself sleeping on the couch, so he assumed he was undergoing an out-of-body-experience. Curious, he walked up to his body and touched his hand.
         The world changed: his house and body disappeared, and he now stood in a sunlit glade of oak trees. All that was left of his world was the nasty green couch, and it looked out of place in its new setting. The grass pushed itself against the couch, making it look like it had always been a part of the woods. 
         Being completely disoriented and unoccupied, he stood up and wandered in an arbitrary direction. Not far from the couch was a gravel pathway that meandered through the glade, from right to left. It tapered into a nonexistent footpath to the right, but widened as it stretched leftward. This leftward path led up a steady, gradual slope until it disappeared from view. Tippy decided on the wider option and strolled along it as it ascended the slope.
         A light breeze, warm and aromatic, rattled through the leaves and whisked through the glade. It had the power of a lover’s touch as it brushed around Tippy. He closed his eyes and welcomed its embrace, and when he opened them, a woman stood a short distance ahead on the pathway. She was the glade personified: her hair matched the hues and texture of the surrounding oaks, and the greenery of the glade seemed to be woven into her dress.
         “Hello?” he said.
         She stepped towards him as a spider taunts its entrapped prey. Her footfalls were delicate and the movements of her body accentuated her beauty with every step, and her eyes, never swaying in their gaze, were focused on Tippy as she approached. The grace of her movements beckoned Tippy’s gaze with an abrasive allure, forcing him to goggle. His insides were undone; his heart lurched and his stomach sloshed. His feet grew numb, causing him to sway. He rubbed his eyes, partly due to disbelief and partly from the tears that they had secreted.
         “Welcome to Sun Land,” the woman said. Her voice was potent enough to be tasted; it was sweet, like vanilla. “Are you Tippy?”
         “Tha’s me.” His voice was loose, a fumbled mix of sound and breath. “How d’ya know me?”
         “I’ve been waiting for you.” She stopped a few steps in front of him. Her face mirrored the same uncomfortably evocative form of beauty as her movements. “My name is Mera, and I’m yours.”
         “Wha...?” His voice cracked.
         “Will you join me on a walk?”
         “Anywhere. You’ll find something beautiful anywhere in Sun Land.”
         “Yeah, I can se--” He paused.
         “You think I’m beautiful?” she asked with a smile.
         As if the exposure of his attraction wasn’t hard enough on his composure, her added smile brought another wave of haze into his vision. He nodded and averted his eyes, fighting a smile of his own.
         “Where should we go?” she asked.
         Tippy looked around, and pointed to the right, where the glade transitioned to a field.
         “Ah, the bluffs” she said, extending her hand to Tippy. “Let’s go.”
         He took her hand, and a wave of warm tremors coursed through his arm and into his body. The sensation seemed to give added strength to his body. He bit his lip, pursed a grin and turned his face from her in an attempt to relish the fervor. 
         They silently meandered through the oaks and came to the edge of the glade, where a large, fallen bur oak blocked their path. It’s branches snaked in all directions and formed a tight web of branches. Instead of avoiding it, Mera lead Tippy right into the tangled branches, which forced her to release his hand. The moment their hands separated, Tippy’s knees buckled and he stumbled to the ground as if a giant weight was placed on his shoulders.
         “Easy!” Mera said, extending her hand to help him up.
         His strength returned as she grasped his hand and hoisted him to his feet. With a quick smile, she turned away and let her hand fell from his. His strength left again, but this time there was a cavernous ache, as if his bones squirmed for relief.
         He followed her through the branches while watching her body as it twisted and ducked through the maze. They surmounted the trunk, and meandered through the branches on the opposite side until they emerged into an open field that laid at the base of three giant bluffs. Tippy ignored the scenery and immediately grabbed her hand, relieved to feel his strength return. She grinned at him, as if she knew his newfound need of her, then tugged at his hand as a signal to follow her. 
         As they approached the bluffs, they kept their hands enjoined, even though the constant pressure of their interlocked fingers had numbed them. They talked about the simple pleasures of life--of trees, the sounds of birds, the tastes of food, the various forms of love. 
         “Are you married?” she asked. Her voice continued to leave the taste of vanilla in his mouth.
         “Never even dated.”
         She smiled and said nothing.
         “Nothing...I’m just...surprised.”
         “Really?” He leaned forward, searching her face for more information.
         Their eyes met for a brief moment before she looked away, but it was enough for him to catch a curious glint in her eyes.
         “I love this place,” he said, still looking at her.
         “Doesn’t it just erase all the turmoil,” she said, “all that is wrong with life?”
         Tippy said nothing as he watched an eagle soar alongside the face of the central bluff. A gust of wind wafted the scent of the sun-heated grass into their faces. “It’s perfect,” he said.
         The longer they walked, the more Mera eased into Tippy’s mind like the gradual onslaught of high tide. He shrugged off all thoughts of doubt and confusion about her and the peculiar strength her touch brought him.
         Once they came to the base of the central bluff, she led him along a small trail that wound around the backside of the hill before it traversed its flanks. The trail narrowed, which made Mera release Tippy’s hand again. His knees hit to the dirt, and he threw out his hands to catch himself from falling over completely. Mera turned around, but Tippy whipped his foot in front of him in time to pretend that he was merely tying his shoe. He offered her a weak smile, then finished his tying act before following her up the trail.
         The climb was unbearable for Tippy. His strength didn't recover, and the mystery of Mera and what her touch did to him was now getting harder to ignore. Still, all he thought about during the ascent up the traversing trail was grabbing her hand again.
         After they reached the top and stood admiring the view, Tippy grabbed Mera's hand, expecting to feel his strength return. The instant he grabbed it, he woke up on the little green couch, and the Wheel of Fortune was on its final spin. 
         No! It was all a stupid dream! He turned the TV off and, with a grunt, stood up and grabbed his empty bowl. Good dreams are the worst. He lumbered into the kitchen and placed it in the sink. As he reached to turn the water on, a knock came from the front door.
         Must be the new toaster I ordered. He returned to the living room and peeked out the window. It was Cru, his neighbor. Although both bachelors with common interests, he and Tippy seldom interacted; they seemed to have an unspoken rule of mutual avoidance, grounded in ignorance. 
         Tippy opened the door. “Hey, Cru. What can I do for--”
         “Tippy, we have little time. May I come in?”
         Tippy frowned, then stepped aside to let Cru enter. He closed and locked the door while Cru paced in the living room.
         “Get two glasses of water,” Cru said, pulling a bottle of pills from his pocket.
         Reserving his questions, Tippy silently obeyed his neighbor’s request. He returned with the glasses of water and handed one to Cru, who was now sitting on the nasty little couch. 
         “I’ll explain everything at the glade,” Cru said, throwing the pills into his mouth.
         How does he know about the glade?
         Cru took a long draught of water and swallowed the pills. “It’s about Mera,” he said.
         Tippy’s feet went numb again. Was it not a dream? 
         Cru collapsed on the couch and his eyelids shut before Tippy could clarify how Cru knew the details of his dream.
         Tippy paused, holding the pills in front of him. His wariness of the pills’ effects was trumped by his curiosity, so he placed the pills in his mouth and swallowed them with water. The world blurred faster than he anticipated, and Tippy barely reached the nearby armchair before he also drifted into sleep. 
         The moment his eyes closed, the house transformed into the glade. As with the couch, he awoke still sitting in the armchair, but the nasty couch was nowhere in sight. After standing up and surveying the glade, he spotted the pathway and joined it. He neared a large oak, whose branches overhung the trail, and the familiar figure in green leapt out from behind it.  
         “Hey, Tippy!” Mera said with her usual smile. “You’re back early.”
         Tippy smiled back. “Yeah, my neighbor gave me--”
         Something whizzed from the left and struck her in the side. It was a wooden arrow with gray fletching. Without a sound, she swayed to the right and collapsed against a nearby oak. As her legs lost their strength, her hands ripped and scraped at the bark in a futile attempt to stay upright. 
         “No!” Tippy howled as he ran to help her. 
         She slumped to the ground in a quiet moan, and after a slight twitch, laid motionless. Tippy crouched beside her and shook her. “Mera!”
         Blood rushed to his head and his hands trembled. He stood up, pivoted and glared into the glade, searching for the attacker.
         As if on cue, a man emerged from behind a thicket with a primitive bow in hand; it was Cru.
         “You!” he said, propelling towards him.
         Cru made no attempt to prepare for Tippy’s assault: his arms hung at his sides, and his face was expressionless.
         Tippy lowered his head and lunged at him. While he was in midair, Cru sidestepped, letting Tippy crash into the thicket.
         “Tippy,” he said, holding out his hand, “enough horse play. The guys are waiting and they prefer not to linger.”
         Horse play? Seriously? Tippy scrambled to his feet, clenching his fist.
         Cru stepped back, nocked an arrow, pulled the bowstring and pointed the tip at Tippy’s chest. “We have no time to delay, a half hour’s all we got.”
         Tippy froze and stared at the arrowhead. “What?” he asked with flared nostrils.
         “Mera. She’ll be awake in a half hour, and she won’t be happy.”
         Tippy’s face loosened slightly, but he kept his fist tight. “She’s not dead?”
         “Of course not. She’s immortal, like her father,” Cru said, lowering his bow and un-nocking the arrow. “His name is Kurr, and he’s our enemy.”

-----------> For Part 2 click here <----------

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