The arendt files, p.25
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       The Arendt Files, p.25

           Ivan Rosemblatt
 
Leskov had become a puppet on a string as they moved and contorted his body into virtually any position and shape they wanted. At times he he felt himself an acrobat doing somersaults in mid air, (something he had wanted to do since seeing a circus in Minsk as a boy.) an emperor on a throne or an eagle soaring forward through the sky (even though of course there was no forward). He was stretched out, pulled to the extreme of his bodies tolerance, the smaller ropes attached to his fingers and toes creating subtle variation in tensions that caused his spine to pop, crack, and adjusted in ways that he had never experienced before.

  The space above him was brightly illuminated with the pink and blue hues of sunrise. He drifted like a swimmer in a lake floating on his back, staring up at the sky. After a time the lights shifted from diffuse pastel shades of dawn to bright focused light blue of a summer dessert. Turned over to a prone position he was lowered into the most complex geometrical pattern he had ever seen, his body's image bizarrely repeated in endless shifting reflexions. All this led him to think that that what he had been told was a nearly perfectly smooth mirrored surface below was actually made up of smaller articulated mirrors. Despite his studies in optics he simply had no idea how it worked. Then there was the question of how they were able to turn him from supine to prone while attached to cables? He reasoned they would have to have a mechanism where the ropes could pass over and under each other without tangling. He started to work out some possible solutions but realized it was too complex a problem to try to figure out with he constant stimulus.

  Elements were added and subtracted. At times he was in total darkness and silence, at others he swirled in a beautiful chaos of color and pattern. Cool and warm air flowed at him from different directions. At one point real images of the world, roads, mountains, cities, their own cave, were projected then layered on top of the abstract ones. The strata of activity never stopped and at one point they had him running suspended in the air, “Now they are just playing with me. This is not science, it is entertainment, it is a joke. Does it really matter what would be wrong with a joke like this, would it be any different from the joke of god?” He started to laugh and was unable to stop for a long while.

  His sense of time began to warp and bend. He knew that this particular disorientation was by design; there were the cyclical alterations from the colors of a sunrise to a plummeting into night darkness, twinkling stars all around, his body in a side posture his arm tucked under his head as a pillow (“how are they able to position me this way?”). But the regularity of the counterpoint of dawn and sunset, night and day, was methodically subverted and diffused into a chaos of disorder. He knew that he slept deeply but had no idea for how long. How had he ever had a sense of time?

  He became unsure whether the images appearing around him were being mechanically projected or were arising directly from his mind. They looked like slides passing through a projector but he had spent countless hours preparing slides and transparencies assisting his thesis supervisor, what he was seeing now was completely different.

  His body became more and more comfortable, his limbs warm, thick, fluid, connected and solid, alive, Stranger still he had begun to feel phantom limbs. Four arms instead of two, or that his right and left leg a had switched sides, or more bizarrely still, that he had one right leg and two left legs facing opposite directions. Any attempt to return to a stable familiar image of his body was thwarted by the multiple reflexions on the mirrored surface. When he attempted to close his eyes and ignore the images his body would be moved, disrupting his attempt to re-establish ordinary parameters.

  Then, he started to splinter. “Is my mind, myself, really this fragile? ” It wasn’t just his limbs, his core, his mind, started to come apart. Eyes, ears, nose mouth, taste, sight, they weren’t anywhere in particular, nothing had a location. He would be allowed calm to regroup and then be plunged into another round of manipulation. This repeated and his sense of disorientation grew. He experienced himself as a presence and knew that what he had always felt so certain of, himself and the “real world”, were all constructed, held together in his mind, and mind was only a word for what he really was.

  “What am I really, if I am holding everything together? Where did all of this come from?” He had wanted to leave the world for such a long time. But there was nowhere else to be, no escape. He wanted to feel the ground again, be back in his small room, on his cot, covered in heavy blankets so that he could just disappear. He felt sorrow, sadness, flush through him, his body spasmed and shook as he started to sob.

  Memories rose up from deep inside, not as pictures in front of him, he was in them, moving through entire chains of events in a moment. He was a child again, at his mothers breast, sucking and swallowing. When he swallowed, there were no chunks or sections, it was one flowing wave of sensation and warmth down his whole body and he could feel the milk settle in his stomach with a soft glow. She sang to him and rocked his body. It was ecstasy.

  Then a horrible static, a dark interference, jagged edged force hit. The black lightning bolt, edges of brilliant purple and sickly olive green separated him from her, interrupted the glorious flow of liquid. He choked and spit up in response. She moved him from her breast and now he was resting on her shoulder and she was patting his back, too hard, too fast. He wailed, shrieked in indignant rage, pushed away from her. She was all wrong now. He could tell that she was scared and he did not like it. She tried to pull him in close, to get back to where they were a moment ago, but the barrier was still there between them and he didn't know how to bridge it. Then he was scared too. He felt a force behind him, a heat, hard, immensely big, and indifferent to him.

  Rough hands grab him under the armpits and lift him into the air, feet dangling. He knew that he was taking him to be alone. He was lifted higher up into the air, the air- his body was being shaken by the cables, brought out of the scene for a moment, he was stretched out flat like a sheet of glass, stable and still for a long while, without images or thoughts, not asleep yet not awake. The tension pulling him outward was eased, the space around him went pitch black.

  He was a older now, on the floor in the living room. His mother sat in her armchair knitting. He was on the lovely old rug, it's geometric pattern, yellow arrow points, oblique repeating hollow rectangles of teal; soft, pleasing to the eye, slightly itchy on his legs, but not too bad. They were by the fireplace. the air, the floor, everything was already warmed, settled.

  He held a toy, a painted wooden horse with wheels on the bottom, a roan. They had been to a parade. He had seen the horses and shrieked glee. She had bounced him up and down on her hip. Soldiers had marched by with their buttons shining but it had been the horses that made him happy. He didn't know how long after his mother had appeared with this toy and he had been walking around with it for days now, sleeping with it by his side. Again there was a sound, a static, a pounding interrupting rhythm. Fear and anger. It was getting closer. Then there was shouting, and heavy steps approaching the front door.

  His mother had stopped knitting, she clenched the needles in her fists and started to rise. The knob of the door was moving and then he heard the keys jingling and swearing. She let the knitting drop and moved to pick him up. The door swung open and his father lurched in almost falling. Dark pants, white shirt, black vest half buttoned, and of course the thick wide black mustache peppered in white, he liked to touch it, it was both rough and soft. Now he took a step forward, an incoherent rage, his body tilting knocking over a small table, a vase smashed. His mother's voice scolded, “Victor, not the furniture.”

  “Yes,” he thought “it is bad to break the furniture.”

  “This is my furniture! My house!”

  “Oh, it's his.” He hadn't known that. “If it's his why is she telling him what to do with it?”

  “That's my son. You are turning him into a girl.”

  He didn't believe that was right. He did not think he was turning into a girl. How would that happen?

  “Put him down now.” His
father's right hand gathered into a fist. He felt her change underneath his hands, go soft. Support fell away as he slid from her onto the floor. “Go your room right now.” She said.

  “I want my horsy.”

  “See, he doesn't listen. He doesn't mind.”

  She froze as his father approached. Without thinking he ran a few quick steps away his mother, leaving her behind. The long arm flashed up and the back of his father's hand careened off her face, she crumbled to the floor.

  He screamed and his father turned and glared at him, and with his booming voice, “To your room.” He felt his own strength leave him, he didn''t want to leave but he was scared. A warm trickle started to flow down his leg. “If only I could kill him he thought.” The maid,appeared out of nowhere and whisked him away. He sat on her lap in her room while she covered his ears.

  Then a series of images extending out in front of him into space, like the endless succession frames. In them he saw each and every instance, all the violence and anger, the attacks, but now he wasn't in them. He saw himself, the boy, retreat back into his room leaving his mother behind, into his books and ideas, away from this overwhelming force, back away from the world, from life, thankful to find refuge. Then he grew and went off to school but the fear remained with him all the time. “I am always afraid. Every moment of everyday. Afraid of him.” His mind went silent, truly silent for the first time he could remember.

  He flashed awake, as if he had been in a dream without knowing it, “I never left my room, really.” Then again but, stronger still. As succession of appearances, of snapping to attention. Violent anger rose up from all parts of his body, locking up, pulling together in rage and strength, the strength that had pushed back, back, back. He started to kick. He tried to calm himself but it caught him, like a seizure. The feeling was in his gut, a snake, strong, fluid, sinuous, muscular. All the feeling of his bodily life concentrating in it's smooth total movement, without hesitation or fear, winding it's way up, through the murky swamp of his stomach up towards his diaphragm, where it pressed itself against a barrier there, growing in size and power as it's head opened a path.

  He was still spasming and screaming as this unrushed unstoppable force rose up, made it's way up his throat. It opened him from the bottom of his stomach through the middle of him, up into his head. He felt a well of . . . what? He saw and felt a stagnant . . . stagnant . . . what? Himself? He didn't feel it pass through his throat, a cauldron of swamp water in his stomach lit up and a line of green light like a design drawn by the burning ember at the end of a stick waved in the night air drew up to his right eye, curving down into his right nasal passage into his throat, simple and real. It shot out of him, the vomit, the bile, the accumulation, up the the cleared space without effort, in a spasm of release, a purifying stream, cleansed in an instant without thought or effort.

  “Thank G-d he thought. Thank G-d” as he took a fresh deep breath. His fractured self, memory and identity gave way to a clarity, a refocusing on a more basic presence. He was breathing, he was present, that was all he knew. He didn't need to know anything else. What a relief. He started to laugh at the humour of it all. All of his effort and machinations surrounding such a simple core. He laughed and rested as his body was taken through an abbreviated meandering recapitulations of the shapes and positions it had been given up to that point.

  He felt himself being to be lowered. Miguel and the controller were there, holding him and repositioning his body. Miguel wiped his face clean with a warm towel. He was still suspended from the cables at chest height. He looked over at Miguel's ridiculously handsome face. “You are so handsome.”

  “You are so smart.” Miguel answered.

  “I am very smart.”

  “Rapido compadre. He's coming back a little too quickly I think.” He was speaking to the controller who appeared out of the darkness pushing something akin to a dentists chair on wheels.

  “No, it's all right. I need to speak to him.”

  Leskov was looking back and forth at them both with the wild eyed gaze of a newborn or a madman. He wasn't particularly impressed by the controllers attitude. “You are too serious.”

  “Yes, yes, my friend you are right. My main weakness, too serious by a half.” The controller patted him on the shoulder as he positioned the chair directly beneath him and shouted into the darkness above “You can lower him.” He settled into the chair and the controller's face appeared hovering above him. “Don't hold it against me. I mean well and I am juggling many things in my mind right now. Miguel, would you grab me that stool?”

  Miguel disappeared for a moment and came out of the dark a stool on wheels, gave it a firm but gentle shove gliding it easily over to the controller who sat down next to Leskov, still staring wide eyed, a beatific grin on his face.

  “How are you doing?” the controller asked him this as he took his pulse.

  “That was amazing. I feel so much better.”

  “Do you remember your name?”

  “My name?” Leskov was immediately struck by how silly names are. He knew he knew his name but it seemed a terrible imposition to need to try and remember it.

  “Leskov.”

  “Yes Leskov. My friend it isn't over. I know when you volunteered you were in a desperate place and I am sure you now feel much better but I'm afraid it isn't over, I need to take you further.”

  “There is more?”

  “You will be like an astronaut. The first man to go this far.”

  “Where will I go?”

  “You will the first so you will have to tell me.”

  “Ok.”

  “You agree?”

  “Yes.”

  “Excellent. This will be slightly uncomfortable for a while. Just know that we aren't trying to hurt you. Yes?”

  “Fine, fine. Just get on with it. I am getting bored.”

  “Ha!”

  “Miguel, bring over the carts.” Miguel brough to carts, one carried simple medical supplies, gauze, a tourniquet, forceps, the other held a helmet, the size of a large curled up dog. It was complex, made of what looked like iron, polished steel, glass and gold. It had multiple layers of depth and reminded him a bit of his own machine. Miguel hooked is up to more cables hanging from above. The controller swabbed his inner the inner crook of his elbow with iodine. Leskov looked at him for a moment and then turned back to the helmet. It reminded him of mechanical armillary sphere from the early Renaissance he had seen in his youth.

  “Hook it up the the pneumatic hose and turn it on for a moment before you lift it.”

  “I thought you had already checked everything?”

  “I have. No harm checking it one last time.” Miguel reached up, grabbed the hose above his head, pulled it down and connected it into the back of the helmet. Layer inside began to shift and rotate in smooth even motions. Marble sized spheres of crystal or brass rolled through it along tracks, like roller coaster cars.

  Leskov turned back to the controller, “Bravo. It is excellent” the controller smiled and nodded to Miguel.

  “Lift it!” The cord went taught and the helmet rose. Miguel guided it back behind Leskov's field of vision. He could feel it lock into place place above him, not touching his head but casting a shadow, surrounding him and narrowing his field of view, a massive presence above.

  The controller stuck his head in front of him so that he was visible. “I need to ask you your permission to continue. Can we continue?”

  “Yes.”

  “It will be much easier if you trust me. You are going to feel a sting in your arm. We are going to giving you an injection and an intravenous drip.”

  Leskov nodded. The controller touched his hand and then moved off away from his line of vision. Nothing happened for a few seconds and then he felt the rubber tourniquet tightening around his upper arm, fingers gentle prodding for a vein, then a slight sting. Leskov was not afraid of needles but in this case he did feel the metal entering him as a foreign body, a metallic entity invad
ing him. He could almost taste it, like having a bullet, or ball bearing in his mouth. He realized that this how children probably experience such a thing. “How terrifying for them. Sad”

  As the chemicals entered him it reminded him of the place where the river meets the ocean, separate but blending, delineated but dissolving into each other. This was a strong river and it pushed itself up against him. He felt the effect as he warmed and loosened, his stomach and his legs going limp. They turned the lights off and he was plunged into total darkness. The sensation of relaxation expanded and rushed up his chest. It felt as if it were surrounding him from a distance, an indeterminate presence of darkness moving in towards his head. He could hear the low rumble of the helmet and it's moving parts. He was afraid that it would engulf him completely and that he would lose consciousness. The pitch of the machine rose higher in his ears.

  Chapter 26

 
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