BBU application - response by Bainsdrookel

Unpromted contribution

As I awoke I stood on a great plain, canyons snaking through the terrain like wrinkles on the ancient face of the earth scoured by the elements. A harsh wind blew on my face as I turned it about to face a thing that I would never have expected.
From a depression in the earth, an immense tower of stone rose at least a mile above the surface. It looked nothing like the human edifices of steel and glass I was accustomed to from my urban childhood, save for the shape. Trees and shrub were growing from cracks in the rock, the monolith seemingly indifferent to such minor aesthetic impurities. At the top, at the very edge of my vision, a glint of light. A window?
As I gazed slack-jawed at the view, I noticed going towards the foot of the tower a group of bipedal creatures. They walked with the gait of great apes and were covered in thick beige fur. As they reached the foot of the tower they immediately started climbing the great column. Their ascent bore little resemblence to how humans would climb. Seemingly bearing little regard for their own lives, they would leap and weave upwards on the stone, confident that they would find grip, and scrabbling for hand-holds as little stones would rain down from their effort.
I knew in my heart that I would have to enter this citadel to have it relinquish its secrets. Though I did not know why. How had I gotten here in the first place?
Would I have to climb onto the backs of these brutes to get to the top? Or was there another way in?
Looking about the base of the tower, one patch looked unnaturally square. A door, perhaps?
I began my approach.

Prompted contribution

Prompt

Response

For a moment my reverie seemed to break. I wanted to tell him that every moment is the beginning for all others, that this was just one of those. A drop in the ocean of time. To ask him whether he said that to all the girls. Instead I kept silent. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I became acutely aware of the clothes on my skin, the position and shape of my hands as they wrapped around the glass.

I took a sip from the lemonade. It was cheap. Probably from concentrate. Cheap stuff bought in bulk from a big distributor, produced in nameless factories by nameless people I would never meet. In the clarity and awareness of that moment I could perceive my mind going down a rabbit hole of connections and immaterial consequences, all trying to distract myself from the intensity of this strange and yet all-so-familiar feeling that I knew Ralph from a different life, a different existence so far removed from this one that it must have been someone else entirely.

“I’m packed and ready.” I finally say. My heart was pounding. Just a hint of pulse coming through my voice as I spoke. “Where are we going? Will my father be there?”

“Oh my dear, the revolution would not be long for this world if we just gave our locations away willy-nilly. You’re going to have to trust me and simply follow. Please hand me your phone.”

With only a moments hesitation I pulled out the thin black object. For a brief moment I wondered what I was giving up about myself. Of myself. What that device knew about my hopes and dreams. How that thing was part of my mind. He took out the chip inside.

And then the rectangle was flying out of his hand. Around it turned, the sun reflecting on it as it sailed out under the ever-watching sky and down into the waves below.

“Let me tell you about your father.”

The reception room on one side of the mansion is a strange boxy L-shape, seemingly some afterthought in the mind of the architect. On one end a narrow secondary kitchen made to prepare - I dunno, hors d’oeuvres or something equally pretentious - wedged between the balcony and the rooms besides. The kitchen leads on the other end into the atrium, a white cubic enclosure that is the heart of the building. It’s a privilege to have lived out my adolescence in a one-of-a-kind house, its quirks long faded into the background of grantednesses taken.

It is also moms’ favorite room and its peculiar Feng Shui is ever subject to her dynamic personality, having gone through many a reinvention over the last three decades. Her persistence in continuously transforming into new wondrous forms is key to how she is the love of dad’s life and the matriarch of the family.

I look up from my breakfast cereal to see her marching in, emanating vigor from her afternoon massage. My mother is small of frame, a contrast to the strength within. Her hair is grey, not yet white and her figure is marked by the tidal struggle between her disciplined training regimens and her love of life and food and wine.

“I have fired my purchaser,” she proclaims. Her words have that familiar tone of pride and freshness and renewal.

“Ian has tracked down and snagged so many wonderful pieces for us over the last few years, but our tastes have grown apart. Out with the old, in with the new.”

I look at the wall where one of the paintings hang. It is a classic, if unremarkable forest landscape that has whimsically been invaded by two trolls skillfully painted over by some comical postmodernist dilettante. The trolls appear to be attempting to escape the frame they are imprisoned in. On the wall directly besides a third troll has been painted by my mother. It has a longing look on its face as it looks towards its friends inside.

“I suppose the trolls will soon be united in oblivion then,” I say. “I’ll miss them.”

She leans her against the kitchen counter top that protrudes awkwardly into the atrium.

“I have half a mind to donate them to the kindergarten and transplant their little friend along with them,” she beams. “Or maybe I could redo him on the f…”

Her smile disappears. “On the fr….” She stutters, reaching out and steadying herself on the counter. An icy feeling runs up my spine. Something is wrong. Mom is never at a loss for words. I’m not thinking this, but some part of me knows this to be true even so.

“Mom? What is it?”

Time slows to a crawl. I’m on my feet even as her legs are buckling under her.

“Mom!”

She slumps to the floor in slow motion. I rush to catch her before she can fall any further.

“What is it mom? Are you having a stroke?”

Her eyes are open, searching, full of fear. Her presence fades from her face.

“Tom!!” I yell at my cousin who’s sitting in the couch on the far side of the room, on his laptop. He looks up with widening eyes. “Call an ambulance! Right now!” He reacts.

I’m holding her body, cradling her as she once cradled me. Rocking back and forth. Not to lull; rather to somehow have my love for her spark the life back into her. My eyes are filling up. I notice that the pain in my chest has drained the breath from my lungs. I draw air back in, wanting to say something important. But like mom, words do not appear.

Instead I let out a long vocal wail, an utterance sourced from a tone resonating forwards from a billion similar sounds stretching back into deep time, expressed in the wordless language of grief and impermanence.