Antipode. 2002. Illustration for 2001 short story, Antipode
DangerHart 2001
White wind-devils of salt spin their abrading curse against the sky. Dun-heap mountains float in the distance, uprooted by the vapored haze of mirage. The titanium desert expands beyond living ability, the rimed corporeal remains of a vast dead lake where hot convection winds shimmer across mercury waters. The landlocked sea reverberates the sun to a hammer of light sparking against a blister-white sky. Featureless beaches are heaped with putrid foams of brine shrimp carcass. Black clouds of flies lift and settle in fetid mockery of tideswell.
Waded far into the shallow sea I submerge only past my hips. The water is thick; seven times the salinity of the ocean. My skin is etched a parched white, eyes burned red, mouth brackishly pickled.
Aimless wading brings me upon a great black stone, shining darkly below the waters like a dream remembered at noon. I recognized the mythic stone, brought from another continent, brought inland by a single sailor of an age long past- twin to a sailor with another stone at sea in the vast Atlantic. These sailors had known in their twinning way when one and the other was at the whirlpool, and together they placed the stones as one. These two stones stopped the ancient whirlpool connecting the inland sea to the ocean, sealed the antipodal portal to this hellish limbo where Sirens keep their lost sailors. Inscribed upon its age-ruined surface remains the vestige of an epic poem that can only be seen when looking through the liquid-sun surface. Too bright to read with eyes open, the words are seen best in glowing afterimage branded on the red field of vision.
The lost sailors yearn for her
To breathe life back into them.
Her kisses are fountains of sweet water
And they drown
All the more desperately
Clinging to her.
The black moon pours darkness into the night, a darkness that blunts the stars to evanesce below the horizon. Water shone darker than night, dark as the black moon; the disk of sea a recurving lens of pitch that disoriented my hand from my arm, my eyes from my head.
In a night of blindness, my eyes swollen shut from salt and sun, her voice inescapable as the darkness, disembodied, close as the thick water; a voice that moved as a living force within the water, resonating my blood as though I had no skin. Her riptide arms closed around me and rolled into the depths; the terror of dissolution screamed a physical panic as pressure crushed reason to collapse deeper. Far below the shallow sea I breached the surface. I gasped in lungfulls of disoriented darkness, and a smear of milky-way spilled itself through the night and undulated lost silver droplets upon the inked sea. She floated among the stars, a dark mote in the buoyant space next to me, a space that became made of fire. Not stars, not luciferin sea-sparkles, not some noctilucian toxic jelly or plankton; it was her Song. It burned and thrummed and pushed from inside, seeing inside with unending sonar pulsation, deafening and unheard as total silence in an anarchy of immolation.
Song : humming sibilance through blood, resonating ganglia, reforming synapses, altering self from other, collapsing identity, euphoria as intention, and asking for an end of wading to sail upon the dead sea for her; a promise of signs to aid my new visionary path; she would bring me the makings of a craft.
The day. A smear of white pressing against my swollen sockets, eruptions of colors edged in the blackness of retinal collapse. Sun-bleached plastic bottles and salt-rotten cord rise to the surface around me, and I lash the emerging flotsom with mechanical zealotry. My delirious craft should have sunk, but the dead sea pushes with a rigored strength. By day’s end I float, just nearly float, laying quietly as death upon the submerged wreck through the everlasting lull, a condemned waiting.
Long weeks burn across the basin, compressed to a singular day. The headlong fall into night tumbled through the umbra of the earth’s shadow swallowing the moon in an endless eclipse…and in that lightless reflection of dark matter a surety of her manifestation gripped me with a zealot’s terror. The bottles vibrate under my back in a tiny chorus of insects, then her voice opens into the night air and I feel the marrow inside my bones turn toward her in whirlpool delirium telling me of a wandering lodestone she had found in her ocean that drew her constantly, and she would come to it not by her will, but by a strange celestial gravity that spun ancient gyres from deep heavy currents coursing at the earth’s poles, collapsing my lungs with a shocking crushing cold.
I stand again upon the smooth black stone in the white fury of day, pulling words from the sparkling depth of my closed eyes, looking for clues of her left by the intrepid twin.
It is said that mermaids cannot cry
But underwater
Who can tell?
Perhaps it is that they are always crying
And this is what has filled the oceans
And if they do not
Cry now, perhaps it
Is because they live
Within the world of their tears
So crying is no longer
What it would be for us,
And their underwater world
Is removed yet again
From our own.
As surely as salt crystals climb the follicles of my bleached beard and flay my parched lips, I taste the burning remains of merekind sorrow, and she, the last inland mermaid, had wept this inland sea. The fire of salt burned through my sinuses and seared a vision of the men she had planted in her garden beneath the waters, how they had come to her willingly; how she was Siren and ruined men by her nature, free of intent. Her beauty was vast as her destructions, yet revelation was incremental.
The sky is a symbol crash of white gaining  resonance from the blistered desert and the too-tight surface of the waters. I lay upon my messageless bottles, reconciling myself to the strange fathoms that had opened below. I drifted with the hot winds and rough waves. Less and less flotsam appeared for me to repair my craft; had she abandoned me or had I only ever found what came by chance. Either way, my raft soon came apart as the salt burned away all, and I floated as when held aloft by the craft, if it had ever done so.
The sun would press its whole weight upon the sea, and the sea turn molten-white, and my eyes press back into my scull, and the thirst come upon me; and in the shimmering hallucinatory space above the water I would sometimes see a solitary figure wading or swimming or seeming to float just above the water. Today he found a shallows, so far into the sea that the rimming mountains blurred with the vapored horizon. It seemed the burning mirror of water would not let him see the bottom that his feet stood upon. He had been at sea so long that this was, to him, walking on land. Sun blinded, thirst dazed, he stared intently into the reflective surface trying to see his feet upon the bottom of the sea. It seemed his head came nearer and nearer to the water, though he did not bend and he did not sink. Suddenly, as if looking into a spoon, he was inverted. He stood with his feet planted firmly upon the ether, his head lost beneath the wavering fumes that confused the space between surface and fathom. I watched him through the shimmering bends of light. Sometimes he would inverse, with his feet below the waters, a twinning spiral vision. I watched and watched and in time he evaporated on the bright fumes, in all that time never bringing his head back from the waters.
Recognition came slowly. His image has lived upon the vapors for ages. He, the twin sailor whos stone-carved words have remained over eons. In the spooning vision he bends the stone to his will. His words are my thoughts. I know the entirety of the epic he inscribes. I stand upon the smooth ebony stone just as he. In my Gemini visions I transcribe his muse from beneath the water to the insides of my closed eyes, upon the stone that long ago I had placed over the whirlpool that spins here and at its antipodal point in the uncharted waters where the Indian Ocean spills toward Antarctica, making out the clear and strong letters, as warning to those who might follow. 
Distant images from beyond the horizon can appear close and real- I remembered shipboard days when far a-sea, when to the amazement of all hands a ship that seemed real as the one we stood upon would float through the sky to disappear in a ghostly shimmer. Many sailors were too simple to grasp the earth’s curvature and refraction of light projecting the image of the ship that lay beyond the horizon, instead speaking of ghost ships. On this dead ocean, seven times more magnification was possible, with the mountains rimming all time within one time. In that endless spiraling vision I realize that the stones do more than demark a legend of sealed antipodal whirlpools; I can not see the whirlpools because I stand within them; as I look across what seems a flattened event horizon I see a compressed refraction of everywhere and everywhen; that I had not yet delivered the stone into the vortex; that the Lorelei was the guardian of the whirlpool and I was both her twin sailors; that I would stand upon the black stone under the penumbra of the black moon’s eclipse of the sun and read the stone’s words from where they were burned upon me, and she would come terribly in that strange half light to her invisible loadstone with her song of my undoing complete;  that my doppelganger future or past were echoes of self inseparable in the oneness of this lost place. 
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