THE METAMORPHOSIS: SNAPSHOTS OF THE ARTIST AS A CREATURE OF CHANGE

by
Daulton Dickey

[Click here to read Part I]

Part II 

1.

An egg stands on the counter beside a sheathed blade. It topples over without rolling and falls next to the blade, leaning against its sheath.

I grab the egg and stuff it into a carton in the refrigerator.

—Not yet, but when the time comes, we’ll use it.

I shove the blade into a drawer and fall into a lake, which has replaced the kitchen floor.

Unable to swim, I flounder and sink to the bottom.

I can’t hold my breath, so I clench my eyes and wait for death.

My concentration, in that moment, establishes silence, darkness.

“I” disappear as pure consciousness takes hold:

Not darkness, but grayness—the end of a gradient cast by a powerful and all-consuming light.

I sense it but I can’t fall into it, so I try, and I break my concentration and open my eyes.

Sitting half-lotus on my bed, I glance around the room.

I amble into the kitchen and open the fridge and the egg pops out of the carton and rolls and shatters, spilling a fetus resembling me onto the floor.

It arches its back and writhes and sheds its flesh, revealing an infinite universe beneath the meat.

Cradling the universe in my cupped hands, careful not to jolt or spill it, I bring it to my mouth and devour it, swallowing it without chewing.

The universe expands in my stomach and spreads to my limbs and chest, neck and head.

And as my experience shifts, “I” transform into something else entirely: a mystic with a sadistic streak.

2.

No artist can thrive or survive without rebirth. If you don’t die and find yourself replaced with a different iteration of you, then you don’t have anything to show or teach anyone. To die is to lose your sense of self and find it replaced with an altogether different sense of self. An artist cannot thrive without experiencing such a death.

I close my eyes and feel the Earth’s rotation, and I visualize a bisected splice of the earth as it rotates. We take for granted our position on this body spiraling through space. We lose touch of it, of the oneness of it all. And we imagine ourselves as somehow separate or distinct.

At core, I am no different than anything else in the universe. I’m not separated from anything. On the level of the ego I don’t distinguish myself from anything I do, including art, writing, both.

I’m connected to this because it’s a schematic for thoughts or images I wish to convey. It’s part of me. Then your non-conscious mind will take these schematics and construct a model, one inspired by my thoughts as I write this.

I have died and I am liberated. And now I want to show the world how to do it—that’s my ambition as an artist. For years, “artist” ill-fitted me, or vice versa. And now, sensing and feeling the world spin, I fondle the term.

3.

They ask me why I write—who? No one. But that’s beside the point—and six months ago I would have told them it’s to show my younger self, and those around me, that I haven’t failed. Now, my motives have changed.

I can’t remember why I started writing: it’s something I even feigned before I learned to read and write. I do know I wrote and wrote and read and read—and it soon developed into an obsession. After I internalized it, the obsession metamorphosed in passion. The passion spawned delusion, which multiplied, but, unlike some people, I cultivated and cherished them.

The refrigerators humming; it’s making a mechanical noise, as if it’s about to go out on us. It’s soft, malleable, leaning to the left and slumping forward a few degrees. It’s unwell. So, curious, I poke the handle on the freezer door and jerk back my arm. Touching it had reminded me of poking room-temperature meat.

A puddle of water at its base tells me the end is near. —Daulton, my sister said on the phone, —go to mom’s. Something’s wrong with dad. My mother told me he had urinated after he went limp. He was still at the ER and we were picking her up to run to see him. My stomach hollowed out when she told me he’d urinated. I pictured him slumped over in his wheel chair, a puddle beneath him.

Death sneaks up on you. One minute you’re carrying on a conversation and another minute you no longer exist. It’s terrifying.

A spiritual death is equally terrifying when you’re in the midst of it. When you destroy your delusions and realize you aren’t “you,” you destroy a universe as well.

My delusion had ossified. It had spread throughout my neural pathways and altered my neurophysiology. It dictated my behavior, my attitude, everything. To undergo such an experience—such a spiritual death; to die; to sense the person within. Realizing my delusions had imprisoned me, I understood the need for escape.

The fiction I had created involved Daulton the writer succeeding. In that universe, Daulton saw himself as a success-in-waiting. Anytime. Anytime now.

I wrote every book for myself, then I hoped for the certain future. This delusion altered my behavior, my perception: it altered the universe.

Anytime. Anytime now.

But “anytime” didn’t come. It shattered my ego, a sense of self constructed from a fictional person in a fictional universe. The “me” I took for granted showed itself as a fantasy, a work of fiction, a delusion constructing a fictional universe.

My head hurts. I close my eyes and press my thumb and index fingers into my eyelids and study the hypnagogic light show it produces.

Yellowish blobs, assuming various geometric shapes, spin and twist, collide and dissolve and morph into various patterns. A bolt of lighting dissolves and transmogrifies into a face. Without eyes or nose, a smile animates the bottom half of the face. The mouth closes and the smile fades. Pyramids surrounded by a circle of pyramids as seen from overhead: their shadows bring to mind a sun folding into a Möbius strip.

I breathe through my nose as I meditate, trying to overcome this purgatoried me. On realizing I had succumbed to fantasy, a desire I had felt for years, I fell into a severe depression. It persists. If that wasn’t me, if my sense of self can change, then who resides beneath the roulette wheel of senses of self?

Who am I?

It occurs to me: if my sense of self is malleable, then perhaps I can help give it shape and form. I’m the author of my rebirth. A surrealist at core, I’ve long suppressed my surrealistic tendencies. I see now how they might have clashed with the fictional superstar-in-waiting, who dominated and suppressed them. But now I can help create a sense of self accepting of surreal behavior. I can help model a universe in which the surreal intermingles with the real, a world where an ill refrigerator can slump over and decompose.

This, of course, excites me. But I possess few means of doing it. I point my ambition inward for now in hopes of invigorating my writing, which constitutes one of the few vestiges of the old Daulton.

I still obsess over it. But I’ve lost the passion, the ability to write. Since passion develops over time, I write little pieces—and read like a maniac—hoping to re-ignite that passion, wanting to create works of pure surrealism, stream-of-consciousness pieces as written in a surreal universe. Perhaps the obsession and the passion could reignite other passions, perhaps it will help me change myself outwardly as well as inwardly.

4.

Only you can tell the difference between light and dark. Only you.
You emphasize the unknown and distance yourself from it.
I embrace the unknown.
I absorb it and draw no distinctions.

Night folds in on itself and trillions of scorpions fall from the sky,
Screeching, while some
Living people give birth to snakes and worms and maggots
In their brains
While priding themselves on never
Having had snakes or worms or
Maggots in their brains

Night replaces the universe with a canvas.
We can and do paint on the canvas and confuse it with the corporeal.
All worlds and universes die eventually—and so few experience them, opting
Instead for the images on the canvas

—I delude myself: I can’t see it. Yet. But when I do, I’ll tweak the universe. And experience a universe of my choosing.

 

Surrealist Daulton Dickey lives with his wife, kids, and pet human-lizard hybrid in a universe he created. He’s the author of Elegiac Machinations, Bastard Virtues, Flesh Made World, and Dig the Meat Music (forthcoming from Nihilism Revised) Contact him at lostitfunhouse [at] gmail [dot] com

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