Story by Allan Graubard
Collages by Gregg Simpson

Chapter 1

                    One warm evening after falling asleep early he had a dream that stayed with him for the next several days. It wasn't so much that
                    he remembered the dream in its entirety, something he could rarely do, but one sequence remained.

                   He was on a bus in a foreign city en route to a boat that would take him home. Enrapt in a book of poems he had lost sense
                   of where he was. As the bus slowed around a curve, he gazed up. This was his stop, the top level of the boat visible above
                   a warehouse roof.

                    He put the book down, grabbed his hat and bag and made for the door. Half way out he realized he had forgotten the book.
                    There it was, its red cover on the stained brown leather of the seat


                           Two long shrill whistles announced the boat’s departure. He ran to the gangplank, the last of the passengers…


Chapter 2

                    It was always like this, revivifying at the last moment a sense of knowing what to do and why.  And then came laughter, an
                    ameliorating custom that allowed him, more than not, to exonerate himself.


                    If living proved difficult because of his opacities, the forgetfulness that stalked him, the failures that diminished him,
                    the small successes that buoyed him, these sudden gestures brought him a kind of pleasure he could not do without.

                    Where would the boat take him? What would he do when he arrived? Would he once again disembark without understanding
                    what it was that drove him from place to place, and which had... But enough.


                    The open circular bay that worked as a harbor slowly diminished as the roll of the waves and the pitch of the prow touched the horizon…


Chapter 3

His cabin was small: a bed, a functional desk and chair above which were two portholes, and a closet. 

                                          The toilet and shower were down the hall. He unpacked, laying the book on the bed, and went up on deck.

                    Passengers were strolling about, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the brine of the sea spray. Two gulls circled, a frail, faded,
                    crescent moon above them in the


Chapter 4


                    He found two empty deck chairs and sat down. Next to him, as if resolving in a developing tray an image gathered into itself a
                    sense, however incomplete, of sentience. It was a woman or aspects of a woman he once knew. For a few weeks they had shared
                    an intimacy he thereafter used to measure other affairs, all of which were wanting.


                    Without the usual hesitations and their customary veneer, they found in each other an inviolable confirmation of what it was
                    that drove their solitude, and how the largess of an embrace comforted and inspired them. Her warm, moist eyes as if primed
                    by a source deep in her body, and the thirst it compelled from him.

He gave in to the cutting wash of the waves and the oiled thrum of the engines

Chapter 5

                    Was it just a mirror he couldn’t pierce, an exacting rectangle of glass in which his thoughts and emotions circled each other,
                    surcease their avatar?  Or did they write with their silence what he could not admit. Was that the meaning of his dream?

Chapter 6

                    On the evening of the second day, reading on his cabin bed, distant shore lights flickering through the heat haze played faintly over
                    the ceiling. Another useless port…


Chapter 7

                    A few disembarked. The walled town, an old harbor, its stone streets were empty but for locals and the odd delivery truck.
                    He walked about and found a hotel on a side street. The owner, a middle-aged fellow with a dark, veined goiter on his neck,
                    told him that he could have whatever room he wanted; the last of the tourists had gone.


                    "Something quiet in the back.” "Number 3, on the second floor then. It’s large. A new bed. Good light.” The fellow was
Sun poured through three windows, one of which was open to the brutal rise of a massive cliff that gave onto a
                    higher mountain some distance behind it.


                    On ship, the geography of the town from the port to its rise, snaking up an escarpment, did not impress him. But closer to it,
                    the sheer mass of the rock did. He stood there for a long while in the warmth of the light, its ephemeral promise fixed to this
                    archaic, inhuman density.

Chapter 8

                    After breakfast the next morning he walked over to the taxi stand in the central square and hired a car to take him over
                    the escarpment to the base of the mountain where the road ended. He would continue on foot.


                    "Half way to the peak is an empty monastery with a well,” the driver told him. “The monks visit it once a month and keep it clean.
                    You can shelter there if you need to.”


Chapter 9



                    The drive was over an hour. After the town and several tiny hamlets clustered on ledges where goats and sheep grazed,
                    the land turned wild. He paid the driver, told him to return the same time
 tomorrow, and ascended along a trail, a few
                    stones visible through the underbrush.




                    Higher up, the hot sun and a stunted wind-blown forest; its peeling branches bunched together in a kind of paralytic dance.
                    Hawks, circling in the updrafts overhead, searched for prey… the inconstant wind and the creaking wood…

                    He was exhausted when he reached the monastery. He shouldn’t have been. He had climbed more difficult heights, rested
                    and descended. This was different. And he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d been here before.



                    There was one room constructed from crudely cut stones held in place by crumbling mortar and straw. The well,
                    with its bucket and rope, was to the right of the entrance.


                    He took some water and drank it, the iron aftertaste lingering on his tongue. Inside, before a low wooden tabernacle
                    with several gutted candles and a box of matches, was a stone bench. He lay down.



Chapter 10

                    A glimmering orange light shot through with inky strands of green and blue… The room suffused with this deliquescence,
                    and because of its chaotic undertones seemed weightless, tethered to the earth by his presence alone.


                    Then a darker chiaroscuro absorbing the lucent display...Further ascent was impossible. He would make do with what he had.




Chapter 11


                    He slept deeply, more deeply than in a long while, an unconscious healing passivity emptied of hope, passion or despair.



                    And when he woke and time returned, this kingdom where he wove his life from his affairs and projects, he knew that
                    he was a man in the man he was, a man doubled.

Chapter 12


                    He reached the peak before day turned oppressive. The town below him, an after thought clinging to its terrace, and
                    the sea with small islands and thin white froth lines; ferries carrying produce and passengers.


                    Behind him stretched an elevated valley patch-worked with vineyards and orchards that rose to a plateau perhaps
                    half as high as where he was, and at its utmost elevation a swathe of green, so green with brief glinting gold, an
                    aerial tidal spawn. Was this the place the poems in the book referred to, or had he infused its metaphors in what he saw,
                    creating it by half?




Chapter 13


                    Destiny was not something he thought about much but the effort of gaining ground, stopping to eat black berries
                    in buzzing thickets…On that height were the golden apples of the Hesperides; whose pulp gave immortality.


Chapter 14


                    He didn’t believe in the myth of the apples. The daughters of Atlas had long since devolved into dust; so too
                    the hundred-headed Ladon, whose ferocity in protecting the grove held acolytes in thrall as they suffered their
                    savage dismemberment. 


                    He had not freed Prometheus from his torture, chained to that rock where an eagle ate at his liver by day,
                    which regenerating by night drew the eagle back for another feeding; its bloody beak and awful hunger…
                    receiving in recompense directions to eternity…

Chapter 15


The closer he came to the grove, the more certain he was of reaching it.


                    What had he to lose? And when he arrived the green of the grass enfolded him, as if he were part of it, a human plant
                     in a radiant expanse, effulgent with photosynthesis. Some of the apples were simply apples, burning red on their stems.




                    Others were gold, not metallic as we commonly take gold, but of a soft slick epidermal luster that mirrored perfectly
                    whomever or whatever it was before them. He twisted one off, held it for a moment in his hand, lifted it to his mouth
                    and bit into it.

                    He savored the skin and the juicy pulp beneath it in the same way that he savored a kiss, long sought, suddenly found,
                    delirious and complete, and all the more poignant for having been given and taken and returned.



                    She was still asleep beside him. Her warmth, the rise and fall of her breath, that scent, her long tangled auburn hair, lips
                    slightly parted, day just beginning…He realized that the dream, and what he remembered of it, this journey he took in sleep,
                    would elude him.


                    And that she, though not present within it, at least as far as he could feel her presence, was in this bed, its own
                    private garden.  The secret in the dream if there was a secret dissolved as quickly as breath on glass, the same glass
                    on the same mirror that once confused him.


                    The golden apples that grew in the myth and the fantastical immortality they offered were signs of the trust and passion they
                shared. No more, no less...