Drift by Matthew Vasiliauskas

I don’t sleep, nor am I fully awake.

I say that because to awaken suggests a movement between the conscious and unconscious realms, and I do neither.

No what I would call it is a sort of unbroken awareness, a sustained sentience in which my being experiences the perpetual passage of events without disruption, dream or distraction.

For a time I thought this was illusionary, and that breaks in my cognizance were so imperceptible I just didn’t notice them.

But I developed a method to test this, incorporating the movement and space I now find myself in.

The space is dark but possesses depth, rolling cumulus formations fracturing and dissolving into pathways pulsating with vibrant and varying tones of black.

At first I thought my existence was affixed to a single point, and that I was hovering in place supported by some unknown force.

But I soon realized these distinct corroding splotches of darkness were slowly moving past me, so I decided to use the itinerant environment as a measure of whether I would occasionally descend into unconsciousness.

I would focus on a particular formation, a dim drifting gelatinous glacier outlined in a radiating ripple of lighter hues, watching as the swollen mass floated past and sometimes even through me, eventually enmeshing itself into the ever-growing lattice of breathing black.

As one formation would pass I would focus on another, repeating the action to see if the composition combusted or the surrounding surfaces shifted, suggesting an unobserved passage of time.

As of this moment though, everything has flowed in unbroken succession.

However, I cannot be entirely certain that my being has always resided in this state for I distinctly remember the blink; the moment when the darkness and the space became apparent.

It was slight, a miniscule movement in which sensation surfaced, creating the vision of void whose optics operate on awareness and impression rather than any clear illustration.

In that instant, what I came to know as thought forcefully flooded into me, calcifying and cementing itself leaving me confused but able to understand and probe my own confusion.

Even now I am baffled as to how I am producing these words, or that they are even called words or are necessary elements in understanding the emotions echoing from the cavernous confines of what I suppose you would call a mind.

For the longest time I assumed I was alone, hearing only the reverberation of my own thoughts which I am still unclear as to whether they exist solely in the cavity of this cerebrum, or are spoken and sent to sprout within the surrounding streams of shadow.

But a moment came, when exactly I couldn’t tell you as time ceases within darkness, when I became aware of another entity.

Initially I assumed this to be my imagination; a misleading manifestation from meandering meditations.

The harmony of thought can be quite loud, and I had grown so accustomed to the cadence of my cravings, the rhythms of desire that drip from the spheres of exhaustion, that I believed the voice I was hearing to be a phenomenon of illusion, a stray lost self whose momentary light was now just reaching me despite having died long ago.

What gave me pause however was how different the voice was from my own; an amalgam of absence where the few forgotten shards of gender and emotion clang along the encompassing vacuum to form the hollow echoing strands of an unspooling sound.

As with my experiments in awareness I began to test the voice, remaining silent for lengthy durations, dulling my desires into the deaf blackness to the point where I would teeter on the edge of disappearance, causing the voice to exclaim out of desperation, “Where are you? Why aren’t you talking to me?”

So, after establishing the authenticity of the entity, I entered into often enlightening exchanges, alternating between consequential conversation and periodic persiflage to reveal our many similarities; a ceaseless consciousness, birth through the breath of a blink and an uncertain fluctuating form absorbing the attributes of nomadic nothingness.

Why we had not come across each other sooner we didn’t know, but thought it was possible that our paths had perambulated, and that the unsettled umbra through carelessness or calculated aggression had erased the eventful experiences in an effort to hold us hostage in the growing gloom.

Setting aside this anxiety, we found solace in the stretches of silence we would knowingly sink into, hovering comfortably in the currents of celestial shroud whose fading fabric warmed our weariness and perhaps for the first time elicited emotions possessing the particles elementary to the foundations of possibility; constellations of crumpling kernels littering our minds with the rudimentary reflections of what we imagined to be light.

We continued moving in this manner, until a moment came when we discovered a distant piece of debris drifting towards us.

At first we were confused, watching as this recondite piece of radiant refuse took on the qualities of an eye, the polished pupil penetrating the careening pall, shedding its flaring fat and mutating the mass into a rounded shape; an urn unleashed in the ubiquitous black.

As it finally reached us, we realized it was an entanglement of timber; bits of bumpy serrated bark woven into what you might call a sort of table, and on top of this mussy mound rested a pair of binoculars.

The lenses gleamed from the glow of our perception, luminous mites of reality feeding on the skin of sleep and awakening the atoms necessary and inherent to the inception of imagery.

Instinct overtook us, and despite our lack of detectable limbs we somehow procured the object into our possession through the vibrant vigor of will, allowing the appendages of abstraction to synthesize supposition.

We took turns gazing through the glass, the macrocosm magnified, opening elongated orbs erupting with the pulsations of cosmic current.

Within these spheres, rippling surges surfaced; sparks flaring and briefly forming strangely familiar faces quickly fading back into the battered beat from which they blossomed.

A short time later, or perhaps not, another wayward ware materialized and wafted towards us; a window, its wooden frame chipped and the specs of splinter burrowing upward into the bobbing brume.

Since the window was still some distance away, we used the binoculars to penetrate the pristine panes and beyond them appeared what our calculating consciousness concluded to be a woman; her face obscured as she leaned back in a chair, features kneaded like dough by the limbs of living room light.

We didn’t know whether the window was orbiting us or we the window, but were forced to pause for prolonged periods while we waited for the inevitable intersection to initiate again.

Each time we found the woman engaged in a vague variety of everyday experiences; cleaning curtains, drubbing the cushions of a davenport, painting portraits onto porcelain cups, striking the strings of a sihu and weeping as she rested her head against a wavy wall.

Gradually, she started to shrivel, succumbing to the hungry humidity of age, her flesh falling and freezing, carved capsules of crystal spilling and splaying into the shadows that slithered through the threads of her tattered clothing.

Soon there was only the room, and the rising rays of a mournful mist whose mouth broke and fractured along the forgotten furniture.

We’ve continued to drift, the window gone and our minds moving through malleable murk, the sustained silence becoming so severe that it assumes the element of unbearable sound.

But just a short distance ago, at least we think so, another voice vaporously descended into the void.

Now there are three of us.

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About the Author

Matthew Vasiliauskas is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. In 2009, he was awarded the Silver Dome Prize by the Illinois Broadcast Association for best public affairs program as producer of the Dean Richards Show at WGN Radio. His work has appeared in publications such as Berlin’s Sand Literary Journal, The University Of Wyoming’s Owen Wister Review and The Pennsylvania Review. Matthew currently lives and works in Los Angeles.