Mission Creep by Jeffrey Skinner (Lucent Dreaming Issue 10)

When I woke my cross was turned wrong side out, silver to the world, gold inward. Must have been some dream I can’t remember, one from the genre of tumult and fire and whipped up clouds.

Art can do many things — sit, roll over, speak, piss. Even atone. We prefer shock and awe, of course, which doesn’t make it right, or left, above or below. Only an auction house thinks art is worth what it costs to make, or buy. Only demons short the futures of song. The huge wood sculpture in Chelsea continuously changed shape, but so slowly you couldn’t tell—the basic material remained the same—until it had become a different thing entirely. I liked that.

When my father retired he no longer understood the mission. This drive to the post office, I could see him thinking, this isn’t really a big deal. But I was still engaged, and did not understand the look on his face.

The philosopher opened his briefcase and took out a sheaf of papers and placed it on the lectern, squaring the corners. The subject of tonight’s talk is free will, he began. First we must distinguish what we mean by free, and what we mean by will. They are not words, but rather, flighty angels or abstractions, and must be brought to ground. Then we will discuss the new thing made by putting these freshly clipped wings together, and how that coupling affects the valence on either side, if you will. Then we’ll grab free, and will, bind them to the bed, and drain each of blood and plasma. Then scrub, until we can see clean through, and they squeak, each of them separately, as we run a dry finger across their surfaces. We will posit god, and situate these terms within god’s body, and see if god sneezes or chokes or looks askance, or pauses even slightly in his step on the way to the next essential engagement. Then remove god and see if free will can survive an otherwise empty universe. Finally, we will add one man—and one man only—and attempt to track with as much precision and solicitude as we may, the ensuing chaos. Good night, I’ll say, in hopes that all of us leave the theater and journey home in silence, and sit a moment in the inmost room of our inmost house, and think, drink in hand or not, about the infinite delicate atrocities we have committed. Thank you for coming. You needn’t have.

Damien Hirst found an 18th century skull in a shop in Islington and paid to have it sectioned, cast in platinum, and reassembled. Then had the original teeth installed in the platinum skull, and hired jewelers to embed 8,601 diamonds, completely covering its surface. Finally, a pear-shaped pink diamond called Skull Star was placed in the center of the bejeweled forehead. “Celestial, almost” said a critic. Before the exhibit opening, Hirst took his mother to the gallery. “What will you do next, for the love of God?” she said. It was shown in an illuminated glass case, in darkened rooms. After a world tour—with stops in Amsterdam, Florence, London, Doha, and Oslo—For the Love of God sold for one hundred million pounds.

My father sat in a floating pool of light reading my poems. It was his actual chair, his lamp, my book. But all else in his living room had been erased, green-screened out. He was suspended inside a globe of stars and his local position was total darkness, except for the lamp. As we know, it is difficult to tell both direction and momentum without a point of reference— impossible really. To me he appeared to be floating, though it might have been we were moving in the same direction at tremendous speed. Or, both of us were stationary. What do you think? I asked him. He lowered his reading glasses and closed the book. It’s good, what I understand of it, he said. My only regret is that you never joined Rotary. We really needed more people like you. With that he readjusted his glasses and went back to reading.

Something mute and woodsy intrudes: the bamboo branch with its clutch of spear-point feathers, swiping slowly down the dining room window.

I fell into the cross long ago. Then, was born. I’m talking about the cross at the center of the universe, the portal through which everyone enters. If you can’t sign on, I understand. I often wake up thinking, it’s such a simple story, OMG! You really have to be an idiot, or a child. And then I ready myself once more, with a determined look, ankle holstered M-1911, extra magazines, Kevlar skin, push-dagger neck knife, and my awesome, shimmering desire. Brothers and sisters, metaphor has covered us all with a light snow. It is everything we see and feel. But, here, take my literal hands. Put them somewhere next to your body and keep them with you, please. They are so cold, my literal hands.

Buy issue 10 today.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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