I sit against the wall of this forgotten basement,
Then I adjust on my head the iron crown
To align the screws with the holes in my skull.
I tighten the screws slowly, carefully,
While the rusted iron grinds on the bone,
Until the screw-tips dig into my grey matter,
Reaching for the depths where the thoughts reside,
To probe into my daydreams.
The thoughts come like worms from deep underground,
Abandoning their old forms and squirming up.
They will crawl all over me if I do not hold them back,
With the visions that I conjure in the dark.
When I am ready, I press down on the lever,
A tiny click sounds, and then all at once
My consciousness floods out from my mind,
Through the connected, fraying wires,
Into my invention, a mechanical egg,
Which stands tall on its plinth.
A glass window lets me peer inside,
To witness the growth of the amorphous fetus
Which my daydreams keep nourishing.
(All is well until the day when the crown begins to leak.
The thought comes that the wires are coming loose,
And soon I shall lose my perfect daydreaming tool.)
There is no light here, but my eyes glow green.
The walls have fallen away to reveal a dim place
Full of the most curious shapes and colours,
Like some strange landscape seen from space.
I see myself walking down streets and alleys at night,
Searching desperately among shadows and darkness,
For the one who is waiting there just outside sight.
The girl comes closer every time I conjure her image,
As though I’ve been watching out for her presence
Through all these years I have kept dreaming
About how wonderful life would be with her by my side.
A face appears, smiling and jovial.
She has long brown hair and greenish-blue eyes,
And a smattering of freckles around her nose.
Her mouth opens, showing teeth like pearls.
Her hand rests gently upon her hip
As she walks down the steps towards me.
When we meet eye to eye, she smiles wider.
Inside the egg, a fetus appears,
So small that it’s almost invisible.
It stays hidden in the shadows
While the world moves around it.
(I can feel the fetus inside my head,
Growing with each passing second.
Soon I will be able to hear it
In my own voice.)
The girl and I walk through town holding hands.
Every street corner, every park bench,
Every building with a doorway or a sign,
I try in vain to find something familiar about it,
But everything looks so alien; I’m dreaming.
The girl and I sit on a riverbank
As we read from the books we share,
Which are filled with adventures and dreams
That nobody else but us understands.
As I press my hands against the glass,
I hold my breath, but the fetus remains still.
Its skin is rough, covered with black hairs.
It has four eyes and six spindly legs.
It stares back with its black, empty pupils.
Will it become strong enough to survive?
(I look down at my feet.
A trail of ants crawl across the floor,
And all around me, spiders spin their webs
To trap flies that buzz and flutter by.
There are beetles too, scuttling in the dirt.
One crawls over my shoe. It lifts its head
To gaze up at me with big round eyes
Full of wonder and curiosity.)
The fetus had started rotting, turning black.
Soon after, it bursts forth from the egg
With nothing but an empty sack for skin.
My daydreams have failed me again.
In frustration, I toss the rotten remains
Into the pile of desiccated embryos.
(A thought comes that I am trapped in this place
With nothing more than rotting lumps of flesh.
And now there is only one thing I want
To keep me going, to give me strength,
Something to make me forget all my fears,
And my desire to live on in despair;
My crown is so small, fragile and worn out.)
As time passes by, my brain grows tired.
It needs proper rest to repair itself.
But I continue feeding the embryos
By focusing all my attention on my work.
My mind toils constantly
To achieve the eternal rewards.
(There used to be no room for daydreaming.
Instead, I just stared at the walls.
Day after day, week after week, month after month.
For years I lived just like that.
Nobody asked questions when they saw
How I stared endlessly into space.)
The girl and I walk side by side through the forest
Down paths and hillsides covered in flowers.
We climb mountains where snowflakes fall softly
While I feel my heart beating faster.
I place my hands upon the smooth glass pane,
Because a new creation has begun to take form:
A headless, limbless, hirsute torso
With a case of complete ectopia cordis.
I shove my arm into the gooey insides of the egg
To touch the protruding, beating heart.
The fibers of the muscular organ
Try to hold on to my skin
Like tiny fingers.
(The fetus tries to crawl up my forearm,
Trying desperately to escape.
I pull my hand away from the fetus,
And then it bursts forth from the egg
Without a body or limbs.
I stare in disbelief as it falls apart
Into hundreds of fragments of flesh.
They scatter in all directions
To be eaten by the hungry beetles.)
A new fetus grows a myriad of fleshy tentacles
As the crown feeds it with my mind images.
It is born dead, a veritable monster.
I discard it into the growing pile of fetuses.
(At night when everyone slept,
Our minds became one, united.
Together we dreamt of wonderful things
Which have vanished along with time.)
The girl and I find a cozy spot beside a lake,
Underneath a giant tree that shelters us from the wind.
We lie down in the grass and stare up at the stars
As the clouds drift quickly across the sky.
I open my mouth, take a breath,
Sip the air as though it were nectar,
Smell the earth beneath my feet,
Taste the sky upon my tongue.
Each moment is so precious,
So filled with love and trust.
Just being able to breathe out,
Is worth more than gold.
I’m sitting on the cold stone floor
Surrounded by darkness.
I can barely move or speak.
I am trapped within myself,
Separated from life.
My eyes are wide open,
Yet I cannot see anything.
I hear a voice calling to me,
But I cannot understand.
(My consciousness floats freely,
Free to travel through time and space,
To wander anywhere I please.
But there’s nothing left to see,
No one to talk to,
Or to be.
All I know is loneliness.)
The girl and I stare at the moon.
In time, our eyes begin to close,
And our minds wander away together
Towards faraway places and bright sunsets.
A fetus lies on the cold floor.
Its body is made of a soft material,
Like a sponge or tofu.
It has patches of white fur, like snow.
I can hear it breathing faintly
As it stares blankly ahead.
I’m waiting for the fetus to writhe helplessly,
And to cry out in pain,
But it shrivels up more and more.
After days of suffering, it dies,
Leaving behind only bones.
(I’m going to let my brain rot,
Then I will be free.
And nobody will be able to stop me.
Nobody will ever try to help me.)
An electric current runs between the girl and I,
Like two parallel lines meeting across infinity.
Her smile shines brighter than any star
As we embrace each other tightly.
Our hands run wild over each other’s bodies,
Groping hungrily under the clothes.
We slip our tongues past each other’s teeth
Trying to find somewhere warm and soft,
Somewhere safe where we belong.
(There’s no way out.
I stay here, trapped underground,
In darkness, far away from light.
I long to go above ground,
To walk freely upon grass,
To freely breathe fresh air.
I eat rats and spiders instead.)
A fetus crawls out of the mechanical egg
With a badger tail curled around its waist.
It is covered in black fur,
Its round head looks like a turtle.
My body feels heavier than ever before.
The crown’s screws feel fused to my skull.
I sleep soundly during the day, I dream all night long,
So I can keep nurturing the little ones inside the egg.
The girl and I have no children yet,
But some day, when we are old and grey,
Our son or daughter will walk along
With his or her precious child,
Who will carry our hopes within
In a secret pocket deep inside their heart.
(And then they’ll look at us and laugh.
They’ll say, “You poor fools.
Why did you waste your time?
Why did you work so hard to grow babies
When there was nothing left to do?”)
I feel a sudden pang of longing for her face,
Her body so soft and smooth to touch,
The sound of our laughter ringing through the air,
Till it echoes into the distant past,
Where it joins with other voices long forgotten,
In a chorus of memory that sings to us both
About how it would always be,
If only we could find each other again.
The fetuses have minds of their own;
They think and feel and dream
About other things than what I want.
None of the fetuses like my daydreams.
They hate my happy days together with the girl,
Our sweet memories and gentle caresses.
Instead they desire the most hideous images,
Filled with pain, suffering, anguish, despair.
(Every day, I sit in my room
Listening to the fetuses’ cries.
Their shrieks of anguish and torment
Make me sick with sadness.)
One of the fetuses grows healthy and strong,
Covered in glistening, frost white wings.
It could fly through the sky,
To stare down at me from above.
When the winged spawn escapes from the egg,
I hold its warm, gooey frame in my arms,
But it struggles to flap its wings, to free itself.
I let it go, and it flies against the grimy walls,
Dusting the cement and the black cobwebs.
The spawn keeps weakening and slowing down,
Until it finally disintegrates into the dark,
Leaving behind only empty space.
(My mind becomes foggy and dull,
And my dreams fade away.
There is nothing left for me now but to sleep.)
I wake up on the cold stone floor.
I lie there breathing hard and crying.
Why did you leave me here, I ask,
Why did you abandon me?
Stay here next to me, I demand,
And never leave again
(You are not real,
But I know your name).
I scream it out loud,
And the fetuses start to cry.
All I hear is a cacophony,
A horrible, endless noise.
The fetuses are telling me what to dream.
I’m controlled by their needs and wants.
They demand time to spend alone,
With only my daydreams for company.
My time is running short.
Before I know it, I’ll be gone.
All these dreams will die with me.
Only the perfect one may remain.
That one will never age.
(I can see my face reflected in a pool of blood
Which seems to move as though alive.
“I can hear your heart beating,” the girl says.
She leans forward and presses her lips to mine.
Our mouths meet and part again, over and over
Till we feel as one body in our joined flesh.
We lie entwined for days upon a pile of bones
While the outside moves by in its ordinary way.)
After countless failures,
The crown will finally break down.
All my daydreams will be fruitless.
Those visions of smiles and touches
By the caring hand of a ghost
Will fade and dissolve in the dark,
And I’ll be left in this grubby basement
With its cobwebs and desiccated fetuses.
A new fetus sprouts from my head
Like an evil mushroom.
I can’t control it anymore;
It’s growing rapidly,
Becoming more powerful every day.
All I can do is sit here
Waiting for it to burst forth.
It won’t stop growing,
Growing and getting stronger
By sucking out all my thoughts.
When the crown cracks,‘The Crown of Lost Dreams’ by Jon Ureña
There will be nothing left of me
Except for my metal shell
Covered in stains of rust.