The dark curtain drew over the stage as dusk came about again. The time had come.
We came out in droves from all directions – some from the city, some from the closest suburb – men and women of the working and middle classes reverting to a primordial congregation. The more experienced – those bearded, sagging-nude and mad – poured from the tangled trunk archways of the forest, all arriving to meet upon the beaten-down sallow grass of the field that was nowhere. From above looking down, those arriving would have looked like the spiralling arms of the galaxy coming together to meet. From below looking up, we almost saw just that. The stars had finally aligned in cavernous space – stationary, like beacons against the dusty nebulas. Calling out to us alone – the only ones who knew. We less-experienced found ourselves enthralled under the alien symbol that glared downwards. The forest-dwellers glanced only once and then never looked back, only looking down at the ground to start their fires. We followed.
The silhouettes of the forest trees cutting the edge of the field made jagged tar-stained teeth – like the cruel teeth of the world; it had already swallowed up the once-powerful sun as it sank west, then excreting the moon out of the eclipsed chimneytops of civilisation to the east. The fires sprang to life one by one, and the followers began to talk amongst themselves in an old language I did not understand. To look at them would be to assume them completely foreign and savage – covered from scalp to toenail in mutilated animal skins and odd-coloured stones like barbarians of old, while the greenhorns dressed mainly in drab shirts and drab jeans. Tangled in my work clothes, like a relic of a dead civilisation, I clawed at my throttling tie as the heat of my pit of flames appeared to greet me.
The field was not dark anymore – a rough star-shaped patch of scalding intensity beneath the constellation, it looked like it was casting a spotlight upon the ongoings. Someone else noticed and hooped simian nonsense to the skies.
More came from the forest, their shadows staggering against the void, carrying bundles of sticks and cloths and skins. They wheeled idols and totems on small carts and repurposed wheelbarrows, warping their shapes into that of unfathomable monsters emerging from the trees. Their illusions were broken once the circle absorbed them into light to reveal their withered faces. Orange danced off their swollen pupils as their scarred hands worked fast to join the wooden sticks, like the bones of a huge primal creature. They moved to the beat of the quasi-musical sermon being read somewhere in the dark, hammering and thudding away at each stressed syllable, each gagging tone stitched together from English and the language unknown. In mere minutes, the shadows of fur-draped spires convulsed in the light of the fires; some of them in the shape of familiar fauna, others in unrecognisable clumsy shapes, soaked with fluorescent symbols and imagery – lists of ancestors climbing all the way back to prehistory.
Then they all began dancing in the dancing shadows – the sermon had now become a hymn, backed up by furious barbarian-drums pounded from atop the fur structures, by sitting men with wooden masks, compelling me to move with them. Their dancing – our dancing – consisting of violent seizures, the stomping of feet on the dying soil, thrusting our arms madly. It was the primitive music twirling through our skulls and intertwining with the concoctions of house solvents and crushed up herbs that many of us had imbibed before departing, filling our collective consciousness with screaming ape-calls, pound in the head in the skull through the water through the wind through the dirt dance, and uncoloured mists that took forceful control of our every sinew, dance of the drums in the sky on the bones in the skin.
There we were – a beacon of ancient sound and music erupting from the abyss. The abyss of the modern world that had bound so many of us. How we had longed to be free of the infuriating order of society pushing us through pre-ordained shapes. To even speak of these actions within the boundaries of the grey world would be to speak a taboo – unthinkable. How I envied the mad ones – born of the forest with their umbilical cords coiled about fungus-encrusted roots and gnawed off by weasels. Those who have never faced the inner walls of a cubicle, those whose faith and gods I adopted just to escape the feel of plastic. Now here I was; a reeling physical being with a wayward mind packed with drugs, to hail the upward and afterworld.
It was the sharp yell that ended the hymn, one outside of my head, and we dancers dropped between the cracks of the dirt like sacks. I felt my multi-coloured brain leak from my ears and into the earth to become a part of it. The constellation beat down on me with such fury as I tried to consume it with my eyes; it knew I was not faithful. I was a cuckoo in a nest of its true children.
Another sermon started, and one of the structures, revealed to be a cage, gave birth to a horned, shaggy creature with weary rectangular pupils to be brought within the centre of the ring.
The words were old – no more English – and slithered down the earth cracks and into my ears to assault my head – ribbons and banners of incantation and old songs coiling like snakes to cover my mind. For the first time, I was completely detached from my life before – everything outside the circle of fire, and beyond the suspicious glare of the star shapes above.
Voices roared in savage joy to the goat’s dying bleat as it was pulled to pieces, and its fluids smeared across the skins in unshaped patterns.
Nothing existed on the horizon, only the old truths within the heads of madmen. Sweet enlightenment.