This wasn't a statement of nuance, not more hubris, but a no-nonsense-straight-up-and-ruled-narrow categorical
utterance. From The Observatory on the outpost in the deep south of The Weatherlies. The Observatory was an ode to the past, a
square-patch abode that looked and felt like Thoreau's hideout, its henna-colored myth now a fading mental picture, its cabin more
conspicuous in the winter when the trees had shed their leaves, and its boxy profile cut through the evergreens, the spare forest of vertical
lines. It was the snow that Resident 97 missed, the way it seemed to fall from somewhere no one could see, for no reason other than to turn
everything into a duvet of wan waves, Walden Pond like the soft curves in one's palm, the sun line on it running in an opposite spray from
below the ring finger, to still variegate, out into the other six webbed appendages, following unseen capillaries.
Resident 97 scooped up the light from the vat he'd amassed through many saved cups. He would accumulate it for
drinking, he thought, and that would help relieve the pain of his dying body. Only Resident 97 knew of this, that in the right quantity, the
light for all its metaphorescent strobic behavior would fill the holes riddled in his lanky body that had gone brittle and fragile, resistant to the
outer limits only because The Observatory stood at a negative altitude, built along the ridgeline so low, the gravity kept his disparate parts
and shapes together. He didn't need much protective clothing either because even the wind bounced off his skin, as if desiring to touch the
iridescent aura that had quietly formed along his edges. There were other physical alterations too, like eye color and how it shifted shades
depending on where he looked, and how he was feeling. His hands seemed to be able to grasp bigger things, the objects somehow reducing
themselves to accommodate him.
They would rot into compost heaps if they cleared new terrains for more of their own Salvifinite Dwellings, built to
withstand the natural music of the planet conditions rather than work with it and help bring about its newness like making a shinier hazel
from discarded sepia. It was the same breath-filled story of gasps, of a chic postcolonial sentiment that backfired through a revival of the
same occupying tendencies, psychological and geographic and physical, all the time emotionally removed from the reality of loss, and the
pain that came with it.
As it was, the glassiforms were already crumbling, into semisolids that couldn't be digested. What more would ensue like the old myths
rearing their stories from antiquity? A cascade of otologiors smashing at the atmosphere and abrading its already thinning lamina? The
teleodontia cannibalizing other tetrapods for their polygonal scales and eggs?
— What more after the color of night? Resident 41 asked, walking off the flyloft onto a velvet curtain, allowing his body
weight and swing to jerk it loose. What do we make of a different kind of light, that of jyotis and jneya, or the equanimity
and self-possession that is upeksa?
— Remember the pages torn from the old book? Of the monk? His name was Huaisu, if I remember correctly. Resident 23
had mentioned this anecdotally to Resident 97 once, both swimming in the kettle lake formed by the receding glacier. Maybe some of us are
just a different kind of wanderer, like Huaisu's paintbrush that became its own hand, the freed-up calligraphy finally draining itself in a
resplendent outwash, of sand-colored light spots shaped like yellow topazes, his room filled with updrafts, rain, downwinds, then falling
flowers and the snow again, the way Li Bai described it.
Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé has edited more than 10 books and co-produced 3 audio books, several pro bono
for non-profit organizations. Desmond is a recipient of the Singapore Internationale Grant and Dr Hiew Siew Nam Academic Award. Also
working in clay, Desmond sculpts commemorative ceramic pieces for his Potter Poetics Collection. These works are housed in
museums and private collections in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.