The Labyrinth Outside the Walls


He lost his home, his medieval bastion, on a soft summer day, tipsy on pints of porter and late to the required observances. He joined a few of the young men in the back. There to gaze at the young ladies and to keep their elders at bay. In a conspiracy of silence, he and another vowed not to tell. They were leaving. So far as each knew, the other never told. He ran back to the public house with wings on his feet, ready to receive the sacraments. But he would never quench his thirst.

For his sins, he was banished. Forevermore, he would reside outside the invisible walls of the medieval borough that he loved. Now, he was a stranger. And strange it became to visit its streets, to feel the unseen wall that separated him from people he had loved and would have died for. They didn’t know him. It was all a dream, it seemed. But it was real. The dreams became even more painful than waking reality. It wasn’t so much that he had abandoned the gods of the polis. He had dared to pass through its walls, to go to the place where the gods lived. And there? He found nothing. Or perhaps such a chaos of fullness that, well, it might as well have been emptiness. It was certainly a sort of madness.

Mystical practices. He tried. But where the sage points to the emptiness he sees instead dead colors, purposeless movement, always. And the melding of all things into amorphous oblivion. He is destroyed, not by the void but by the all. Still, he tries. He chants. He breathes. The muscles knot in the back of his neck. He braces himself for the next leg of his journey.

And after all, it’s all the one, right? Gurus. Messiahs. Conquering prophets. Sages. Shamans. Troubadors. Why not unite them? Why not universalize them? So he found a cult that unitized and univeralized. Only, he kept asking himself, “What’s the point?” It was like wandering through the desert only to find a group of people lost, listening to a lecture about the desert from someone who is just as lost as everyone else. We’re in the fucking desert, he thought. He didn’t want to hear about the desert, wasn’t looking for an invitation to explore it. It didn’t seem to have done the unitizers and universalizers much good. They weren’t getting anywhere. Intellectualizing, theorizing, sermonizing were not going to get anybody out of this waterless place.

So, he left the sparse shade of that place and travelled on, longing again to be inside the walls where no one knew him, though he had spent a lifetime with them. He tried to sneak in through the back door, through chapels perilous with all the correct trappings – miters, ceremony, incense. He prayed, meditated, sang, screamed, moved, dipped toes in foreign waters, returned, played with cards and sought his future. All to no avail. He sought out cults that preached confidently that one could so easily return inside the medieval walls through a simple statement of faith in a man-god. He tried to believe that, yes, the mere speaking of words, whether by head or heart, could magically transport him inside the walls. But they didn’t. There were still chimera on the road out of town and spectral sounds that beckoned him.

So, he found himself in the labyrinth outside the walls. There he remains. He has come to realize that inside the walls is a sort of museum, a living exhibit. People take on characters for the day while he visits. And it is all very believable. But at night, the actors go home to the labyrinth – whether they knew it or not. The city behind the walls becomes deserted and lifeless. A theatrical set.

He passes the actors there in the labyrinth now. They either vaguely recognize him or don’t recognize him at all. That suits him fine, though a hidden part of him comes out every so often to yearn for the Disney-like non-reality of the world behind the walls.