Saturday, May 22, 2010

Episode #5: The Gnasher House

Ziggy crossed through the door and waited no time at all before finding himself plunged into a dry, hostile forest. Daring to climb none of the trees he merely picked a path around their sour roots, avoiding any line with the oldest and, he imagined, most contemptuous ones among them. Their ragged trunks, he imagined, permitted him passage only begrudgingly. He felt himself pushing deeper into the wood, ignoring the air around him as he made his way to thinner and thinner areas. Until finally he found it - an island in the trees, devoid of foliage and housing only a single ramshackle cabin.

Ziggy took his bearings, accustomed himself to the relief of having escaped the venomous regard of the woods and began to pace the ominous shack. No light shone inside and the door, wide open, bore the peculiar look of a bait or point of ambush. As he rounded the corner of the porch, avoiding the probing look of the dark interior, he saw a peculiarly wizened man sitting, bowlegged and contemplative, on the hard soil.

There was something about the house, much bigger and wiser than itself, but mad and energetic. Ziggy opened his mouth to speak, but the Guru's knowing grin struck him as he spoke first:

"You won't find anything of import in there, traveler. To be a trespasser in that home is to find yourself marked for death, and to be invited in isn't much better. The House guards its company jealously and will hold you inside."

Ziggy felt sick to his stomach as he turned back to find the trail that had brought him here, but the man spoke again:

"Nevertheless, it so happens you've been invited. Do you think the path you took here still exists, or that the woods would permit you passage again? No - best go inside, boy. I'd say not to keep the House waiting, but he's far more patient than I, isn't he?"

Ziggy blinked once, tiredly, before turning about and approaching the beckoning porch. The energy inside was palpable and frightening, and as he went inside he thought he heard the man's sad, quiet laughter behind him.

Guide #1

For navigation's sake, the first four episodes of "Ziggy's Journey" comprise Chapter One:

Ep. 1: Lost in a Hollow Null
Ep. 2: Starvaulting
Ep. 3: Apparition Caravan
Ep. 4: False Dilemma

EDIT 7/30/09: Chapter Two coming soon!

Episode #4: False Dilemma

You have a vividness, wandering one, that sweeps beyond your hairless frame. . .

Ziggy's envoy told him this without speaking, giving his mind the meaning of its message without deigning to any form of structured language. Even in this entirely surreal setting Ziggy knew that this creature (if he could call it a creature) was no construct of his mind but the promise of his roaming, a necessary stop before the Something New that he sought began in earnest. Thus he felt no need to pressure the pace of their conference, and said nothing.

In this infinite vacancy there stood none but Ziggy and his envoy, whose gaze never wandered from Ziggy's face. Eventually this began to make him uncomfortable, upon which the creature's eye (if it was an eye) began to wander and rove in the typical human manner, almost as if a matter of courtesy.

You will pardon me this, for I see the matter and the form of things, as you do. Yet in matters of the edges and dimensions of things my sight is less complete. I can tell you now that my eye will remain focused on the spot of your leaving for a full hundred thousand years after you are gone, until such time as I see you again.

Which leaves us the matter of your
pursuance. While your journey is not ending, I can promise you nothing - only that I shall see you again. I can offer you the route but nothing else - only the promise that we will meet one last time before you die, if that word means anything here.

So I am here compelled to offer you a choice - no! I fear that you have misunderstood me. You cannot go back - that way is already closed. You have survived the void - an unnatural thing which cannot happen again - and all ways are forward to you now.

And the way appeared.

The choice is simple, and, I fear, an entirely unfair one. As long as you stay here, the forces that have protected you thus far will continue to do so. However, you will be unable to leave and I will have broken my promise. Or. . .

It looked toward the gargantuan now-opening door which Ziggy approached vigilantly, before entering the frame and turning to regard his erstwhile companion, which only stared at him quietly.

He went through.

Episode #3: Apparition Caravan

Ziggy waited for some time after he passed through the Edge. Having no idea whether he was moving at a great speed or completely motionless, he surveyed the vast empty white around him bemusedly. At times he even felt as if he was standing still, and eventually the complete and total nothing around him began to tax his impatient mind, opening up a litany of strange images to his senses.

But were they visions? For whether the roots growing from his feet or the foreboding clouds gathering just a short distance from his head were real or merely fantasy Ziggy could not tell; all frames of reference appeared to have dissipated. Ziggy's overactive mind drank in the images, until it seemed to content itself with objects of less form and color, swirling specters of hue and meaning that presented themselves to him without obligation.

One of the images seemed particularly persistent, and to match Ziggy's course (or at least remain motionless along with him) for some time. Ziggy regarded it, having long since decided not to settle the debate over its origin, along with his other companions.

Finally its movement slowed, leaving Ziggy to drift right past it before resuming its previous pace. Slowly, as if accustoming himself to light, Ziggy began to see a crude form in his odd companion as it made a most peculiar eye contact. It seemed to give Ziggy a minute to process this new development before he felt the creature's warmth and intelligence open itself to him, and speak into his mind.

Episode Two: Starvaulting

Ziggy traveled for weeks, poking his head out of nebulae and negotiating the spaces between the stars in a sacred slalom. Though the blackness that surrounded him was unspeaking, it also seemed benevolent, and Ziggy felt that he lacked no company as he closed the distance to his goal. He knew the direction of his commute, if not his destination, an emigrant from the corporal world of his home to this blank familiarity. Still, he knew neither the direction nor distance to the Door that had brought him here.

As Ziggy migrated, he found the space around him growing thinner, older, more exhausted, until it seemed to give up entirely. Here there were no more nebulae, no gatherings of gas into stars and planets, no light shows and dark masses of needy gravity. He turned slowly to regard the last fading dregs of the universe behind him, sharing a mutual goodbye before continuing onward through the black. He needed no light to navigate, and none could follow him here.

When Ziggy finally reached the Edge, he continued onward without hesitation. As he stepped through the infinite curtain at the divide he felt no change. Though the blackness never seemed to diminish behind him, he knew that he was still moving, and would soon reach the object of his wandering.

Ziggy's Journey Episode One: Lost in a Hollow Null

Ziggy was not by any reasonable measure a happy person. To call his life a veil of sadness would have been unfair - Ziggy's years had been marked by no great tragedies, no torments or abuses to bear on his mind and occupy his thoughts. But his few real successes were minor and brief, punctuated by the sort of tedium and regularity he wasn't nearly old enough to prefer. It would be cliche to say that something was missing in his life, something elusive and indefinable, but the fact remained that something was. Without knowing it, Ziggy returned to his empty flat for the five thousandth, six thousandth, seven thousandth time.

On the seven thousand and first afternoon in his home Ziggy stood in his drab doorway, an emotional flatline. Pausing only for one neutral, deep sigh, he answered his calls, restocked the birdfeeder, ate dinner, did his crossword and went to bed.

The next morning, routine save for the occurrence of a full-scale housecleaning, Ziggy found the Door.

It stood obscured behind the piles upon piles of long-unlistened LPs, Time Magazines and yellowed newspapers in his basement. Ziggy had purchased his home empty, and having lived in it for nearly twenty years had a fair idea of its layout. This peculiar entryway, marked with the equally peculiar label "VOID," did not belong. And yet this accident had a certain inevitability, the feeling of a moment earned. Ziggy turned the black doorknob, turned to survey the home he knew he was leaving for good, took a deep breath, and went inside.

Ziggy wandered for a long time.

Image credit, original artist unattributed

Ziggy's Journey: The Beginning

Ziggy Liberated was a terribly fun year-long project, a reinterpretation of Ziggy's strips from a philosophical, usually humorous, perspective. (The uninitiated can find a complete explanation here and read the complete archives from April 2008 - May 2009.) I've often felt that I did some of my best writing for Ziggy Liberated, as it served as a goofy springboard for some pretty far-out ideas and jokes. It certainly helped that analyzing Ziggy in such depth was inherently funny!

From now on I'll be doing something new. Rather than analyze each Ziggy strip individually I'll be pulling Ziggy into his own unique adventures, which will give me an opportunity to explore some more heady, metaphysical concepts. Ziggy's Journey will be a more serious, introspective project, though I certainly won't be ditching the humorous element or more Carrollesque tomfoolery.

Unfortunately the blog format posts everything in reverse order (the newest post will always be at the top of the page). So here's how I recommend reading Ziggy's Journey:

- Start with the most recent unread episode (say, the first one) by clicking on that episode's direct link (the title).

- After reading the episode click on the "Newer Post" link near the bottom of the page, thereby advancing to the next episode. When that link is no longer available, you've reached the most recent episode. It's as easy as not doing dishes!

I hope you enjoy this - I know I will.