Garden

by Nanohex

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about

All music is performed by Nanohex, and includes a tie-in short story by Damien Krsteski.

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released May 25, 2017

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Kalpamantra UK

Dark ambient digital
label, circa 2009.

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Track Name: Prologue: The Garden
The hum of crystals woke him up.

He put on a shirt, and stepped out into the garden. Wind had driven the clouds away, leaving behind an inky dome dotted with stars like spilled rice.

Barefoot he walked on dewy grass among a glinting menagerie, his hand caressing the crystal trees, brushing the bejeweled fruit which weighed down their branches, and each touch sent a shiver through the garden's spine all the way to the mountain in the distance—causing the mountain to shake in response, grumble, blow gusts of wind gardenward, which in turn made the crystals sing even louder.

He made his way past rattling saplings, pygmy faces preserved in pearl cherries eagerly following his step, between hedges coated in a diamond-berry crust, through a patch of onyx pumpkins, until he reached the mulch where grass grew sparsely.

He bent down, buried his hand in the cold soil to the wrist.

The tips of his fingers touched the seed. There, still. That gold nugget with the amber face preserved in it, a catch he'd bled to wrestle free from the mountain, to plant in his garden of stone and let grow into a crystal birch or oak, or some beautiful fruit tree, the life within running as saccharine sap through veins of gemstone leaves.

The wind stole his sigh; relieved, he stood, and his crystal-caged creatures watched him in silent consternation do what they could not—breathe deeply, drinking in the night air.

He strode back to his mansion, each step drawn out as a millennium, the frozen bodies from times inconceivably far away as if singing, emboldened by the mountain, a choir in tune to the wind, piping, sleep tight.

Sleep tight, he thought he heard. And never wake up.
Track Name: Shape Of The World
The mountain was built out of time, one grain after another, like the bottom half of an hourglass. And like the bottom of the hourglass it contained moments that had passed—from everywhere and across all eras.

The hunter couldn't remember how he'd learned that, so it must be something he'd always known, by virtue of his being there, in the mansion across the mountain. Nobody had raised him, or nobody remotely like him in appearance, the touch he'd known growing up was the cold bite of frost, burn of the sun, and the hard pinch of the winds. He couldn't remember hunger, but neither could he recall ever eating; he'd been born, or brought there, or had risen from the very earth, or had simply been, forever.

One of his earliest memories was of walking out to the treeless plain surrounding the mansion, an expanse stretching from horizon to horizon in three directions and to the foot of the mountain in the west, and of running southward until his mansion could be covered up by his thumb, until his mansion was a notch on the horizon behind him, running until it could no longer be discerned, only the wizened mountain looming in the background, running elated until his mansion appeared again, ahead this time, as another smear, a miniature, growing, the smear blossoming into full size; and he slowed, then, crestfallen, stopped running because he'd reached home, having circumnavigated his world.

A world which showed him there was nowhere to go but up.
Track Name: The Mountain
So up he went. Exploring the foothills, at first, scouring the sparse forest lining the edge of the valley. He picked fruit only to throw it over his shoulder, not finding better use for the food; he splashed in the ponds that formed near the base of the mountain after periods of heavy rainfall, bathed and cooled off during what were exceptionally humid summers; he explored the terrain, steadily climbing the mountainside, mapping out the forests and rivers and caves and crannies, until his legs thickened and his chest puffed out and he could run all the way to the snow-crowned tops with only a single break for sleep.

When he became familiar with the mountain, he began to notice the nuggets. Chunks which shimmered with rainbows lay under the surface layer, sometimes underneath the green grass of a knoll, or under clods of burgundy river bank clay, other times tucked behind the bark of an old oak, or beneath the weight of a boulder. The first he found was stamped into the ground. A shiny stone, he thought, and only on closer inspection did he see the face pressed into the stone, what he later termed a death print, the ghost image of a time far away, the unique mark of the timestream of which the nugget had been part. He prised it free.

When he closed his fist on the stone a shiver ran through his body. Instinct awoke. It was so simple, what he had to do, like an itch calling to be scratched, and his body moved almost of its own accord, hurrying down the mountain to the arable land in front of his home. He buried the nugget there.

He took these odd stones whenever he stumbled upon them, stuffing his pockets, and the mountain hated him for it, sending rain and thunder after each plundered gem. He planted them in his soil, let them take root, and within days of each planting, a green stalk poked through the earth.

Before long, his garden was lush with life.

Within the fruit or on the leaves of the trees that grew out of the seeds of the mountain he could see whole stories playing out, scenes from worlds that held more than a mansion, a garden, and a mountain, richer planes of existence where life was plentiful and varied. Each glimpse into these worlds was a tease, so he roamed the mountain tirelessly, his thirst for stories growing insatiable. He learned to spot them, the way they radiated in the muck, his eyes trained in the hunt for chronological morsels.

*

Images in the crystal like trapped dreams, showing beauty and splendor and people, yes, other live beings, living out and reliving their lives before him, making it hard to look away.

These mirages from the past filled him with awe. With joy and excitement and curiosity and hope. Blinking innocently at him, the eyes of all the worlds long gone filled him with a sense of wholeness.

*

The hunter subsisted on borrowed time, in a world in which time had no place being. Nothing much changed, apart from the growth of the garden, which by now was becoming labyrinthine—the weather cycled through its predefined states, going round the mountain which imposed on the landscape, and his mansion never fell into disrepair, despite his never tending to it.

His eyes drank in the views-to-whenever depicted on his garden's ripened crystal, and his days, these moments that chased each other, tripping one after another, passed quickly.
Track Name: The Clepsydra (Pt. 1)
Eons went by before boredom set in.

Along with something else entirely, something more pernicious than boredom, a deeper ennui that grew with each moment spent peering into the past of others, reminding him his soul was withering away.

When all the time in the world was no longer a distraction, he found himself alone, touching others through tinted crystal only, felt pointless, like he'd done all there was to do and could do no more; because all the time in the world had never been really his, just been made available to him, to look at and marvel and to seethe with jealousy at those who could experience birth, and new love after heartbreak, and growing old, and a peaceful death.
Track Name: The Clepsydra (Pt. 2)
Sunshine speared through the treetops as the hunter was pacing his garden, trapping him behind golden bars. The visuals passed over the fruit and leaves likes reflections in a rain pond. Close enough to touch, yet a touch was enough to ruin them. Those lives. Those people. Unimaginably far, tucked away in some past. An anger possessed him, so he retreated briefly to the cool of his mansion to grab the scythe which stood against the wall in his bedroom, and stormed out again in the sweltering noon.

The scythe glimmered like a gnomon above his head, casting a long, straight shadow on the grass. Gripped firmly, he made a quick slice through crystal crop. With the rattling of bead curtains crops fell, and he cut through larger swathes, and then through flowers and saplings, and trees, and the scythe sliced through oak and wheat with equal ease. By the time he'd destroyed half his garden, he was crying and his hands were shaking, and so was forced to stop.

The ground was littered with jeweled rot: the chronological flashes in the fallen fruit and stomped leaves dimming.
Track Name: The Clepsydra (Pt. 3)
One bright day high up in the forest of the mountain, he saw a creature in a white linen dress wading into a fast stream. He thought the creature was drowning herself, so he called after her.

She stepped out of the river, before making her way to him in swaying, serpentine motions. He asked who she was.

“The clepsydra,” she said, each syllable like the soft drip of an icicle.

The hunter rubbed his eyes; disconsolate, he'd been trekking the mountainside for days with barely any sleep, so he didn't trust himself with delineating truth from dream. He repeated his question.

The clepsydra's voice was soothing as a rushing brook. “I know what it is you want,” she gurgled, ignoring his question. “And I know what it is you need to escape. But I'm not telling.” She studied him through lifeless marble eyes, the smooth eyes of a statue.

He tried to grip her by the shoulders, but his hands slipped on wet skin.

“You've been subordinate to this world for so long, you don't see it for what it is, you don't dare touch it, don't dare change it in your mind, turn it inside-out.” She blinked. “Or upside-down. And you still don't know what you are. Of what you are capable.” She giggled behind her hand, dribbling water. Then she looked into his eyes, “What are you?”

The hunter told her.

“Close.” She began to walk toward the river again. Her movement was elegant, a gliding, almost, and the hunter could see no feet beneath the lace hem of her dress. At the river she bent down, said, “But not quite,” and drank. When she straightened up, she spat the water in his face. “Look at me,” she said, “and you will know,” and she jumped into the river, her dress becoming foam, her skin water.

One moment was enough to lose her from sight. He leaned over—look at me—and peered into the deep blue water—look—and could see, despite the frothing of the waves—look at me—his own ageless face, pale, strange—and you will know—and he saw a sadness with no beginning nor end flicker over it, untouched by the water which passed beneath his reflection, and the world, behind him, mirrored.
Track Name: The Clepsydra (Pt. 4)
He woke with a start from troubled sleep, palm on chest to reassure a racing heart. The white curtains had ballooned into the room like ship sails. He got up to close the windows.

She wasn't telling, she'd said, her watery voice still gurgling in his ears. And she'd teased him about his world, the world he wasn't seeing right. He stared out the window at the mountain, which was striped with low wispy clouds, as the words of the perfidious clepsydra ran through his mind.

The world, mirrored.

Upside-down.

The bottom half of the hourglass, his mountain, grains of sand of time that has passed. Flipped, upside-down. And those same still moments from the past start to trickle down, becoming the future, rebuilding a new mountain, a new world for him.

A shiver passed through his body. The mountain hid its face behind thicker clouds, ashamed.

It held all possible timelines, he realized, not only the past, and it only followed that it held his own, too, the seed from which this in-between timeless world he inhabited could grow. His future.

And the clepsydra had revealed enough: the noise of waterfalls, rush of a dangerous river in her voice.

He knew where that nugget was.
Track Name: The River
On the bank of the russet river, one foot on the sinewy tangle of roots that stuck out, he watched a mass of mud and branches rush down and out of sight. Bubbles of air burst on the stains of mud which sometimes flecked the river surface, giving the impression the water was boiling hot, but the hunter knew, even without dipping a toe, that he'd freeze if he wasn't out of it quickly.

There was no other place, this had to be it. Where the mountain had hidden the seed.

He took off his boots, jacket, and pants, and dove headfirst in.

The cold water almost stopped his heart. He swam against the current to strain his muscles to heat up, his arms beating the river and splashing water into his eyes, then he turned and made for the narrow strip of mud which split the river in two. Waves splashed into his face, water filling his ears, eyes, and mouth, but he persisted, swimming sideways into the rushing stream, cutting into the waves, skirting whirlpools which would've pulled him underwater as if yanked by the ankle, and when almost out of breath, when muscle was about to tear from bone, his hand clutched the reeds of the river island. He pulled himself up, out of the water.

He dried in the wind, arms wrapped around himself, longingly watching his clothes across half a river flap on the branches on which he'd hung them.

Clouds whirled above.

Once he got his breath back, he began to dig. With hands like claws he tore through the mudflat island in the middle of the deafening river, digging in the grime for the nugget he so wanted. He excavated wormy earth by the handful, squeezing his fist for any hardened matter, throwing the mudballs into the river. He dug, clawed, nails tearing off his fingers, all the while an unrelenting wind stung his face.

When the hole was a forearm's length deep, his hand touched something more consistent than mud. He closed his fist and pulled, like ripping out a root, and knew he had what he'd come to unearth because right then the mountain gave off a resounding roar.

In the palm of his hand he held the coveted nugget. Brought to the eye, and he could see clearly through the filth smeared on it, not reflected but trapped within like a raindrop, his own face staring back.

His death print.

He had little time for awe, so clutching his chunk of gold, he dove back into the now-swollen river and swam to shore, barely making it to his clothes.
Track Name: Running Down The Mountain
Nugget in his pocket, he set to running down the thorny path, jumping over fallen branches and gnarled tree roots. The mountain sensed a piece of itself was missing, a piece it considered crucial, a piece which if misused could hurt it, so it took one deep breath and gave its hardest to stop the thief from escaping.

The hunter ran, his own garden a shimmer in the vale below, while treetops lashed back and forth above his head, rocks hitting the ground like thunders, exploding into dust. He swerved off the path, missing a boulder the size of his head by a hair's breadth. Diving into the forest. Dark, suddenly, the roiling clouds all but hidden by the thick canopy of leaves. He ran, dancing around tree trunks, and the forest shook off a scourge of worms and caterpillars. He yelped, brushing the pest off his shoulders or head.

Downslope, diagonally. Three boulders fell in quick succession around him, the last one skirting his back. He froze. He was a bug scurrying down a giant's back, while the giant was jumping, slapping with his hand.

He took in his surroundings for a moment, one arm covering his head, then continued, going upslope a bit, before running back downhill in big strides, stumbling, feet slipping on mossy ground. Clutching the nugget of gold in his pocket.

He came out onto a glade, which was now a mess of broken branches and leaves and scattered rock and dirt. His garden and home seemed too far away. As he took a step, the ground trembled, and he watched a crack appear between his feet, lengthening. The mountain ripped a seam, ripped itself apart, a gaping hole in which the scattered branches and storm clutter dropped, but he'd jumped to the side at the last moment and now ran as fast as his legs could carry him, the cold breath sharp in his throat, panting, jumping left or right as many mouths yawned open for him.

Hail pelted him, the rivers, the bowels of the mountain carrying filth and mud down its side, overran, filling up the holes in the earth with gooey quicksand. He went around them, eyes squinting, running in jumps and pirouettes toward his home.

His foot caught in a jutting root, sending him rolling down the steep incline. When his roll was stopped by a rock outcrop, and he finally got back on his feet, coughing and spitting out dirt, his head was spinning and there was a screaming pain in his ribs, but he picked up his pace again, clutching his side, and soon the trees became sparser, the slope slowly leveling out until his feet were on the even ground of the plain, his mansion waiting up ahead.

*

Only when the hunter got to the gate of his garden did he glance back toward the mountain, which now seemed impossibly far away, wrapped in a coat of thunderheads. He watched it awhile, gasping for breath.

Limping to the plot of earth he'd prepared for the nugget, the creatures depicted on the crystalline surfaces staring at him with bated breath. He knelt. His whole body was trembling like a leaf, but he found strength to dig with sore hands and bury his catch.

When finished, he gently patted the topsoil.
Track Name: Coda
The seed took root and a stalk poked its head, which then grew into a sapling that branched out when spring came, peaches of gold growing along the length of the branches, peaches glimmering like baubles, and in each fruit there gleamed another garden of crystal and another hunter of time tending to that garden, and within each that hunter buried another hard-won seed in mulch, and patted his earth, caressed his plants. The hunter's actions slightly different in every microcosm, multiplying, diversifying as more peaches grew, weighing down the boughs.

And every morning the hunter came out of his mansion to look at his tree, and saw himself entrapped a thousandfold in the orbs, saw himself retracing his own steps, walking the same roads, except the changes of each iteration cascaded into bigger differences until one day he saw his feet beginning to stray toward untrodden paths, away from the mountain, away from his own garden, some of the peaches showing nothing but gold dust, an empty, unkempt garden in alternative mythopoeses where the world's topography was not round, and then the hunter laughed, and broke down crying before his peach tree, because he'd seen himself free.