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Updated: Jun 29, 2021

man in sea wearing motorcycle helmet

From its vantage point on the warm currents of air, the eagle watched as the man in black leather flew off his bike, spinning in a graceful arc to land on the side of the road. All around, the mountains were mute, reddening under a flaming sky.

The man lay unable to move, his head encased in a helmet. He was slipping between consciousness and the abyss, and a dream rose to meet him. He saw himself as a young boy and his people were at war. Confused by the violence around him, the boy found solace in the many hours he would disappear into the forest and mountains. He discovered a cave, where he met an old woman, the crevices in her face so deep they spoke of forgotten lands. She gave him a mask and told him it was for dreaming; he was to dream a new world for his people. He dreamed with ferocity and genius, the scenes and personages multiplying along sinuous paths in an ever-expanding labyrinth, but still he could not break free from the war that was already raging in his own heart.

Now, he saw his body stretched out on the sand and bent over for a glimpse of his face. Gliding across the visor were the reflections of the many characters he had dreamed. Boudica leading her army into battle against the Romans. A slave on the sugar plantations of Haiti, whipped and beaten. A mother gone mad after her children were forcibly removed. An old man sitting immobile in a room, listening to the spiders scuttle across the floorboards.

The patter of spider feet crept out across the ages to the body of this man sheathed in leather. His flesh churned in the heat, the cells metamorphosing according to some secret law of alchemy. In his heart stood a giant butterfly. Its orange wings were veined with deep red, and swirls of black and white scalloped the edges. In an airless chamber, the wings opened and closed, opened and closed.

Around the man, the mountains reeled and waited.

Text and photo by Junyi Chew

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