This story is part of the Daily Cabal’s third anniversary celebration, a collection of kabbalah-themed stories. (Thanks to Mechaieh for the theme!) The other anniversary stories are Angela’s Ephraim’s Daughter, Luc’s ____, and David’s Has he thoughts within his head?
Little is known of the activities of the celebrated writer Jorge Luis Borges after he faked his own death in 1986.
According to some reports, he lived in a secret bunker under the Argentine National Library where, with several assistants to help read and research, the blind author devoted himself to the study of the kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition that had figured in many of his stories and poems. He focused on the golem-making rituals that turn created into creator in worshipful mimicry of the divine. Using techniques that disassembled and recombined the most basic linguistic elements of the bible, Borges invested every waking hour in study and practice. No stranger to creation through language, he’d become an adept sometime in the early 1990’s.
With his assistants, he fashioned three humanoid shapes out of clay. Alone, he inscribed them all over with mystic syllables. When the golems woke to consciousness, they were alone.
One of the three crumbled to dust before they discovered they could sustain themselves by continuously reading and rereading Borges’ work. They haunted the library’s stacks each night, searching out their maker’s stories, poems, essays, letters, speeches–anything that, like them, bore the mark of his mind.
They discovered that, by copying out his work in their own hand, they could renew and refine their rough forms into something more human. Soon they had no need of reference copies; every word of their maker having been pressed into their neuronal clay by their neverending rereading. Eventually one began to write not only finished pieces, but their drafts, starting with a copy of “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” that contained Borges’ every strikeout and marginal jotting. Even the handwriting was similar. After years of diligent scribing, the golem re-composed the totality of its maker’s career and began to venture new compositions–a line of poetry here, a phrase two of prose there. Another decade, and he was composing new stories, tales Borges would have written.
The moment the golem completed the last word of his first slim volume, The Voice of the Mirror and Other Stories, Borges, living in a distant part of the city under an assumed name, found that he could see again.
“Light,” he said to his companions at a café table under evening trees. “Everywhere there is light.”
A. Portland, Oregon
1. Grand adventure is calling!
2. Slide your ass out of bed.
3. Drink a Stumptown or three.
4. Clear IPAs from your head.
5. Gas up the Subie wagon!
6. Put on your old Birks!
7. You’re in Oregon camo.
8. (In the city that works.)
9. Avoid roads with bored cops.
10. (You don’t want to go down.)
11. Stash the weed! Crank some indie!
12. Head straight south out of town.
637 miles later (about 10 hours, 2 minutes):
B. San Francisco, California
1. Cross your choice of big bridges.
2. Pick one – pay the damn toll!
3. Go up and go down.
4. Don’t stop at stop signs – just roll!
5. Go up and go down.
6. Get lost and then again!
7. Do E with a homeless dude.
8. He’ll become your best friend!
9. Good luck finding parking.
10. (Though it helps some to pray.)
11. Kick the homeless dude out.
12. And head south to L.A.
381 miles later (about 6 hours, 26 minutes – up to 7 hours, 50 minutes in traffic):
C. Los Angeles, California
1. Oh! The freeways and cloverleafs!
2. Lots of lights! Lots of cars!
3. Oh! The silicone breast implants!
4. Lots of strip clubs and stars!
5. Don’t turn down the wrong roads.
6. Never trust a valet.
7. Careful snorting while driving.
8. Buy a hands-free coke tray!
9. Party at clubs with ridiculous covers.
10. Drive like you’ve got the heart of a beast!
11. Avoid being on a reality show.
12. Onward, the desert awaits to the east.
792 miles later (about 12 hours, 19 minutes):
D. Albuquerque, New Mexico
1. Take that left turn.
2. (You know that you want to!)
3. Make fun of the town’s name.
4. Just where no one can hear you.
5. It’s a good place for business.
6. And for jobs (Forbes says so).
7. But they drive like they have
8. Nowhere special to go.
9. So just drink some peyote.
10. View the great color fountain!
11. See hot air balloon fiestas.
12. Then head on up the mountain!
449 miles (about 7 hours, 11 minutes):
E. Denver, Colorado
1. Celebrate that you’re here!
2. Your adventure is done.
3. Drink beer and get stoned.
4. Pretend you’re in Oregon!
5. It’s the Mile High City.
6. Snow’s a beautiful scene!
7. Reflect on your adventure.
8. All the places you’ve been!
9. You’ve had traffic and parking.
10. Yes, at times you were vexed.
11. But it’s your destination!
12. Where will you go next?
Doreen tucked a loose lock of hair behind her ear and licked her lips. She had never seen the Martian tarot before. For that matter, she had never been this close to a real-live Martian. But she had to know what was in store now that her guide was gone.
The creature placed the first card on the table. The painting was composed of dots, but no pattern emerged no matter how she squinted. The Martian pinched the next card’s corner with three spatulate fingertips, turned it over. Another pointilist nonlandscape.
“Fate, the inevitable. Also, subterfuge.” Doreen didn’t know what this meant. She turned her head. Looking at the card with just one eye didn’t seem to help.
“What position does that take?” she quavered.
“Behind you, of course,” it muttered, placing the card beneath the first. She looked quickly over her shoulder. Nothing. She shook herself, nodded quickly for the next card.
This one was predominantly blue and green, but no more interpretable than the first two. “The moons.” Doreen was beginning to feel bloated.
Another card. A whole range of pale shades, but no white. “The sea.” Doreen bobbed her head nervously. Her arms trembled. She opened her mouth to speak, closed it with a snap.
Card. “Pathways, in search.” This one looked like a photorealistic painting of a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. But the meatballs were … wrong. They had legs tucked up beneath them, and eyes. Doreen could no longer sit still. She hopped up on the seat, shuffled her feet, fluttered her arms.
Card. “Release, equanimity.” Mountain peaks stood up before the stars. A bird flapped heavily in front of two small moons. Doreen scratched behind her ear with her foot.
Card. “Disclosure, a return.” A shove, and the chair landed on its back in a puff of dust.