The Deep Dip, The Middle-way, The Highness, The Highness Above the Highness, The Outward Regions

Kim Parko

There was a Deep Dip, a Middle-way, and then a Highness. On the top of the Highness stood a house that was shoved to one side by the wind.

Mister lived in the house with the goat. The goat could stand on the tip of Highness without falling. Mister's wife, Simone, had fallen.

"Why haven't I fallen?" Mister often wondered. But it was easy to see why Mister had not fallen, and this was one of the main reasons that the goat loved Mister.

There were no reflections in the Highness. Even when someone looked into still pools of water they saw nothing but the water itself. But most of the time, on the Highness, there was snow. And Mister would take the snow into the house and melt it for tea. And Mister and the goat would drink their tea with the goat's milk.

"Does it bother you to drink your own milk?" Mister asked the goat, and the goat said, "No, my milk tastes a lot like how I remember my mother's milk tasting," and that was when Mister thought that maybe the kid had come from the goat instead of from Simone.

Mister asked the goat, "Who is the mother of the kid?"

Mister and the goat were alone on the Highness now that Simone had fallen and the kid was gone.

The kid moved with such ease over the down slope. The kid thought, "Why is everyone so reticent to descend? It feels so good. It feels so natural."

In the Deep Dip, there lived the colony of the Limbless. The Limbless had long ago rolled down from the Highness, and as they were rolling down off the Highness, their limbs were crushed and broken and by the time they got to the Deep Dip, their limbs were gone. The Limbless could not get back to the Highness because they had nothing to put into the handholds and footholds that were gouged into the side of the Highness. Who made those holds? was the question that everyone wanted to know, and it became the belief of the Limbless that there was The One Who Made the Holds, and that The One Who Made the Holds might also have the ability to restore the limbs to the Limbless. So the Limbless created intricate dances to summon The One Who Made the Holds. They slithered over and under each other, and from the Highness, the goat one day saw the movement in the Deep Dip and thought it beautiful.

Mister began to think that the goat was the mother of the kid, and he began to wonder how it was possible. Mister had never been with the goat in the way he had been with Simone. And the goat had never become swollen, the way Simone had before she moaned and panted and bled the kid onto the Highness.

Mister remembered back to when he and Simone had lived in the Middle-way and how they had become so fidgety there and how they both began to slowly stretch their limbs so that they could get their hands and feet into the hand and footholds and climb to the Highness.

In the Middle-way the others had noticed how long Mister and Simone's limbs were getting and how their limbs were eventually too long to operate any of the machinery in the Middle-way and there were stories of this happening to the Ones Before Them Who Got Fidgety who had also stretched their limbs and had eventually been able to climb to the Highness and build a house that suited them.

Mister and Simone had to leave the Middle-way because they were starving and could not operate any of their household appliances in the Middle-way and they were banned from stores and restaurants by the other Middle-wayans. The others were angry because Mister and Simone's limbs were always in the way, tripping the others. And at night, Mister and Simone's limbs would not completely fit in their beds, so they had to take turns resting each of their limbs in bed while the rest of them stayed awake.

They were weak from hunger and fatigue.

When Mister and Simone began to climb, they felt relief; never had their limbs felt such purpose as they spanned the footholds and handholds that led them with ease onto the Highness.

The Ones Before Them Who Got Fidgety were long gone but their house that was shoved to one side by the wind was still there. And soon Mister and Simone found the goat who was balanced perfectly on the narrowest precipice.

Something fell from the Highness into the center of the Deep Dip with a soft thud. Nothing had ever fallen from the Highness and landed, intact, onto the ground of the Deep Dip. Everything else that had fallen had been incinerated in fireballs before reaching the Deep Dip.

Mister immediately took a liking to the goat while Simone remained cautious: there were no goats in the Middle-way anymore. They had all left for the Highness many millennia ago, and now there were only pictures of them in schoolbooks and stories of their mockery.

In the goats' eyes, it wasn't mockery, but the goats did not write the schoolbooks. The schoolbooks were written to make it seem like the goats had chosen to leave the Middle-way, when the truth, as the goats saw it, was that they were forced to leave. There was only one Middle-wayan who corroborated the goats' rendition of history.

The one Middle-wayan who supported the goat's rendition of history was named Archie and he stood on the street corner and, hour after hour, told this story:

The Middle-way was inhabited by the Middle-wayans and the goats. Their relationship was polite tolerance. The goats thought the Middle-wayans were lethargic and the Middle-wayans thought the goats were needy. Occasionally, a Middle-wayan loved a goat and vice versa.

It all went wrong when a goat started acting lethargic. "You can't act that way," said a Middle-wayan, and the goat just yawned in the Middle-wayan's face, not to be rude, but because the goat was truly tired. More goats became lethargic, and the Middle-wayans said, "Are you making fun of us?" and the goats tried to say no, but nothing would come from their mouths except yawns. The Middle-wayans would try to get the goats to confess to mockery, but all the goats wanted to do was take a nap.

(It must be noted that later it was determined that the goats were eating a new kind of weed, and that new kind of weed was the reason behind their apparent lethargy, but this information was actively suppressed by the Middle-wayans)

The Middle-wayans devised a plan to get the goats to leave. They asked each other, "What do the goats like best?" and they realized it was lettuce heads. The Middle-wayans spent a great amount of time and energy making huge sling shots which could shoot the lettuce heads clear to the Highness. As they were working hard to make the devises, one could even say toiling, they said to each other, "It feels good to put muscle into something." The goats meanwhile, lazed.

The Middle-wayans woke the goats with lettuce heads that they held in front of their nostrils. The goats tried to eat them, but the Middle-wayans took the lettuce heads and propelled them onto the Highness.

Mister and Simone set up their home on the Highness, and even then, Mister could tell that he was better at balancing on the Highness than his wife. There were more than a few times he had to catch Simone right before she plummeted and he began to think that she might be better off riding the goat. So Mister asked the goat if Simone could ride on her back, and the goat agreed because she would do anything to please Mister.

The goat became Simone's legs and Simone relied on the goat so much, that her own stretched out legs began to wither and atrophy and recede into her so that she and the goat became one when wandering the Highness, and when Simone came into the shoved to one side house, Mister placed her in a rocking chair made of tree branches bowed by the wind and at night, he carried Simone to the bed, while the goat went to her own bedroom and cried, silently, into her pillow.

The goat missed her parents who had fallen from the Highness years ago in a freakish accident that involved the wind. It was true that the wind was already brutal on the Highness, and that most everything that had been on the Highness for any length of time had been shoved to one side by it, but the goats had such strong equilibriums that the wind didn't effect their stability. But on this one day, the wind was in a fight with the snow, and it threw such a fearsome punch that it leveled one side of the Highness: the side that the goat's parents happened to be balanced on.

The goat looked down on the Limbless writhing in the Deep Dip and thought it beautiful, and for the first time ever, she thought about descending.

The goats went after the lettuce heads, slowly at first because of their atrophied muscles, but with time, they were shaped by pure desire, and when they finally made it to the Highness, they no longer cared about the lettuce heads because they had discovered that their true calling was not chasing lettuce heads but, instead, balancing on the Highness.

Mister moved about the house in a way that mystified the goat. Mister did not realize what the Highness had done to him; his lungs pushed out his chest, his once elongated and flexible limbs had turned into unwavering legs, his eyes were always upcast, as if trying to avoid the plunging depths that had taken Simone from him.

The Limbless continued their dances and the goat said to Mister, although we are in the Highness, you are getting closer to the ground.

One day, Mister, Simone, and the Goat were all on the precipice. The goat lifted one leg, then another, then a third until she was balanced, elegantly on the precipice with Simone on her back. Mister clapped in delight and the goat thought, "I can do better," and lifted her fourth leg.

There was a moment of pure astonishment. It could be seen on all three faces. And then the goat bobbled in the air, and even as her legs came down to stabilize her, Mister, Simone, and the goat knew that Simone was awkwardly pitched to the side and that her strong thighs were not strong enough to keep her on the goat's back.

One night, while in her rocking chair, Simone summoned the goat. Mister was on the precipice, balanced on one leg. His meditation would last at least an hour.

"Come with me to our bed," Simone said to the goat, and the goat said, "But Mister will notice," and Simone said, "No, since I lost my legs, he only notices me as whole when you are on the narrow precipice with me on your back." And it was true, since Simone's legs had retracted into her, Mister would eye her and the goat balanced on the precipice with unkempt passion, but when Simone returned to her rocking chair, or when he carried her to their bed, he looked at her with half-seeing eyes.

The goat loved Mister, and so the goat said, "I will take you to the bed and lie with you there as if we are one," and Simone mounted the goat and they went to the bed and when Mister came to bed he looked at Simone with the whole of his eyes and embraced her and he even took her mouth into his, the way he had done in the Middle-way and there was such happiness in all three of them: Simone because Mister now saw her with whole eyes; Mister because he was drawn, inexplicably, to Simone again; and the goat because she could be with Mister in the way she had always wanted.

At night, the trio was one seamless tangle beneath the quilt.

But then Simone angrily confronted the goat. Mister had complemented Simone on a technique that Simone had not attempted with Mister within the nightly tangle. "What are you trying to do?" demanded Simone.

The goat watched the dances balanced on her high precipice, and she thought to herself, I want to get closer. She told Mister about the dances, but Mister would never look down, and his neck was permanently arched in a way that would make it impossible to look down.

The goat had been born and raised in the Highness, but she knew that, long ago, her ancestors had come from the Middle-way and then they had migrated up and that only the ones with the most balanced equilibriums had survived until they had overcrowded the Highness and had all fallen, either by shoving or pushing, from the Highness, leaving only the goat's parents. And then, in a freakish accident, the goat's parents had also fallen from the Highness leaving only the goat.

Who mothered the kid? It had to have been Simone, but did the kid even look like Simone? Did the kid really look like anyone Mister had ever seen?

The kid stopped in the Middle-way on her way down to the Deep Dip. When the Middle-wayans saw her, they averted their eyes and spoke to one another in low voices out of the corners of their mouths. The only one who would speak to the kid was a Middle-wayan named Archie who, hour after hour, stood on a street corner telling the story of the exodus of the goats.

The kid was mesmerized by the story, as she actually knew a real live goat, and she approached Archie during an intermission and said, "I know a real, live goat." And Archie said, "Does that explain your subtle goat-like quality?" and the kid said, "What do you mean?"

The kid had no idea what she looked like. She could see the parts of her that were in her range of sight, but they did not correspond to the parts of the wholes that she could see in others.

The goat told Mister that she would be leaving for a while and Mister said, "Are you taking the kid with you?" and the goat said, "No, you will need to watch the kid," and Mister was glad, because without the goat, he would be lonely.

Before the goat left, she had to practice going down; she had never gone down before and she couldn't ask Mister for advice because he had never gone down either, and so she asked the kid because the kid was still young enough to learn the language of going down.

The kid caught on to going down quickly, and it sent both fear and elation through the goat's heart to see the kid confidently descending. But when the goat tried even to take the smallest step downward, her bearings became scattered by an internal wind. She tried and tried, but could not even take the first step down.

Mister and the goat watched as Simone toppled from the goat's back, fell, and burst into a fireball on her way to the Deep Dip.

The goat had pleaded with Mister to let her massage his neck so that it might loosen and he might be able to look down and see the dance in the Deep Dip, and finally she persuaded him, and she dug into the flesh of his neck with her hoof, and he said, "ohhhhhh," in a way that straddled pain and release and with time, Mister could adjust his neck so that his face could tilt downward.

Mister saw what the goat saw: the intricate dances of the Deep Dip, and he said, "Someone must go down there."

The only one who could realistically go was the kid. Both Mister and the goat knew that.

The kid was happy to go, never knowing yet unhappiness.

The goat and Mister were apprehensive to let the kid go, both knowing apprehension so well, both having lost things from the Highness, and both having no real knowledge of the Deep Dip, save for the intricate dances that were spawned from there and led them to question their placement. And since they couldn't themselves go to the Deep Dip, wouldn't it make since that they should send the kid so that they might travel, vicariously, through the kid?

Simone and the goat and Mister were happy now that the goat was surreptitiously coming to bed, and now Simone was constantly with the goat and the rocking chair made of branches bowed by the wind sat empty.

But in time, the goat grew wary, and while Simone moved with ease on the goat's back, the goat was tired from carrying Simone and because Simone exerted little effort, she became heavy, while the goat diminished to sinews and bones.

The goat and Simone and Mister were balanced on the precipice. Mister was standing on one solid leg, and the goat said, "I want to try to stand on one leg too," and Mister said, "If you can stand on one leg you are truly the most magnificent goat," and the goat longed for Mister's approval, so she thought she would try, but Simone said nervously, "I don't think that's a good idea," because she had noticed with her growing girth a growing instability on the goat, and she had been gripping the goat more tightly between her thighs.

Nowhere within the planes are there mirrors. There are no reflections whether in the Deep Dip, the Middle-way or the Highness. True, everyone could see his or her hands, arms, torso, legs and feet. And they could feel the contours of their faces. And they, for the most part, knew their mom and dad. But for those of them that did not know their mom and dad, for the Ones Who Had Just Suddenly Appeared, it was hard for them to know what they looked like or where they fit in.

The Ones Who Had Just Suddenly Appeared could suddenly appear anywhere. They could just all of a sudden be. And from the time they just suddenly appeared, they lived subtly peculiar lives. Time and again they were interviewed, hypnotized, and given lie detector tests: they were not lying when they said they knew nothing of what precipitated their appearance or of their existence before their appearance. The Ones Who Had Just Suddenly Appeared could appear at any time, baby to old age. The ones who suddenly appeared as babies were adopted by those who appeared through birth, but it made no difference; the ones who just suddenly appeared were always peculiar, and they could be found on the margins of the play ground. And their placement on the playground was a combination of their own discomfort with the birthed and the birthed's willful exclusion of the Ones Who Had Just Suddenly Appeared.

Simone relayed the happy news to Mister: she was holding their soon to be in her pouch and Mister looked closely at her pouch and saw that it was swollen. But when he went to look inside, Simone swatted his hand away.

The kid had just suddenly appeared; both Simone and the goat knew this. They were in the house one day when Mister was outside meditating, and then, in an instant, at their kitchen table sat the kid. "Mister can't know about this," said Simone and the goat agreed, so they took the kid to the goat's neglected bedroom and buried her under a succession of quilts.

Inside Simone's pouch was a warbler that she had stolen from the Highness above the Highness. When Mister heard the warbling coming from Simone's pouch, he said, "Our kid will be quite the songstress."

In the Highness above the Highness, a warbler was missing and the other warblers were frantic.

"What is that commotion coming from the Highness above the Highness?" Mister asked Simone and the goat. Simone said, "What commotion are you talking about?" and Mister said, "Come outside." and they went outside and looked above and from beyond their sight, they heard the fretful warbling.

Mister was listening to Simone's pouch and said, "That warbling sounds familiar," and Simone became afraid that Mister would catch on, so she took the warbler out of her pouch and taped its beak shut.

Simone noticed a smell coming from her pouch and she reached in and pulled out the dead warbler who had started to decay. She threw the dead warbler from the Highness and then she went and got the kid and went to her bed and cut into her inner thighs so that a great amount of blood came from them, and she smeared the kid in her blood and called in the goat and the goat put the kid in Simone's pouch, and the goat called to Mister and Mister watched as Simone moaned and panted and bled the kid onto the Highness and he was relieved to see the kid because, in the back of his mind, he was afraid Simone was going to give birth to a warbler.

The dead warbler fell and fell; it fell past the Middle-way and it landed in the center of the Limbless' intricate dance, and the Limbless saw that it had tape around its beak but there was no one to undo the tape, so the Limbless altered his or her dance to concentric circles around the Fallen One. They hoped to entice the One Who Made the Holds to come and untape the bird's beak.

Lots of things fell toward the Deep Dip, but nothing ever landed in the Deep Dip because it was incinerated in a fireball before reaching the Deep Dip, so to the Limbless the fact that this small warbler had fallen and remained intact was quite miraculous.

The kid, after her languorous journey (she had made her way down with such a rhythmic momentum that she had fallen into a trance), arrived in the Deep Dip.

The kid stood on a small ledge on the side of the Deep Dip and watched the Limbless rotate their concentric circles. The kid thought to her, "I wonder what is in the center of those circles." And she followed the concentric circles formed by the Limbless until she reached the center and the warbler with the taped-shut beak.

The warbler was now a skeleton, and the kid thought, "I want to eat the tape from the skeleton's beak," and she went to the tiny skeleton and very gingerly began to chew the tape from its beak.

The Limbless crushed their concentric circles inward.

When all the tape had been chewed from the warbler's beak, the Limbless waited in anticipation for the warble that might come from the bird. But after days, nothing happened, and after years, still, nothing had happened.

The kid was the only one in the Deep Dip with limbs, and the kid, despite her best efforts to retract her limbs, could not learn the dance of the Limbless, so she sat in the middle of the circle with the Fallen One and watched it turn to dust.

One night the dance stilled. The kid tried to rouse the Limbless, but the could not be roused.

The kid walked through the lifeless bodies of the Limbless to the center of the concentric circles and inhaled the dust pile that was now the Fallen One.

And she climbed.

When she got to the Middle-way and saw how the people of the Middle-way had incinerated themselves, she inhaled their dust piles too, and when she got to the Highness and saw the piles of dust that Mister and the goat had left on their respective sides of the bed, she inhaled their dust too, and she even climbed higher, higher than should have been possible, into the Highness above the Highness, and she inhaled the dust of the warblers that was clumped in fine clouds throughout the Highness above the Highness.

For the first time ever in the history of going places, the kid went to the Outward Regions.

In the Outward Regions were millions upon millions of tiny mirrors, and with the mirrors, the kid could still only make out her parts, but never her whole.

The kid had been told she had all these subtle qualities, but no one had ever said she had a distinguishing quality.

In the Outward Regions, the Orbit rotated and the kid let herself be churned by the Orbit and she took all the dust she had inhaled in the Deep Dip and the Middle-way and the Highness and the Highness above the Highness and exhaled it into the Orbit.

And then she went back to the center and started to climb down using the footholds and handholds she had made to go up.

She climbed down to the Highness and went to the house that was shoved to one side by the wind and waited.

Kim Parko lives in Santa Fe, NM with her husband and dog. She is the author of the chapbook The Rest of the World Seems Unlikely (Achilles Chapbook Series, 2009) and the book Cure All (Caketrain Press, 2010).