Meanwhile, Cornfield came upon a tattered figure, shuffling ahead of him down the hollow corridor, illuminated so vividly in the glare of the overhead strip-lights.
He slowed his pace so that he was following this curious old woman who, though stooped with arthritis, was moving with an air of urgency. She led him to a door inlaid with panels of whorled glass, decorated with undulating metal tendrils; iron blossoms creeping across pearl grey-pink panes engraved with angelic, ethereal faces Drugged eyes, drooping lips.
He listened but could hear nothing.
Ahead and behind, just a deserted corridor with gleaming white tiles and veined, marble pillars.
Knowing the old crone had gone inside he was compelled to follow and – for his audacity – was greeted by the most fascinating vision.
He was standing high on a gallery fashioned out of iron, its balustrade extending around the perimeter of the entire room. Across the other side, exactly opposite, was another door of the same design as the one now swinging gently shut behind him.
Between was an abyss.
Streaks and eddies of violet light.
Trailing streamers of purple tinged with black. In the centre a shaft, rising to the empyrean, falling to infinite depths.
This was the Soft State Zone.
Soundlessly, gracefully, continuously, slabs of golden metal drifted past, sailing upwards with a turning motion, slowed down images of jet aircraft at high altitude, where all sense of speed and direction has been eliminated in favour of a feeling of weightless progression. Busy machines scuttled across on wires that led nowhere. Boxes, bristling with metal arms and tubes, latticed with ostensibly decorative holes in arabesque patterns, floated static for a second or two before dropping away into some abyssal realm beyond all perception.
Neon lights flickered. Black holes in the fabric of the almost tactile atmosphere opened and closed with obscene noises. Wires and electrodes gleamed in the suffused light.
Cornfield noticed a vague, female figure suspended in space. It was slowly revolving, feet together, arms outstretched, fingers hooked convulsively, head thrown back in ecstasy or pain. Whole metal plates encased her limbs like sculpted armour. Cylindrical objects revolved in a circle about her. Above her head billowed a black thunder cloud where lightning flickered with subdued ferocity. White plates the colour of asbestos floated on the surface of this cloud and letters of the Greek alphabet appeared and disappeared on their surfaces in random patterns.
To the left of the cloud, above the radiant face of the female entity, was suspended a curious contraption. Its main component was a square cuboid apparatus with a curved horn-like feature projecting from one of its corners. Clipped to its side was a complex of pipes and wires from which was suspended a tube with a bulbous swelling at one end supporting a metal plate. A cluster of delicate, pronged instruments reminiscent of dental equipment was in contact with the figure, constantly probing, tapping and massaging the figure’s back with wide sweeps as she floated this way and that, suspended in viscous luminosity.
Below the figure and to its right three shapes glowed silver. The first was a diagrammatic representation of an exploding star, a sort of giant asterisk. The second took the form of three concentric rings. The third consisted of twelve oblong blocks of silver laid together in such a way that their inner edges formed a circle.
Lights flashed on and off beneath the glass floor as, suddenly, a brilliant flare lit up seven gold cones, luminous forms materialising for an instant before vanishing amid drifting rainbows.
His attention was again drawn to the suspended figure. He noted the wide open eyes and fine black wires trailing from her russet coloured nipples, so swollen and inviting, twin crowns for her hypertrophic breasts. He saw, blossoming in the air below her feet, three grinding cylinders surmounted by an inverted crucifix drifting among sonographic echoes of extinct birdcalls, among a galaxy of component parts arranged in six zones. There were ascending, coiling Soft State paths of black and silver.
Gripped by vertigo Cornfield clung to the rails of the balustrade. The whole area seemed to tilt and roll like the deck of a ship caught in a storm. The central figure opened and closed her legs thrusting her body in a contortion, moving her arms in slow circles – a blind swimmer in an acid bath. The near zone was drenched in a sticky, oozing cloud of white, milky light that dripped over the quietly whirring machinery, sending impulse needles spinning behind glass plates.
A cage materialised. A vicious portcullis above her head which descended around her body, moulding itself to her throbbing, armoured, plastic flesh. There was a spasm of mechanistic carnality and a spurt of crimson was ejected into the shimmering haze.
As Cornfield turned to leave the centre of this vast hollow space became brilliant white, glowing with the intensity of lava in the bowels of a volcano or metal in a furnace. Bolts of red shivered across the scene illuminating the inferno in a hellish glare. He heard a long, breathless sigh, an eerie sound on a descending chromatic scale of soft, warmly textured notes, melting into cascades of snowflakes, congealing into the faces of Netherlandish angels – wide eyes, cheeks formed from the wings of hummingbirds – blue, turquoise, violet – all the colours of unattainable dreams.
A FRAGMENT from ‘DEBRIS’, 1970
Illus: Bridal Viscosity, 1972