Scrolls is a new 'experimental' collaboration in progress by James C. Hopkins and Yoko Danno. One of us writes the first half of a sentence and the other follows up the rest of the sentence. The latter begins the next sentence and drops it halfway, which is taken over by the former. Writing thus in turn we draw 'picture scrolls' with words. There is no rule except that a scroll should consist of five paragraphs. When we start a scroll we never know how it will develop and end. We have set out for adventures in an unknown land without a map or a compass.


♥  Scroll 23


A voice reverberated through the overhead speaker, "Please take your seats, we are about to begin out decent into Bangkok." I looked up from the book that I'd been reading and, out the window of the plane, saw that the airport, including the tarmac, was entirely covered with weeds. But I wasn't surprised when the flight attendant came by and whispered in my ear, "Don't worry—it's not really Bangkok." The plane landed and all the passengers got off the plane. I found myself standing in a field in a country I couldn't recognize immediately but, from the clouded sky overhead and the cool air blowing through the trees nearby, I guessed somewhere in the northern hemisphere—perhaps Europe.

Somewhat shaken, I picked up my bags, which had been tossed from the plane, and started wading knee-high through the grass toward a dark building in stone. At the entrance of the building was a fierce-looking dog, chained to the wall, which lunged at me, snapping his teeth, barking like a demon, and splattering the granite stones with saliva. Shaken, I opened the heavy wooden door and tried to go inside but was blocked by a wooden bar, from which hung a notice: POINT OF NO RETURN. With the mad dog outside, I had no choice but to turn around and shoot the dog squarely between the eyes. Surprised, it fell to the ground with a whimper, and I stepped over its chain, and ran off from the place.

After a minute I realized when I thought I shot the dog I actually didn't carry a gun with me and therefore I must definitely be in Bangkok. I ran through the trees of the jungle, pushing leaves aside and looking for something familiar, but soon wondered if there was a jungle in a city. In dismay I shouted into the gloom, "Somebody!" and there was no reply. After what seemed like hours of walking through the sticky forest, I came upon a man in rags, whom I had a feeling I'd met somewhere before. I dared to speak to him, "I'm lost, but I'd like to go to a beach" and he said, with fear in his eyes, "There is no beach and there is no jungle—there is only this" and he held out a broken piece of cobalt-colored glass.

"Nonsense" I replied, and the man disappeared in a misty rain. I had no umbrella, nor a sedge hat, but neither of those seemed important now—something was happening. Overhead I heard an approaching roar, the sound of a helicopter like rusty laughter, which gave me gooseflesh. How could the chopper search me out when I had only shot an imaginary dog? My whole holiday was starting to feel like watching a 3D movie. But this terror in my heart is real as any of the things I had experienced in my so-called "real" life. I could hear the helicopter approaching, and I ran for a grove of bamboo nearby to hide myself, in vain. Only a tiger could be concealed in a bamboo grove, they say, but I would rather have faced an imaginary tiger than face whatever it was that was descending from the sky.

Again the voice came through the loudspeaker, "Fasten your seat belts, please," and the airplane went into a dive. I was shocked, but collected myself in a moment, and looked out the window of the plane. The twin rows of blue light of Suvarnabhumi airport were coming into focus, emerging through low clouds, and I remembered I had left the northern country for good where the cool air had been caressing my cheeks. Once shattered into pieces, there's no way to restore a wine glass, and helplessly, I wondered what was the true meaning of the notice, POINT OF NO RETURN, that I had seen hanging across the door near the mad dog. Clearly that option had been avoided, and now I had to deal with the reality that opened up before my eyes without end.

Photo by James C. Hopkins: Asura Cave, Kathmandu valley, Nepal