The Great Sleep is a series of 13 narrative audio mixes that will be aired on Internet Public Radio every first Thursday of the month from December 2019 to December 2020. For each episode, a musician and a visual artist from the Global URL Nation collaborate to develop the story with audiovisual material - a 1h mix and a visual cover, which then serve as a base for written text. Each month, we will post a new chapter meant to be heard, seen and read.

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E09 - Liminal Thresholds
with laced, LCL Stream & s1m0nc3ll0

We leave the depths of the Metropolis to go back on the main avenue we took on the way in. Unlike when we arrived, the large road has now filled up and many people flock and appear from every street and dead end crossing it.

Everybody seems nervous, agitated… the vibrations we heard in the tunnel are now brighter. Their echo resonates through every building along the road, through the dusty ground as well as the bodies accumulating on it. I try to stick close to Juno, who seems to know where we’re going.

“All these people…  they’re all going to the Blossoms as well?”, I ask.

“Of course. I wasn’t lying when I told you couldn’t miss this one”, she says with a smile.

“Where is it?”

“In the Flowerdome, at the end of town. In the back, where the mountains start rising up.”

“The Flowerdome?”

"It's a huge dome on which Tweeting-Lilies grow”, Juno explains as we keep walking among the hundreds of other creatures. “These plants are well-known for their ability to amplify sounds and frequencies, but they are very hard to cultivate artificially... After the Great Looting, some sort of weird interbreeding started to happen in the dome, greatly improving their strength. Every five years, all the Lilies’ cycles coincide, which causes the regenerated sonic organs to blossom simultaneously. That’s when the acoustics are best. Probably the best on the whole continent... That’s what we celebrate as the Blossoms of Euphoria.”

I try to imagine what it might look like, but it's really when I get there that I realize the magnificence and complexity of the place. The dome is colossal. It looks like a gigantic inverted bowl on which ivy and greenish moss meanders through the wooden frame like veins under the skin. Every branch of this interwoven network seems to be pulsating in rhythm with the vibrations we heard since we left the bar. As if some sort of sap was continuously flowing through the entire structure.

People gather and enter this incredible complex through entrances at the bottom. With Sylenth, Coda and Più, we keep following Juno, who navigates without any difficulty through the crowd. We melt into an increasingly compact mass of people until reaching an entrance.

As soon as we pass the gate, the vibrations become much clearer. I can now distinguish soft, vaporous chords in the background in addition to the pulses we heard before. The persons around us slowly begin to move, dancing timidly. There is a kind of harmony that comes out of the atmosphere. Everyone is here for the same thing. My curiosity is at its peak.

“I'm going to have to join the Warden. Stay with the others. Don't lose them. I'll meet you later”, Juno tells me.

I nod. She waves at us then makes her way through the crowd and disappears.

We keep advancing slowly with the rest of the group, until we find a spot with enough space for all of us. The place keeps getting more and more filled with people entering from all sides of the dome.

I let my gaze rove through the sphere of wood and ivy. The music vibrates and emanates from the Lilies’ bark, leaves, rhizoids and lichens which stain and dress the wooden frame. The sound envelops me like a soft warm blanket. I look at Sylenth again :

"How long is it gonna last?"

“The Blossoms usually last around two full days. But the Diva’s intervention should be less than a few hours”, Sylenths says while trying to look over the people in front to us. “There, do you see it?”

Sylenth is pointing at something near the center of the dome, partially hidden by the hundreds of creatures separating us from it. I try to stand on tiptoes, leaning against Sylenth and Coda.

Through the heads and various limbs, I finally see it. From where I am, I distinguish a sort of chrysalis dominating the crowd, surrounded by a complex mechanical apparatus, from which vines and leaves extend up to the dome wooden frame. It’s magnificent.

The chrysalis seems animated, pulsating and throbbing with a disconcerting elegance. I realize that it is actually pumping the sap through the whole network around us. After each movement of the chrysalis, I can see it propagating from one branch to another, getting thinner and thinner at each fork. So this is where the vibrations we’ve been hearing since we entered the Metropolis are coming from...

“Is this the Diva? What do people expect from it?”, I ask Sylenth.

“They’re an important figure here, worshipped by many, loved by all! The Voice of the Metropolis… A symbol of freedom, of hope…”

“What happened?”

"They were one of the Head Keepers during the Great Looting of the Metropolis. Which had them earn their freedom, something never seen among the Shapeshifter.”

"What exactly was looted?", I continue.

"Capsules! Thousands and thousands", Coda replies. "Many unique sounds were stolen... some you could not find anywhere else. Some collectors like myself have tried to list them and retrieve them, but many have disappeared. Filthy thieves! All thieves!"

"The Metropolis was not always only ruins and dust", Sylenth adds with a touch of nostalgia.

"Who would steal these?”

"Scrappers of the Void...”, Sylenth says. "After the Fall, these systems were wandering our lands, marauding  from place to place, trying to extract whatever energy they could find."

"Where are they now?"

"Their Phantoms are still everywhere. Hidden in remote places... Do you remember the Reapers that attacked me?”

I'm dying to know more, but the Diva decided otherwise : as I'm about to ask Sylenth and Coda for details, the Lilies go completely silent. The whole crowd gets quiet in a matter of seconds.

A man appears on a narrow area of high land that sticks out in the back of the dome. He walks to the edge of this promontory. He holds a huge book under his arm, and is dressed in a long ceremony garment with gold prints all over it. Around his neck I can discern a huge silver medal with a symbol that I don't recognize. He observes the silent crowd with attention and details, when suddenly he expresses himself with a strong and powerful voice :

“People of the Forbidden Metropolis! Children of this fallen, plundered, bruised world! Cravers from all around! The great moment has arrived!”

The man pauses. The entire crowd throws their arms in the air, waving their hands like leaves quivering in the wind. Their voices rise up simultaneously with a vibrant sound, like the buzz of a beehive. Crows and other birds fly away from behind this man, startled by the vibrating noise coming from the audience. Near this man, someone yells in a high pitched voice : “Diih!”. The crowd goes quiet again, as if instructed to do so. The man resumes with fervor :

“You have once again come in great numbers for the celebration of communion, of sharing and harmony that the Blossoms want to offer you, Keepers of the lost, stolen and forgotten sounds! The days of the past are certainly not going to return... But together, all together, we can honor what our ancestors taught us : praising together the grace of their frequencies. We will not forget!”

The man stops. The arms of the crowd vibrate again, the voices rise once more, louder and louder. My gaze can no longer be taken away from this man in robe. His charisma and his strong, vehement voice capture all my attention. The crowd stops again.

“We will keep lauding their fight! We will keep dancing to their legacy! We will keep coming together, as we do here and now! We are the Forbidden Metropolis! Scream, show up, spread the love around you! Protect what is dear to you! We are the seeds that bloom! The whispers that sing loud! The hive that makes the ground rumble! We are the great blossoms of the New World!”

The man raises his hands to heaven, and the whole crowd follows. They resume their chant.

Juno joins him on the promontory. She holds in her hands two sticks, or batons. The one I saw earlier tied to her waist. But somehow they look much bigger, as if they’ve been activated. The multiple pieces composing them move with a troubling sophistication. She waves them with a sudden flick of her arms. A sound erupts in the wind. A deep, percussive sound that hits me straight in the chest. And another one. And another. She keeps slashing through the air with her sticks, as if they were tearing the void around us. Faster and faster.

The leaves and vines around the dome begin to come alive. The flower bulbs seem to breathe like lungs. The sap flowing through them seems to be sent with more vigor between each of Juno’s hits. The crowd keeps chanting, moving their hands faster and faster, singing louder and louder. It becomes deafening. The whole dome is palpitating.

And then, a deep silence.

A buzzing sound resonates through the dome. It keeps repeating regularly. Everybody turns towards the chrysalis.

Its movements are getting larger, wider, pulsating in rhythm to the buzzing sounds. The apparatus around the chrysalis starts to break into pieces. The sap sent throughout the dome keeps getting more and more intense after each pulse. Juno waves both her arms simultaneously in between them, provoking a powerful thump shaking the entire structure.

The chrysalis opens slowly, like a flower bud. A delicate, exquisite sound rises from it. Inside it, I can discern a very tall and majestic creature, draped in a white flowing dress. Their skin glows, as if made of gold or silver.

“Here they are”, Sylenth whispers. “The Diva…”

The buzzes and the hits become louder every second. All sounds blend into each other, until becoming almost unbearable. But my eyes remain riveted on the splendid Diva who has just appeared before us. Juno’s hits stop, quickly followed by the buzzing sound. The chrysalis is now fully opened. All eyes are on the Diva, who slowly lifts their arms. The tension around us is extreme. I feel like everything could explode.

The Diva suddenly claps their hands.

The whole dome bursts. All its flowers bloom at once, pouring sap all over us, while an enveloping and deafening sound erupts all around. The entire crowd begins to dance in a simultaneous trance, guided by the Diva.

I am taken by the tremendous energy of it all. My hips move, my head shakes, my arms are pressed against my body. I look at Sylenth, next to me, who is smiling with a deep feeling of satisfaction. The sound is incredible, it passes and radiates through me. It gives me an incredible force. It's like my whole body belongs to it. There is a sharing, a communion, a common experience that I had never felt or experienced until now. It’s like we are one.

I feel a sort of dissociation, as if I could see myself in this dome, surrounded by all these people who are here for the same thing. But at the same time my body keeps reminding me that I’m just a mere piece of the puzzle. An elementary constituent. It’s like my mind is simultaneously extended inward and outwards. As if I was me, and the others.

I start to lose track of time, enjoying this intense and unknown feeling. I don’t know if it’s been ten minutes or two hours, but at some point Sylenth taps my shoulder and yells in my ear :

“Should we join with Juno?”

I come out of my daze with difficulty : “Where is she?”

“She must be in the back, with the Warden.”

Coda jumps in from the side : “Is she allowed to bring people to the sanctuary?”

“You know, Juno never needed a reason to do anything”, Sylenth replies with a smile.

Coda says no more, giving the last word to Sylenth : “You follow me?”

Everyone nods, and the four of us start walking through the crowd to the headland, in the back where the man previously made his speech. As we weave our way through the compact mass of people, I lift my eyes to the Diva, whose sounds unfold with brilliance and voluptuousness throughout the dome. My eyes gaze in awe at the blooming flowers that have opened above us in hundreds of colors. Their petals quiver to release sounds and frequencies that fill the entire space of the place. It is a magnificent spectacle.

The sanctuary is a chapel built at the bottom of the dome inside an enormous rock. Its entrance is kept by two giant guards in full armor of polished bronze, who don't budge an inch when we arrive. We stop in front of them.

Juno appears in the shadows of the entrance, behind the two guards. She beckons us to come. We are about to pass when the guards huddle together to block our way. Juno rushes towards them and pulls them apart with her arms :

“Ah, get out of there, junk pile. The Warden must speak to them.”

Finally the guards move, letting us enter this long corridor of stones cut like a gut in the rock. The dome’s vegetation extends into it, merging roots, leaves, vines and flowers into a sort of second layer of outstanding beauty.

We follow Juno through an inclined staircase that brings us directly into a large cave with a very high ceiling. The walls are covered with leaves and flowers as well. The atmosphere is dark and humid. A hole up top brings down a soft and warm light onto a circular pond in the middle, which holds a still, dark liquid inside it. Around the pond, stones are set in a circle, and behind it sits an altar. The man in robe stands in front of it. Probably the Warden Juno mentioned. He gives off a sense of respect and wisdom. I notice Prophet is already here, standing in the back.

The man takes a step forward. I am captivated by his sharp eyes, perfectly black marbles punctured with golden pupils. He speaks with a nice, but powerful voice :

“Welcome! Please take place”, he says while pointing to the stones.

We all sit around the pond. The man turns to Sylenth :

“Juno told me you are looking for the Nation, is that right?”

“Yes it is, Warden!”, Sylenth retorts enthusiastically.

“And what makes you think you will be able to find it?”

Sylenth is confused : “I… I have spent my whole life searching for it. I know and I feel this is where I need to go...”

“You know you’re not the first one, right?” The Warden replies while looking straight into Sylenth’s eyes with tenderness. “Unfortunately you can’t find it on your own.”

“What do you mean?”

The Warden pauses for a few seconds. He starts to walk around and resumes with stupor : “Some say that to gain access to the Nation, it is necessary to shed one’s knowledge... To free oneself from everything that one knows... To get rid of the precepts of the Old World... You need to think beyond your own persona, to enter a new collective realm... People of the Nation… they learned to embrace the Void, to become one with the Whole!”

“I know that already”, Sylenth replies.

The Warden turns to them : “And what have you done to that end?”

Sylenth stays quiet, troubled by the words of the Warden. Coda jumps in the conversation :

“The rumors say that they honor the Whole through sounds and motions.”

“That’s what is said...”, the Warden replies with a smile.

“But... I already met with the Dancers”, Sylenth replies while showing the fragment in their hand. “I’ve followed the fragment’s voice. I learned its subtleties, and how to become one with it.”

“That’s good. But it’s not enough!”

Sylenth stops, slightly stunned.

“No… knowing how to make music doesn’t mean you are able to anchor yourself in the Whole. The Dancers… they sometimes introduce themselves to a chosen few. It is then to these individuals to come together and experience it.”

The Warden takes a look at all of us : “What do you all want? What do you really want? What are your true motivations? Are you ready to forget your old self? Are you ready to free yourself from your own frame of thought? Are you ready to embrace your own Fall?”

Everyone stays quiet. Until Prophet breaks the silence :

“We don’t know each other… at least not all of us. But someone else here met with the Dancers”, they say while looking at me.

The Warden turns to me and walks slowly towards me : “Is that true?”

“It is. They gave me this before leaving me”, I say while showing the marks on my forearm.

The Warden seems surprised. He grabs my sleeve and pulls the garment up to my elbow :

“Who are you? Why do you have these carvings?”

“I don’t…”

Prophet stops me : “A communion with the dancers.”

“Interesting…”, the Warden mutters. I look at Prophet. Everyone looks at me. The Warden observes the inscriptions as if he could read them.

“Do you know what they are?”, Sylenth asks.

“It’s an access code...”

“To what? I thought these were musical notes?”, I ask.

“Well, not exactly... It’s a Synchronization Key. It used to activate Harmonizers.”

Coda gets up : “Harmonizers? But there aren’t anymore! I thought they disappeared long before the First Souls.”

“I heard rumors in our streets, in our deserts and mountains…”, the Warden replies. “Rumors of a Harmonizer in our land, used by the Dancers to create the Sublime.”

“The Sublime?”, I ask.

“The Sacred Sound, the Hidden Music… it can only be created by several entities combining their inner voices, their souls. It gives you access to another world, another plane of existence.”

“I thought you didn’t believe in that”, Juno replies with surprise.

‘It is my duty to watch over the Metropolis”, the Warden replies. “I try to focus on what I have, here and now. But there are prophecies… tales and legends I can’t ignore.”

“What does a Harmonizer do?”, I ask.

“Some say it strengthens the bonding of skills and personalities of its entities, but no one truly knows… An ancestral creation technique supposed to fill a mutual Void, to heighten a common work!”

“A gate to the Nation?”, Sylenth asks.


Everyone freezes.

“Like the Blender we used to get rid of these ghosts?”, I ask Sylenth.

“Sort of...”, they answer, lost in their thoughts. “But with much more potential...”

“And how do we find it?”, I ask the Warden.

“That I don’t know…”, he replies. “But there is a hidden place behind the Silent Mountains : The Hidden Citadel… It’s an island in the middle of a lake, located in the hollow of the mountain chain.”

“The Shepherd’s Stone...”, Coda reminds. “I’ve heard of this before, through the mouth of the Pentatonic Elders. The access is very difficult, almost unknown.”

“Maybe you will be able to find more information about the Synchronization Key on your arm”, the Warden completes.

“What is this place?”, I ask.

“A citadel where members of the Order have gathered the sonic knowledge of our world for millennia”, he completes while looking at Prophet. “A living library that sings, whispers and guides its visitors through forgotten sonic realms.”

Everyone looks at each other, intrigued by the words of the Warden. Sylenth gets up with enthusiasm  :

“What are we waiting for? Who’s in?”

Coda sits down, Più looks at him and rests his tiny head on his shoulder, purring against his feathers : “As proud members of the Lodge, Più and I will follow you! The citadel might hold some interesting frequencies for our collection! But… only former members of the Order can access the Hidden Citadel...”

Sylenth turns to Prophet : “Will you come with us?”

I don’t say anything. Prophet looks at me for a moment and then turns to Sylenth to say in their warm, kind voice :

“I will. I don’t know where we need to go or what to do, but I’ll be happy to help if I can.”

Sylenth nods and look at Juno :

“My dear?”, they say, bowing to her with a smile. “You wanted to leave anyway.”

Juno shrugs with hesitation… She finally nods : “Only because it’s you.”

The Warden stares at me : “They’re going to have to follow you... I can tell their destiny is yours.”

“What? Me?”

“Yes, the Dancers have chosen you for a reason...”, he answers.

“Then we will go together”, Sylenth exclaims. “What do you think?”

“Uh… yes”, I answer. The Warden nods.

“And now ?” Sylenth asks, apparently impatient to know the rest.

“The Diva will guide you”, he says while looking behind me.

I turn around to discover the Diva has entered the cave. They stand in the entrance. Their tall, delicate, silhouette is majestic, hypnotizing in their white flowing dress. From up close, their skin seems made up of multiple translucent layers with various tones of silver and gold networks, like veins. Everyone is in awe. They reply in a striking celestial voice :

“Yes, Warden.”

Sylenth starts to leave the circle, but the Warden interrupts them : “It’s not that simple!”

Sylenth looks at him, surprised.

“If you wish for the Citadel to grant you access, you will need to come in as one, since only Prophet has been a member of the Order.”

Sylenths sits back. The Diva takes a seat around the pond with the rest of us, while the Warden gets behind the altar and opens a large grimoire.

“I will use the Waveshaper to create a unique bond between all of you. An embodiment of your common will. A union of your determination, marked by the sonic footprint of your selves... This should open you the doors of the Hidden Citadel.”

Everyone is quiet. We look at each other, not knowing what to expect. The Warden looks at the grimoire, and begins to whisper a few incantations.

The dark liquid in the pond seems to activate. I can see the reflections on it deforming, distorted by the ripples spreading over its surface. It seems to be responding to the vibrations coming from the dome. The Warden stops reading and closes his eyes. He starts to hum with a low, quiet voice, and raises his arm towards Juno.

She gets up and grabs the two sticks at her waist. With a fast flick of her wrists, the two batons extend and open, revealing once more the thousands sophisticated pieces composing it. She starts to move her arms with a repeating pattern. Each movement of the batons generate a powerful hit, similar to the sound of a drum. The liquid in the pond rises with each hit, flowing from one shape to another with a baffling smoothness.

Prophet closes their eyes as well. They sit still, their body slightly oscillating in rhythm with Juno’s pounds. They bring their hands on their chest and open their mouth wide. After a few seconds, an incredibly powerful polyphonic voice emanates from it. A few leaves and flowers fall from the walls of the cave. The liquid’s shapes get more complex, adjusting both to Juno’s hits and to Prophet’s voice. Its rough movements get more refined, as if subdivided in multiple parts.

Sylenth looks at me with insistence, inviting me to join this curious ceremony. I take the fragment out of my pocket. I forgot how beautiful it was. I can feel it wants to sing with them. But I don’t know how to start. I close my eyes and try to remember what I felt in the Blender. How Sylenth told me to follow its impulses, to let go of my own motives. The fragment emits a few soft and short sounds, on top of Juno’s and Prophet’s composition. But it feels off, breaking their existing harmony. The liquid’s shapes get simpler, coarser. I feel frustrated again, unable to take it in the right direction.

Sylenth stops me and says with a comforting smile : “Follow my lead.”

Sylenth’s fragment starts to emit light, airy chords. They blend perfectly with the rest. The liquid’s shapes get even more complex, now extending in multiple directions at once. Some smaller patterns begin to appear at the surface.

I try once again to join the three of them. I focus harder than before, absorbing every sound I can hear, processing them with my entire body. I try to convince myself that I’m just an elementary part of a bigger whole. A mere component of it. I remember how it was in the Blender, how I tuned to Sylenth to reach a collective symbiosis, allowing the sound to become what it wanted by itself.

The fragment in my hand starts changing colors and shape again. Its voice timidly follows the one of the other fragment. The patterns on the liquid get a bit more refined. I try to somehow keep it going, following the initiatives taken by Sylenth.

The Warden now points his arm towards Coda and Più. Coda holds their soft shell in their hands. They are completely immobile, with their eyes closed. Più stands in front of them. The tiny otter bends slightly. Their entire body starts to shake a little. They open their mouth and begin to emit a myriad of different sounds at once. It’s full of details, from the harshest screeches to the smoothest enveloping swishes.

Juno seems disturbed by these new components. She loses track of her patterns. The liquid contracts, still in movement, but in a more chaotic manner. I try not to get distracted by it and I keep tuned to Sylenth, who seems unaffected. Juno stops while Più adjusts their contribution, which now sounds more coordinated to Prophet’s polyphonic foundation.

Juno starts waving her battons again. The powerful thump they produce, more vivid than before, animates the liquid with fervor. Its shapes are now of an incredible complexity. It rises several meters above the pond, extending in multiple directions on a macro- and micro- scale alike. As if each molecule composing it were attracted to a different frequency. Some parts start to change color, cycling through hundreds of hues.

The Warden opens his eyes. He takes a deep look at each one of us, as if he wanted to comfort us, to motivate us to keep the cadence going. He looks at the morphing liquid with what seems to be satisfaction. He turns towards the Diva and raises both his arms in their directions.

The Diva stands up. The blood, or sap, flowing through their veins seems to move with more strength. Tiny holes seem to appear in the multiple layers composing their body. They grab a sort of long, wooden flute from their white dress and bring it to their mouth. They take a deep inspiration and blow through it. A cristalline, elysian sound comes out. A weird mixture between their sublime, celestial voice and this otherworldly flute.

The Diva keeps blowing for several seconds, while each one of us keeps playing our roles. Absorbed by our own execution, but yet freed from our individuality. Accepting both our own persona, and the existence of a larger whole. The liquid shape moves with fury, almost levitating above the pond, morphing in a chaotic, yet ordered manner. I feel a certain force emerging from this fiery spectacle. It’s very beautiful to watch, and to hear. I’m delighted with what happens. It’s as if all together, we created this.

The Warden opens his arms wide and says a few more incantations. Everyone is nervously hung at his hands. When the Diva stops blowing, the Warden closes his fists, and everyone stops. The liquid suddenly contracts and freezes into position, capturing still the marvelous shapes it used to display. The newly formed solid shape, now the size of my forearm,  falls at the feet of the Warden. He picks it up and inspects it closely.

I take a look around. Everyone smiles, filled with a deep feeling of accomplishment. The Warden smiles as well.

“You are all ready now. United you can initiate your journey.”