Verity the Shibboleth

Chaos and Hope

Verity the Shibboleth woke confused. Nothing was familiar, not even herself. She was naked but for some reason that did not bother her. In fact, that seemed right although at the moment “right” seemed at best a nebulous notion. Somehow that seemed appropriate as that morning everything was unclear (she assumed it was morning but because of the haze she couldn’t be quite sure, and what was morning anyway). Everything being unclear seemed appropriate, one of the consequences of remembering virtually nothing, or perhaps even absolutely nothing. She wondered whether there was a difference between remembering absolutely nothing and not remembering anything, then wondered if she had anything to remember.

She was standing but didn’t remember having stood although for some reason she felt she hadn’t always been standing, then she wondered if it would be appropriate to do something other than stand naked in the mists that obscured everything. She wondered if she was blind but couldn’t quite understand what blind was. She could see her body, and the mists, but in the mists nothing at all was clear although there seemed shades of things just beyond definition and she realized that she seemed to sense (rather than really hear) whispered echoes, or perhaps more accurately, echoes of whispers.

She moved, first her arms and then her hands and felt first her face then traced her fingers through her hair, then caressed her body surprised at finding it moist and as she realized she was moist she realized that she was a bit chilled and then that the mists were cold. She also had two competing reactions, one was to sit where she stood and the other was to take a step away from there and as that occurred to her, messages from her feet finally pierced her consciousness telling her a bit about where she might be. It seemed grainy and then she seemed to remember images of two very different things, one was the dreamy imagery of a beach on a dark ocean, waves lapping the shore, but the other was of grainy, dry soil on a rocky surface, of dry stream beds and stilted, dark leafless trees. Verity shuddered wondering if she was in either setting or if the setting would be created depending on her choice of direction, should she commence to walk.

A bit shaken and very confused, although the confusion was a bit ameliorated by the fact she had so few facts to consider, still not really remembering anything other than the reactive, dream-like imagery she’d just, well, … imagined, Verity the Shibboleth (although she’d no idea what a Shibboleth was, or that she was Verity) opted to sit instead.

She sat wondering whether she’d ever been anywhere else or whether she was of this place or this place hers. For some inexplicable reason, everything being inexplicable anyway, she felt that there was something other than those things she was perceiving, but whether in the past, the present or the future, she didn’t know, although the concepts of past, present and future, somewhat unexpectedly occurring to her, seemed both surprising and somewhat promising.

She wondered if there were others and if so, if they were like her or even kin to her and then wondered what those concepts meant and how they’d occurred to her and as she did, she felt something strange, a profound “missing”, although she didn’t really realize that was what she was feeling, just a sense of something very hollow, a bit bitter, inside of her, under her breasts and radiating outward, something somehow darker than her nebulous surroundings, and she experienced sadness, although she knew not why, that being no wonder as she knew so little, although by now, perhaps not nothing.

Her face, under her eyes seemed to be moist, more moist than the rest of her, but she didn’t know why, and she sighed and as the sound of her sigh caressed her ears, she felt a heightening of her senses.  Her heart beat a bit faster and harder and she looked around for the source of the noise her sigh had left her but found nothing, and then she somehow intuited that she’d been the source and, a bit curious, tried to sigh again and somewhat succeeded; she made sounds, but they were not the innocently soft sounds made by unwitting sighs. Still, they were interesting, something like the whispered echoes or echoes of whispers she remembered almost hearing a bit ago. Hearing, not a new concept but rather something suddenly remembered, and remembering seemed a wonderful thing; perhaps. She wondered if there were other things she could remember and realized there were several, the imagery of the sandy beach she’d imagined and its stark counterpart, and of the mist that still surrounded her. And of her apparent attainment of consciousness, or perhaps, just her awakening having forgotten a great deal.

Of course, she couldn’t really understand awakening, she knew nothing of sleep but apparently sleep knew at least something about her and it started invading her consciousness so she spread herself on the strange undefined surface on which she sat, and nestled her head on her arms and closed her eyes, listening to the echoed whispers and as she drifted into sleep, she began to interpret the sounds as meaning, not really as words and concepts but in the sense that perhaps we, who are not trapped wherever she is, would perceive as music, but very strange mostly discordant music, angry and bitter music, but very, very soft, as though it were perpetually fading, growing less and less audible but only by half each time, so that it would never attain silence.

And then, everything seemed gone, as if it never’d been.

Perhaps it never had.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen). Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at and much of his writing is available through his blog at

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