Not Alan Garner (1)

31 Mar

Fucken hungry.  He could murder a cold one too, a dozen, but he knows he could drink a sea and  it wouldn’t fill him with what he needs.

He’s just taking a breather.  No one could deny he’s been digging away down here in the dark.  Working hard.  Its only when he looks up that he realises there’s a kid down here.

Thinking about it, he supposes there are dead kids. Has to be.  Plenty of them. Not much use though, are they, your dead kid.  Not in a mine, he thinks, forgetting how old he was when he started this caper, like he’s forgotten everything, except how to dig. And that he’s dead. He knows that.

Its not a smoko, cos he doesn’t have any smokes.  Can’t, not down a mine.  More a breather.  Not that he’s sure he’s really breathing.  Dead, and he still wants a smoke.  Some habits die hard.  And its not as though he’s just dead.  When he realised he was here, when he woke up working, he didn’ t have any legs left, that’s how dead he was.

The kid’s not on a track, not on rails. Neither is he, now that his legs have grown back, but you know what I mean. He’s not official like. The kid’s not working. He’s on a lark, just wandering about.  Gets on his wick.

The kid sees him. He’s got a lamp stuck on his head, like he’s a miner. He’s a bludger, more like. Shit scared now, not wandering about so aimlessly now. So he should be, bludger.  He wouldn’t bludge down here.  Who knows what they’d do?  If they can bring you back to life, what other shit can they do?  He’s never liked bludgers and he’s never liked wankers.  Remembers that.  Bludgers, wankers, thieves.  Blinks.  A feeling rises, and he remembers it before he can name it.  Shame.  That’s it.  Thieves.  He’s been eating some of the rocks he’s been digging.  Just some little ones.  Surely no one will miss them.  Fucken hungry.

Smell the kid’s fear. Didn’t know he could do that. Bet that’s new.  Scent condenses on his tongue, and saliva flows. He changes inside. Its like feelings he gave up on a long time ago. Longings.

So fucken hungry he could eat his own arse.

But he doesn’t have to.

He’d laugh if he had a voice.   Oh yes.  The kid’s face turns weird, he’s running.  Why?  He realised that he had been walking, without knowing it.  Just a passenger being carried along by legs and hunger.  I see.  The kid’s running away from me.  The kid fumbles in his back pack, loses a bit of the distance between them, pulls out a bit of tinfoil.  That knife won’t help, kid. You gonna murder me?  I’m already dead.

He hops down from the track, into the rubble of what they’ve been digging. Coal. Utility pipes. Dirt. Small trees pulled down through the earth by their roots. Form and complexity. Information and structure. Bits of it lying around down there.

Watcha got in that bag kid? A monster gun? Shambling over, stretching stiff joints. Something wriggling about in there.

Whatever it is, the kid brings the knife down into the centre of it, and it doesn’t like it.  Its jumping around.  The kid sticks the knife into its guts, and it spurts.

O!  The smell. He still can’t remember his name, but flavours flood back, and the drool pours out over his chin.  He can recall crumbed lambs brains and cream and mushrooms and wine – the bitter of the first beer after work on a summer’s day – burning his fingers snatching at hot chips with vinegar, the sun already down and steam pouring from their mouths as they broke battered fish into bits – onion as he licked at his wife’s fingers – stolen honey – other, private tastes…

The thing whatever it was was in his face and he sucked it empty, breathed it down, a wonderful throat-full of blood or motor oil or whatever it was inside, bloody beautiful, and chewing down on the carcass, swallowing it into him, wiping his mouth with his arm then licking the arm clean, the misery in his stomach abated for a moment, letting out a moan like he’s breaking.

The creaking of an ancient unoiled engine returning to life, his voice returned. “Thanks kid.” Clouds were lifting and he stepped out of a haze. “I’m George?” he groaned with the intonation of an unsure teenage girl.  “Yes, I’m George. What the fuck are you doing down here?”

“Looking for someone.”

“Are they dead?”

“Hope not.”

“What’s your name then?”

“Joe.  Joe Chip.”

***

(Such was life in Katingal.  Riding bikes, swimming in canals, wandering the zombie ridden caverns.  Kids weren’t wrapped in cotton wool in those days.  Ahh, the bliss before Trevor ruined everything…)

Among the Dead

24 Mar

My grandfather sits in the ruin of his house.  It is always night when I am here.  The sky is my skull, a low dome seen from the inside.  His jaw is strong and held hard, grinding the fossils of his teeth.  (Even if he still smoked, he could not.  His pipe stem could not be forced between those lips.  It would be snapped by those teeth.  The end of it would stay in that mouth a hundred years, preserved.)

Wind sweeps the ash.  I do not feel the cold.  I stare at the strength of that head.  I remember bending and kissing that head, like a child’s, as it laid on a pillow.  The man I never kissed, who always shook hands.  The skull beneath the skin.

That he came back to sit here, among the ruins.  He does not decay, instead the house does.  Each time I come, it has deteriorated further, taking his place in the grave.  The elements do not bother him.  If the wind wears him, if water drips him away, leaching away the minerals of him a drop at a time, perhaps it is for the best.  Perhaps it is what he desires.  As he weathers, mountains are ground down, oceans rise, seas fall.  Forests grow and are consumed.  The constellations shift, all sped up for him.  He is the Time Traveller, he is Rod Taylor in his chair, encased in stone, then freed again.  In my visits, I am a shadow.  I am the flickering ghost.  It is I who am death, I am mortality.  We are worn down around him.

He gulps sometimes.  The throat works, the jaw moves and clenches.  He is biting deeper, getting a better grip on the world.  Once or twice he has looked towards me.  I stand close.  He does not stop me.  I am calm in his presence, calm with the nostalgia of grief.  The longing for those other worlds I can never visit.  Childhood.  The past.  The lives of others.  The drowsy warmth of everything will be alright.  The knowledge of grief to come.

That he has returned, and so far, not the others.  Preserved in his pride, his inflexible ideas of proper behaviour.  The feuds that burned silently within, in his room as he read, as he listened to talk back radio.

It is monochrome here.  It suits the grey hair, slicked back along his scalp.

My aunt, white gowned against the window, arms raised and pressing the glass.  Could only I see her?  Were the adults pretending it was otherwise? My other grandmother, from the other side of my family, smiling, her lips uncertain, her eyes betraying an unease.  She knew.  We mourned when my aunt left, why did no one tell me she was back?  Kept inside, a secret.

All the dead are kept inside, a secret that no one else wants to know.  We are all haunted, and sometimes they stare out from the windows of our eyes.  They come back, but they are not the same.

My grandfather sits amongst the exposed beams, the drooping wallpaper having outlasted the plasterboard beneath.  He has made himself comfortable in the chair that was thrown away long ago.  Its return is a bigger miracle than his.  Despite the guarantees, despite the proofs, the nanobots escaped, as we knew they would.  Why do we protest?  Why do we bother to rage?  The brave new world was always coming, and there was nothing we could do about it.  We shall consume the whole world, we shall eat our young, the forests will die, the skies will burn.  The nanobots escaped, and here he sits, with no explanation for the chair.  Perhaps Trevor supplied it, free of charge.  Nothing is free.

There is no moon, no stars, no electricity, no peasant mobs brandishing torches, but I see him clear in this night.  I cannot think how I first found him here.  I think I just knew.  He cannot be in this house.  It was sold years ago, and rebuilt, and another family lives here.  Still, it is where I found him.  Perhaps we are in one of those other twenty four dimensions of folded string.  I do not know.  I just gaze upon him and sit in his quiet presence.

The dead stare.  What vision is imprinted on their eyes?  We fear what they have seen.

His wife is not there.  Will she come?  Nobody told me she was in hospital.  Apparently it was impolite to leave that on a message.  I could not answer the phone.  I was freezing in a bath of ice, sitting with a child who refused to be comforted unless someone was in there with him, trying to bring his fever down.  Later, when I finally was told, in emergency as she, unconscious, clawed at the air, as though prematurely buried and scraping at the coffin lid, I prayed and prayed into her ear, a hundred Hail Mary’s to calm her down, and those arms rested, they allowed themselves to stop.

The dead are all inside.  How many skeleton arms drag torsos forward through the mud of my mind, skulls drooping, exposed spines drifting away to nothing?  How many more bony arms are yet to come?  When shall I join them?  What shall I see?

Or will Trevgene banish death forever, infesting us with tiny, tiny robots that shall work constantly to keep us fit, keep us happy in our jobs, content in our places, happy forever in the hell he has made?

These are thoughts I think, when I awake after my visits.

Not Lionel Shriver

17 Mar

The school camp was held in another universe.  The cabin was small but the  huge moon pouring through the window swelled it with liquid light.  I could not sleep with the drilling of mosquitoes.  I could not sleep this far from home.  I had to lie in the tedium, desperate for the hours to pass.  With no reference, I could not tell how much time had passed.

The night before, the only one still awake in a room of snoring boys, I had kneeled in my bed looking out the window, hanging out of my sleeping bag, a towel draped round my shoulders in an attempt to further block the mosquitoes.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time.  I prayed for sleep.  I thought of my family.  I said to myself that this too would pass.

In  the morning, it started.  “What were you doing at the window?” I could not think of an answer quickly enough, so Kevin answered for me.  “Tossing off, I bet.” Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha haaahaaa.  I ignored it, went off somewhere else in my brain while I spooned at the weetbix made with hot water.  Mum made mine with hot milk at home.  And honey.  And sometimes chopped banana.  To me, this was like pouring orange juice on cornflakes for a lactose intolerant kid – it might do, but who would want it?  “What were you doing brushing your teeth?”  “What were you doing wearing a hat?”  “What were you doing riding a bike?”  “Why did the chicken cross the road?” . Kevin’s answer would always be “having a wank” or “pullin’ his pud”, and the donkey chorus would erupt.  Wheat shreds braying through teeth and braces.  The repartee of boys.  He wasn’t even in our cabin.

I had thought the silence meant they all slept.  It just meant that the fear of Mr Palmer, lying in the corner, was more powerful than I realised.  They were all watching, all of the time.

It was unbearable.  I ached with the tiredness.  I wanted to scream, but I did not want to go through the rest of my school years known as the screamer.  The loony who broke down at camp.  Let someone else scream first.  Of course they were not as sensitive as me.

The idea came to me, and I was calmed.  of course.  That would solve my problems.  It was not inevitable.  I could test the universe.  If I fell asleep, I would not do this thing.  I could not do it immediately, it would need to wait until the depth of night, to be sure the others were sleeping.  if I nodded off, then it would not come to pass.  Good.  if the idea came from God, then I would know whether He wanted me to do it or not by whether He granted me sleep or not.  Fair enough.

I counted sheep.  They started off as white, strong merinos.  As I got into the high hundreds, they were leaner, scrawnier, meaner looking.  Their faces were more canine.  Sometimes the dingoes didn’t just kill sheep, I figured.  I was nearly asleep, but the nocturnal sounds of wombats and womb bats kept bringing my consciousness back to the surface.

Finally, when the sheep were all mangy curs and jackals, snapping at each other and refusing to leap the gate, I stopped counting and realised I was standing up.  I did know that with the room flooded, I could float through it.  I drifted to the corner where the games equipment had been tossed.  I had seen it before going to bed.  A loose cricket stump, slipped from the kit, lying there.  The cricket pitch was tough here, grassless with the endless drought, and the spikes of the stumps were all sheathed in metal, the easier to knock them into the earth.

I picked it up and let the current carry me.  It was no surprise that I found myself next to Trevor’s bed.  Even then, I knew him for what he was.  I had no doubt of his evil.  I stood there a long time.  I did not doubt.  I was not wavering.  I just wanted to be in the moment, and be fully aware of what was happening.  From an early age, I did not want to simply stumble through life, to be a mindless sleep walker.

I had waited long enough.  I raised the stump with two hands above me (thinking, if I could see this, I would look like a pyjama-ed Druid), gripped it hard, and thrust down.  The metal tip pierced, and I leaned in, pushing down, forcing it with all of the weight of my body.

The stump made a shucking sound as it entered Trevor’s chest, and I felt the resistance of bone and flesh.  I kept pushing, and would swear I felt the wiggle as it pushed between ribs, the final scrape against his spine.

I felt nothing.  I stood back and looked.  Clear in the moonlight, the stump was buried in his chest.  Nothing momentous.  No blood fountain, no demon scream, no flash burn to ash.  Not for Trevor the instant dissolution of the centuries delayed death of the vampire.

After a few minutes, I returned to my bed.  I had no thought for consequences.  I felt annoyed that really, nothing had happened.  It was only after I had laid there a long time that I realised that I had staked one of my school mates, and that this was no small thing.  I could not have done it.  I had dreamed it.  It could not be real.

I had to look.  As I raised my head, Trevor snored and rolled in his bed.  There was a drawn out vacuum suck as gravity slowly dragged the wood from meat, and I looked about in horror as I was sure everyone would hear it, as I was certain all eyes would turn to the noise.  It ended, and I rested relieved, until I heard the crack as the stump crashed to the wooden floor.

No one reacted.  No one heard.  They were all fast asleep.

I got out of bed, not floating this time, more grounded.  I knew the solution.  Shoes in hand, I snuck past Palmer.

The sun rises early in summer here, and dawn was starting.  I would have to be quick.  Yes, the axe was sticking out of the wood pile.  It was not much effort for me to pull it out of the log, and I was on my way.  You have to pick the appropriate weapon when fighting monsters.  Trevor was something foul, but he was no vampire.  A stake through the heart was not going to deal with him.  I would have to put a lot more thought into it.  But I was pretty sure an axe through the head would fix Kevin.

His cabin was across the path from mine.  I began to run, when I heard the yell.

“CHIP! What the fuck do you think you are doing?”

Old Palmer was awake.  I wonder whatever happened to him.

“Nothing sir.”

“Then put down that axe and get back to fucking bed!”

“Yes sir.”

Good times.  Remember those days in the old school yard?  (Sorry, I might have that line a little wrong, I’m not a Mormon.)

I was much wearier that morning when I sat down to breakfast, bowl of slop in front of me.  Then it appeared, not much, but to me at that stage, it was bliss.  Slipped straight in front of me.  Crispy bacon on toast, a dab of scrambled eggs, a spoonful of baked beans.  I looked up.  It was Trevor, feeding me from his personal supply, sharing the bounty that was magically served to him each morning.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Joe” I replied, finding it hard to meet his eye.

“Joe.”  He stared hard.  “I hadn’t noticed you before.  Joe, you and me.  We’re going places.”

And so it began.

Not HP Lovecraft

10 Feb

weneverlookupwehardlyevergooutatnightthingsaregoodherewehaveworkthereisnotmuchtosayjustnowthinkofussometimes

(thereisnospacenottothinknotforanything)

Not Tim Flannery

27 Jan

I have become an ardent anti-environmentalist, intent on exploiting all of our natural resources whatever the cost, devoted to reducing the planet to a cinder.  Of course this will pass, but it is a natural reaction that you will understand upon learning of Trevor’s efforts to establish his “Green” credentials.  I have always thought of myself as being suitably respectful of nature, and to be honest, I would be impressed by the proposals that had been made, if they had been made by anybody else.  (However, it is well known that I have no nose, having cut it off a long time ago to spite my face, among others.  My life has required a degree of inflexibility.)

The press release rightly points out the imbalances that exist in the natural order.  Food chains have been disrupted.  We have extinctions coinciding with population booms, chaotic event after chaotic event.  It all springs from our foundation as a pastoral and grazing society, which required the removal of natural vegetation, and the resultant diminution of the native species that fed upon it.

Now Trevor is going to do something about it.  Pan-humans are at the top of the food chain.  Most major native predators have been removed, their ecological niche taken by feral cats and foxes, who do a fairly pathetic job of it.

Unfortunately, many of those predators were unique to Glossolalia and are now gone.  Trev-gene are doing useful work which may see versions of them decanted any day soon, but until then, imported predators will have to do the job.

One cannot argue with the press release (after all, I wrote it).  Frankly, as a human being, it will be a relief not to be at the top of the food chain any more.  That will relieve a lot of the pressure.  Komodo dragons have already been released along rivers, where they will have to compete with introduced crocodiles.  I am a little nervous that tomorrow will see the arrival of the first container loads of lions and tigers for urban release, however I am assured that there are already many foxes living unseen in urban areas*.  Of course, all of the new arrivals are protected under strict environmental laws.  Its not that you cannot fight back if attacked, you just better make sure there is no evidence left when the police arrive, only slightly too late.

At least now I will be able to explain to myself the screams I hear in the night.  Perhaps I will even be able to return to sleep.

What if the spider woman suddenly decides she needs protecting?

***

*No wombats are to be introduced, they are too vicious.

(My apologies, I do not have a banner at the top of my page, however WordPress have not made available one that reads “I support censorship”.  Once they do, you will see it flying.)

[The Joe Chip portal is up to date and may be found here.  Just click.]

Not Manuel Puig

5 Jan

Things are not going well with the Spider Woman. In fact, the latest development was nothing short of disastrous.
As an amusing gesture in honour of the circumstance that brought us together, I booked a table at The Entomologist, a trendy little insectophile bistro. The food was good, if bland and a little woody, but we both have excellent teeth. She was carrying on with her usual affected cynical schtick, which is always amusing. After few glasses of wine though, she got a little loud. I normally don’t mind, in fact I like it, she is, or was, a fine counter balance to my introversion. However, this was not the venue for it, with subdued lighting for that nocturnal I’m eating inside a rotting log effect, and she started to draw a little too much attention. That is fine as well, I enjoy her being noticed and I like being seen in her company. However, that night it was a bit too much of “‘Trevor this” and “Trevor that”. I grew uneasy. You never know who is listening. I like to think that I am not superstitious (and not just because it is illegal), but I do not believe in tempting fate.

“Trevor” she said, loudly, but I heard no more as the klaxons started.  I jumped in my seat and spat out something squishy.  She stared at me stricken with guilt, which is just dumb, there is no “Trevor alarm”, that I am aware of.  I looked about.  One couple fled the restaurant, which was also stupid.  What if the alarm was to warn that all people exiting restaurants in a hurry will be shot by very particular terrorists?  You can never tell.  I just know that doing something is seldom a good idea in these situations.  “Just wait” I said, pulling out my smart phone.  I started flicking between screens.  Despite her panic, the Spiderwoman raced ahead of me.  “Here it is” she said, showing me her screen.  “Blue gamma S-26.  What does that mean?”  People all over the restaurant were doing the same thing.  There would be an announcement in plenty of time, but we all needed to know first what was going on.  “Its not on the news screen” she said, getting a little excited.  “Don’t worry, I have the app.”

There.  I knew blue would be something to do with water.  “Blue gamma S-26.  Sounds like a baby formula, doesn’t it?”  She did not respond.  “OK.  All atmospheric air is about to be spontaneously converted into water.”

“How can that be right?”

“I don’t know.  Fortean phenomena, like fish falling from the sky, or finding a living toad encased in a piece of coal.  Things happen.”

“That’s ridiculous.  Things just don’t happen.”

“Of course they do.  Its quantum physics.  Everything just happens.  Causality is so 21st century.”

“That makes no sense.”

I shrugged.  It was no biggy.  I was prepared.

I realised before I popped my single piece of oxy-gum into my mouth that she was not prepared.  She saw it in my eyes, and knew that I knew.  “What’s wrong?” I asked, still chewing, “don’t you have any?”  Even then I could have pulled it out and shared it with her, it would have had some efficacy.  I knew she would not have baulked at that, it was nothing after having wrapped and sealed me in her web.

Minutes later, following her in the street as the last few drops of rain fell, I tried to justify my actions, drawing an analogy with those old science fiction films of oxygen masks dropping in aircraft, with the message to put on your own before looking after your children.  “You’re pathetic” she yelled.  “I’m not a child.  You’re just making it worse, you know flying is impossible.”

I stopped and watched her go.  I though something good was starting the day she tried to eat me, and now it was over.

Damn you boy scouts!  You taught me to be prepared, but not to share.  Damn you evolution, you took away from human beings the ability to breathe under water!  Damn you Steve Jobs and your apocalyptic apps!  Damn you Trevor!

Why do I always get everything wrong?

***

(The Joe Chip portal has been updated here.)

Trevor dreaming

21 Oct

I have been quiet while I think of how to share an incident from my past.  Even saying this draws attention to my concerns, so that I fear it will be an anti-climax.  While I dwell on that, I thought I would share this scrap with you.  Quill scratches on ancient parchment, it is a remnant from my high school days.  I found it while moving some old chests around, after summoning the strength to investigate strange noises in my attic.  (After all, we do not have rats in Glossolalia.  It is the law.)  As I say, it is only a tiny scrap, and I do not know why I kept it, but it was scrawled in that familiar, horrible hand.  Here it is, untranslated:

 

The Scalpel

Love

grows in the heart,

like a tumour.

Prepare.

Physician,

heal thyself.