It woke something when the words were said, this was certain. It woke something that had slumbered for a very long time. That something raised its shaggy, hairy head, full of nocturn and shadow singing in the mists, opened first one eye, then the next, and yawned loudly.
The children watched it move and shake itself awake, jaundiced eyes blinking at the starlight as if blinded by razor sharp sparkles and knives. It yawned again, sonorous and deep, and all but Gertie stepped back with no small amount of fear.
Gertie, for her part, spread her arms wide and hugged the hairy thing in that dank hollow place. “Floof!” she exclaimed and, when the thing patted her gently on the head, the other children gathered closer, reaching for their own chance at affection.
“I’m mostly okay,” she breathed into the mobile phone resting between her ear and a drool-stained cream pillow she kept on the bed, for those nights where slumber was more likely than wakefulness. “I hardly miss him at all. It’s not like we were steady or anything. Just checking each other out. You know.”
The voice ear-worming into her ear from the mobile phone sounded metallic and cardboardy all at once because of the times she’d dropped the damn thing onto concrete, for gods’ sake. She was a klutz; there was no denying it.
“You sure?” Old boyfriend who wished he was current boyfriend. She knew it was sweet of him to care, but she couldn’t get over the feeling he cared more so that he could get in her pants than he cared about her not-quite-breakup-with-not-quite-Tom-almost-boyfriend. “I mean, I know how you get at times.”
That, Luke did know, but she wasn’t going to confirm or deny any such rumors. “I should go. Thanks for checking up on me, though… It means a bunch to me.”
“You’re okay, though, right?” This is exactly why they’d broken up. Sometime you had to take things at face value and the boy couldn’t seem to do that.
“I’m fine. Stop with the mother hen routine, ‘kay?”
“Alriiiight, as long as you’re okay.”
“I said –“
“I know, you said you’re okay. Let it go, am I right?”
She didn’t want to play the hang-up game Luke liked to play when it was time to say goodbye, so she didn’t let him drag it out and hung up.
She took a deep breath and held it a moment before blowing it out. Then she dug the electrical wire from under her blanket, the stiff stuff her father had in his workshop that went inside walls whenever he had the urge to add another outlet to a wall that he felt had inadequate places to plug in something electronic, and she continued to her work of crossing out Tom’s name from her thigh with it’s sharp copper end. Cancelled, she thought, though it hadn’t been promising at all in retrospect.
The stars fell like snow all around her as she walked out into moor, wolves crying for the moon filling the empty spaces as the ruddy flames licked the sky. She held out hands and let the dying stardust fill them, pouring like sand through her fingers.
“What have they done?” she wondered aloud, but she knew the answer as soon as the query was spoken. They’d felled The Tree, of course. The end of the cycle, then; the end of all cycles in this maha-kalpa, anyway. Eventually there would be another Dreaming, but she would know nothing of it.
Woad paint my face, streaks of blue, becoming ocean waves
Kohl paint my eyes, to the shadows for what they are.
Tapping the thin bones rhythm to the heartbeat earth, the mother of the clan; tapping out the rhythm of skies under the waves, we look westward with fire in our eyes. Darted with mud arrows, she stood beside me, a feast of snared rabbit finger entwined. “Eat,” she said and her cheek tasted of mud as I kissed it. The tapping of bones would linger well into the night, as the wood took up the song in the wind and coming storm — branched their own bones finger snapping in the growing breeze. Rattle, they cry, rattle the night growing strong.
I dressed while fire-build she, so sharp my knife; so strip the flesh from fur to be scraped clean. Spit and sear, fat spatter flames, the sky streak-filled with light.
“They are coming?” The words hinted at question, but it was nothing, only ritual. When I didn’t respond she grunted, knowing the answer. “They come,” she added with greasy fingers, by way of affirmation.
The wait was nothing, we still licked fat-burned callouses as they came.
“We are here,” they said.
“You are here,” I said in reply.
They sat amongst the fresh bones and feasted on the pile she and I had made. Then, they sat back, patting their bone-filled stone-speared stomachs, belched and then stood. And then they sang.
The song —
The song —
This is an experimental piece from my efforts over and the private site. It’s a continuation of my pieces that explore unconventional sentence structure (see We, Wendigo), which is related to, but separate from, my exploration with various portmanteau-likes (more word-mashups than true portmanteau) and standard portmanteaus. My reasons are largely centered around trying to create something different than the standard writing out there, mostly because I’d like to see more experimentation with language myself — these kinds of experiments, along with archaic language resurrection, use of symbolic imagery, and reimagining the structure of language away from the subject/object paradigm we are beholden to. I don’t know how successful I have been, or will be… but it is fun, so I continue to play and hope that I hit on something really cool in the future.
Note: This piece was never finished, but it ends in a decent place. For the life of me, I can’t recall what the “battle” was meant to be other than I am 99% certain it was a slight overstatement (maybe more than ‘slight’) to call it a ‘battle’. Or very bloody, for that matter. It was mean to be an unmitigated chaotic disaster. Probably involving moonshine…
In reading through it five years later, I thought it displayed a sense of humor you don’t typically see from my more serious “poetry face”. I’m not nearly as morose as one might think, based on reading my recent writing.
Feargus couldn’t rightly say how he’d managed to get on his Da’s bad side this time, but it probably had something or another to do with Uncle Lochie’s arrival and the subsequent escape of Mad Jessie.
The family’s addled milkcow was convinced she was one of the many feral cats that plagued the outskirts of New Place, and a certain gate he probably should have secured when Uncle Lochie swagged up the rough path to the run-down shack the Lusk family called home had been found open when his Da went out to milk the cow in the morn. He could have sworn he’d looped the wire loop of the gate over the post, but had to admit he could have been a little distracted by Lochie’s arrival, enough that he might have overlooked those particular kinds of details. If so, one could hardly blame his excitement at meeting a real sea merchant, even if he was related to the merchant and saw him every six months or year. And, as Feargus tried to point out, one of the Hobbs boys could have pranked him and let her out as payback for one of the many pranks he’d visited upon them recently.
Upon discovery of the insecure gate, Feargus was put in charge of finding which brood of cats Mad Jessie had traipsed after, trying to convince felines she was one of their own, echoing the mournful meows with her own lowing.
When he finally found Jessie, she had made it to the far end of New Place with cats mewing and fighting over access to one of her teats dripping with the contents of her swollen udder. Jessie was attempting to purr, a sound more hideous than Feargus thought possible coming from a cow. He kicked away some of the braver or hungrier tabbies and threw the loop of a hemp rope around Jessie’s neck, who continued to try to purr, and his muscles grew taut as he struggled against her as she plodded after the cats, digging his heels into the drought-cracked dirt and finding little purchase. The feral cats had raised the volume of their mewing, not quite ready to give up the treat of warm milk. Jessie had moved back to her lowing after pausing long enough to plant a fresh cow-pie, and then turned to the closest cluster of cats with a sharp turn of her head. It just so happened that her abrupt change in direction caused Feargus to nearly fall face-first into her recent gift of fertilizer. His arms windmilled as his feet finally found purchase and it was only but sheer will and vigorous arm-waving that he managed to avoid the indignity of coming to rest in the still-steaming shit.
The leaves danced down the abandoned asphalt street, the sound of dried, hollow bones in their wake. Logan had not wanted to be here, had not asked to have this so-called gift, had not wanted anything at all to do with the past few eons other people measured in months. But no one had bothered to ask for his opinion on the matter, had even thought to ask him. Even now, the only reason he was here was yet one more thing he could not control: love. He loved her, and so he had fallen victim to the final sordid conspiracy surrounding this whole affair. Were it not for love… No. He didn’t want to think about such things.
Logan was unsurprised to see the man who was the cause of all these problems step from the shadows of the tangled tree like something from one of those cheap matinee monster movies from his youth. Everything about Klein oozed a plastic pastiche borrowed from some kind of camp warehouse. “You came,” he said, his voice slick with oil, and this, too, was something entirely predictable for Logan.
“I did,” he said without emotion. “Where is she?”
“We’ll discuss the girl after you’ve opened the door.” In his hand, the glint of metal reflected in the light of this place between worlds. Behind the tree, then.
It could be any door, Logan knew, so he walked up to the wrought-iron cemetery gate and put his hand on the rusted metal, cold to the touch. “Give her to me,” he said.
“THE DOOR!” Klein shouted. “Open the fucking door and you get the girl! That’s the deal! You stretch this out and I’ll slit her fucking throat!”
Logan cracked the gate, letting sunshine pour into this October country. Klein flashed a toothy grin.
“Give me Klaris, or I shut you in here forever.”
“I’ll slice her…”
“You slice her and I don’t care if either of us leaves. Do it, or give her to me.”
Klein paused, considered. And then dragged her into the dim light and pushed Klaris, stumbling, towards Logan.
Klein squealed as he ran to the gate, anxious to be rid of this prison. Until Klaris tripped him and he slid on his face to Logan’s feet.
Brushing herself off as she stood, Klaris spoke. “Not so fast, you bastard. We’re not done talking yet…”
Exploration. I occasionally consider returning to a terrible, no good, very bad novel I’ve been rehashing over and over in my head since about 1996. Actually, I wrote a two-pager in 1996 and forgot all about it until I stumbled on it around 2001 and I wrote the better part of a novel in serialized format until I painted myself into a corner with the plot. It was called “Drifter” and the biggest issue it had was that I never got around to connecting that initial fragment to the story enough to justify what the character “Drifter” was all about. But it was terrible in a number of other ways, while still having some promise in fits and starts.
After I had written about half of it, I rediscovered Siouxsie and the Banshees after a long hiatus of listening to earlier albums. One of the albums I hadn’t purchased carried a track called “Drifter” and this was probably another reason why the whole story fell apart so badly — I loved the lyrics and started to model the character after the song. In fact, if I were start from scratch, I think the song would be the primary inspiration for Drifter instead of the reluctant pseudo-vampire ash cursed thing he was supposed to be originally.
Anyway, the above is improvised, working off the ghost of a scene that I might write if I went back to it.
The lyrics are:
Drifter sleepwalk, drifter sleep talk
Awake to who is following
Moving like water, moving drifting on the wind
A drifter coming in
Then I dreamt that I awoke
And all around was asleep
With eyes in the back of my head
Awake to who is following
Drifter coming in
Never touching down, never leaving ground
A twilight world in which we roam
Still we don't belong, drift on
At daybreak, we walk
At daybreak, we talk
Ready to tear up the world
Drifter sleepwalk, drifter sleep talk
Your everywhere is home yet you never take hold
Wanting to live everywhere not wanting to live anywhere
A twilight world in which you roam
Still you won't belong, drift on
Drifter... Dream on.
"Buttons for eyes, buttons for eyes," she sang joyfully as she set to sewing large, black buttons into place. She loved this little chore, although she often wished the children wouldn't make such a fuss and scream so loudly as she sewed the disks onto their little cherub faces.
Of course no one else could see the tree coming alive at his touch, but it mattered not to him. He was past the point of needing to prove these things to those who couldn’t see what was right in front of them. The tree lowered a branch to Jonah and he took it like a parent would clasp the hand of a child, and the two of them walked deeper into the forest so that the young ash could be with the other trees Jonah had touched since he’d discovered this gift last summer.
Me and me droogs stopped by the milkbar for a bit of moloko plus, our shlapas brushed and canes polished, looking real horrorshow. We’d not agreed on activity past that. Kipper was partial to a bit o’ shop-crasting, but Wayne was more keen on catching some sinny. Me, I was for watching devotchkas — not that any would be out on account of vecks like us, shaikas intent on making mischief all nochy.
An experiment. Not necessarily successful, but I was wanting to play around with Nadsat for the shits and giggles of it all. I think I might have to pick up A Clockwork Orange on ebook and re-read it. Not entirely different from the movie, but it leaves you with a different sense of Alex.