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Vanishing Point

November 12, 2009

Ansel Adams-The Road


AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth—that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where they are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

–from Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman

I’m taking my family circus on the road until the new year and don’t expect I’ll be around much until then. Let me wish you all an enjoyable holiday season and a happy new year. It’ll be a year in January since I started this blog as a reaction to the constant and arbitrary deletions on the Guardian blogs.

Since then, it seems to have taken on a life of its own. It’s given me a great deal of pleasure for which I thank you all and I hope it’s afforded you all some passing amusement as well. I hope the coming year treats you and yours as well as the year past has treated me and mine.

Until the new year, be well.

Affectionately, Mishari

  1. mishari permalink*
    November 12, 2009 2:06 AM

    BTW, MM…I’ve sent you down the 2 extant seasons of Breaking Bad.

    It came highly recommended by a discerning friend and although I’ve only watched the first episode, it looks very promising (in the remaining space, I added Bruce Willis’ latest, Surrogates, which looks as though it might be entertaining).

  2. parallax permalink
    November 12, 2009 7:22 AM

    ah – enjoy your travels and time with your family mish.

    Thanks for all the effort you put into this blog – I love visiting – it’s always well presented, thoughtful, funny, welcoming and lively.

    Take care on the road – see you next year

  3. November 12, 2009 9:15 AM

    Are your family circus coming anywhere near Manchester? I am fairly allergic to circuses but if the clown with make-up/lurex leotard quotas are low/non-existent they can be entertaining.

    ( receives whisper in ear ) Oh I see.

    Have a good break. If you are going to Spain – it was warm and sunny there last week once you had passed Pamplona.

  4. MeltonMowbray permalink
    November 12, 2009 2:44 PM

    Arrived today, thanks. Farewell, sweet prince!

  5. freep permalink
    November 12, 2009 4:34 PM

    There may be brigands on the road. Take a carbine and reliable menservants, and quinine. Good luck, and thanks for the conviviality over the last year. I’ve enjoyed your company and that of the other reprobates.

  6. November 12, 2009 4:38 PM

    Ah, well, so I’ve finally had some time to come here again and you’re buggering off! Charming… no seriously have a lovely time being elsewhere.

    I had no idea you’d only just started running this blog when I blundered in. It’s been a great place to hang about. So I hope all this nostalgic talk isn’t leading up to any kind of winding-up of proceedings!

    I don’t have any new poems (how slack!) but I did just want to tell you guys that the moment has finally arrived, it’s the gig to end all gigs this weekend, yes it’s Ralph McTell. At last. I look forward to getting thrown out for requesting Streets of London repeatedly… or maybe that’s what he wants really!

  7. MeltonMowbray permalink
    November 12, 2009 6:41 PM

    Enjoy McTell, Polly, and McTell him he’s hopeless from me.

    Looks like the Prince has left comments on, so perhaps I’ll post my novel here. When I’ve written it. Or even had the germ of an idea for it.

  8. pinkroom permalink
    November 12, 2009 8:48 PM

    Cheers… happy hols etc.

    If you have it in you, set us one last poetry task… something truly fiendish to keep us going.

  9. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 12, 2009 8:56 PM

    Be safe on your travels, Mish.

    This has been a good and welcoming place for a sojourner like me, and I thank you for offering this haven for the few months I’ve been dropping in.

    Jack Brae

  10. Captain Ned permalink
    November 12, 2009 9:12 PM

    Perhaps the break will afford you an opportunity to plan a suitably grandiose celebration for the upcoming anniversary, Mishari. Bunting in the streets, white doves let loose, statues erected, etc. Thanks for the blog, which has been a delight; long may it continue to be so.

  11. freep permalink
    November 12, 2009 11:01 PM

    I’ll set you one, pinkroom, as the prince has probably already been gored and maimed by giant crabs. You must produce an epic, in elegant quatrains of nine syllables alternating with eleven (or thirteen), dealing with the loss of civilisation to the barbarism of some imagined terror. (It could be as horrific as Ralph McTell) Each part of the epic must contain tragic ululations in an invented tongue. I don’t think we’ve tried that one yet.

  12. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    November 12, 2009 11:05 PM

    Happy travels, Artist Formerly Known As Mishari. And thanks for providing the best of diversions throughout the year. Should you see a blue Kangoo motoring at high speed through Paris, chances are I’ll be behind the wheel. Wave regally at me…

  13. pinkroom permalink
    November 13, 2009 7:39 AM

    Sounds great freep… one imagines an old longwave broadcast from the 1970s finally reaching a distant planet where they hope to hear evidence of a beautiful/artistic civilisation like there own. After centuries of waiting, they receive and decode the sound of six strings leadenly plunking… it’s coming through now, “…and let me take you by the hand…”

    By God their responding uluations are a wonder.

  14. November 13, 2009 9:20 AM

    Makalla -kalla-kalla
    Obmiundour ig nim flaarse

    is what I’m getting from the frantic morse code signals currently bouncing around the universe.

    Could this be a tragic ululation on hearing a 70’s singer/songwriter or do I need to brush up on my morse code literacy?

    My partner’s dad is a morse coder – apparently on different nights the signals bounce down in different parts of the world. He had contact with one of the Russian -istans a few year’s ago and says it changes regularly. I think this random exoticism is the attraction rather than saying anything worthwhile.

  15. parallax permalink
    November 13, 2009 11:49 AM

    alarming, pinkroom, freep – my microwave tells me stuff, and I listen.

    Hey MM – good idea – pitch your novel concept here – we’ll help you out

  16. November 13, 2009 12:15 PM

    I think I could answer all those requirements Freep if I get really drunk before listening to Ralph McTell and then try to write a poem about it (actually it’ll probably be better than my usual fare)

  17. November 13, 2009 12:44 PM


    How the hell does this ululation thing work anyway?

  18. November 13, 2009 3:20 PM

    Writing this from an internet cafe in Seville. This blog has been a strange locus of, ahem, sanity during my travels. Returning to London in 2.5 weeks, well primed by Mother London. Thanks for the inspiration, Mishari and all, and have a great new year.

  19. freep permalink
    November 13, 2009 5:22 PM

    …I have this distant and vague memory that Mongolian Literature has some vast oral epic which tells the tale of The People, and it was reported to have a good deal of ululation in it. Perhaps someone who reads here has a good working knowledge of Mongolian ululation. Or perhaps there is a perfectly sound Isle of Wight equivalent. Maybe it will crop up in MM’s great new novel.

  20. November 13, 2009 5:42 PM

    freep that part of the world delights in throat singing where they can sing a drone and whistle a tune on top of it. I’ve seen a group rehearse this up close ( we were sharing a backstage area with them in Holland ) and it’s quite unnerving as there seem to be more people singing than there actually are. No wonder spirits and sprites are easily believable in certain cultures.

  21. MeltonMowbray permalink
    November 13, 2009 10:32 PM

    Funnily enough, I’ve been working on Stately, plump Bob Hodge ululated from the pierhead, causing the seagulls to rise from the piles of floating refuse in the sea and fly to the piles of refuse on the dockside. Almost Tolstoyan, eh?

  22. November 14, 2009 9:54 AM

    MM you can’t leave us hanging in mid air like this.

    Did the gulls make it to the dockside refuse? Was Bob Hodge protesting in his own unique way about the brutal system that causes rubbish to be dumped everywhere or does he have an inner compulsion to scare seagulls off?


  23. pinkroom permalink
    November 14, 2009 2:30 PM

    Bob Hodge, or more like, “hobgob’ed”… ay?

    Clearly the ululations of the devil himself. We’ll get that novel finished for you before your master returns.

  24. freep permalink
    November 14, 2009 10:48 PM

    Sentence 2: He placed his right forefinger alongside his right nostril, and expelled a snot with exquisite accuracy into the brown ocean, which agonised in its liquid geometry beneath his blue plimsolls.
    Sentence 3: His mother’s voice called to him, clanging, from among the screams of the pallid birds.

    [We might not get there]

  25. pinkroom permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:04 PM

    Sentence 5

    “For fuck’s sake Bobby, will you come back to the car. Your nanna’s wanting a piss, and we promised her we’d be back in time for “Strictly…”

    Sentence 6

    Opening his throat to release one last ululation, he turned upon his heel and allowed a stiff sea breeze to help blow him back to the waiting Nissan Primera.

  26. MeltonMowbray permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:04 PM

    “Dave! Dave!”
    “It’s Bob, Mum.”
    “Sorry. Bob! Bob!”
    “What do you want?”

    It’s literary chicken.

  27. MeltonMowbray permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:07 PM

    Looks like chaos theory has stepped in already.

  28. pinkroom permalink
    November 14, 2009 11:22 PM

    “Yes Bob Nanna. Not Dave. Dave’s dead. We’ve just buied Dave. I’ll tell you want, you stupid old woman. What. I. Want. What I want is a better life than this.”

    Stamping on the clutch, he turned the ignition and fed in a little gas. But not quite enough. The car stalled and three generations of the Hodge family sat together, united in failure.

  29. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 15, 2009 1:19 AM

    Meanwhile, high in the effortlessly blue sky, the seagulls wheeled cryptic insignia against the air. Literary chicken would have its day, after all.

    The Hodge family looked up as the muffled splonk of seagull shit hit onto the roof of the family car. Unable to read the runes hidden in the splattering of bird shit, the Hodge family would remain hopeless for ever. Hopeless forever.

  30. pinkroom permalink
    November 15, 2009 8:13 AM

    “It is Dave..” Piped the old woman.
    “All them seagulls; thy’re trying to tell us something… something about Dave… they keep saying his name, over and over.”

  31. November 15, 2009 9:21 AM

    Faraway in Tuva a group of throat singers finished off their chicken dinner and gargled gravel in preparation for the night’s ululations. Behind them the Central European plains stretched as far as the eye could see. Below them a trail of ants made their purposeful way towards the chicken bones. Above them a flock of seagulls circled. Odd as Tuva is a land-locked country very far from any sea.

  32. pinkroom permalink
    November 15, 2009 11:05 AM

    “Who is this “Dave” these strange white birds sing of?”
    They muttered as they searched for meaning in the strangely ordered patterns of excrement they left behind.

  33. November 15, 2009 11:43 AM

    Dave turned off the short-wave but the static of voices seemed, madly, to continue for a moment after the power-light dimmed; a gull-like chatter above a circular drone, all tundra and open skies. It was neither exterior nor interior but sang from some white, liminal space. Then it was gone.

    The broadcast had been inconclusive. There were roadblocks. There were no roadblocks. There would be water for another three days. There was no water.

    Dave listened for sounds as he collected a few possessions: his cheap boots with the ankle support, the expensive boots, a compact bible he’d bought in a Woolwich charity shop; a tiny green book that he tucked into the breast-pocket of his shirt. He pulled the red rod from a mop and brandished it, still reeling from the thought that the world had changed so much he might need a weapon to walk three miles of river path to his mother’s home. Or was it his mother? Certainty evaporated. Dave rubbed his temple, the chanting and the gulls rising again.

  34. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 15, 2009 11:48 AM

    “Who am I” Said Bob, looking for meaning in the strangely ordered patterns of the seagull excrement left behind on the roof of the family car. “I mean, who am I really?”
    “You’re Dave, dearie,” said Nanna.
    “Jesus, Dave is dead. We buried him. In a fucking coffin. Will you get over it, for God’s sake. I’m Bob!”
    “Look dearie, if you were Bob,” said Nanna kindly, “then you wouldn’t be asking who you were, would you dearie? You’re Dave, Dave.”

    Bob looked at the sky, at the dimishing specks that were the seagulls. In the distance the tiny specks of the seagulls appeared to be spelling a word: Tuva.
    “Tuva,” said Bob to himself.
    “Tuva’s dead, dearie. We buried him,” Said Nanna.
    “We buried Dave, mum. Dave!”
    “Who’s Tuva?” said a voice from the family car. “Was that the one who was going out with Dave?”
    “No, Tuva’s dead, dearie. We buried him,” said Nanna.
    “I’m pretty sure that Tuva’s a country,” came the voice of a passerby. They looked over. A stranger had been eavesdropping on the whole conversation. The passerby was a tall teenager wearing a yellow hoody. On the breast of the hoody was a small decal with a single word: Tuva.

  35. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 15, 2009 11:52 AM

    As Dave held the red handle of the mop in front of him he felt faintly ridiculous, vaguely unreal. For a moment he was filled with the conviction that all was hopeless.
    “I might as well be dead,” said Dave.

  36. November 15, 2009 12:44 PM

    Outside, there was no sound. Dave was unsure what to expect. Screams, colliding cars, aircraft engines, smashing glass, something. He wondered why he wasn’t panicking. In the bathroom he opened the basin tap to splash his face and no water came out. The toilet was drained. In the kitchen he emptied the cupboards of non-perishable food, filling his backpack. Eating a yoghurt over the sink, something detonated across the park and he crushed the carton in fright. White globules spattered the sink in guano codes.

    It was time to go but he couldn’t leave; he drifted through the house, checking the radio, the television. The landline was still locked to the wrong number he’d called an hour ago when trying to reach mother or whoever. Some old dear had answered the phone then left the call open. He could hear the rustle of the handset in her purse and the occasional snatch of conversation. She was bickering with someone called Bob. Both seemed unaware of the catastrophe.

    It was monstrous to be locked-in, urban like this. Dave itched for a stretch of coast, to belong to some searfaring race in Tuva or Bohemia. Three miles of river, he told himself, three miles of river path…

  37. pinkroom permalink
    November 15, 2009 12:52 PM

    And with that bleak observation, he let out a long, circular ululation as old and wide as the world itself where it met with the wild lament of the brother, Robert who thought he had buried him.

    Their two voices braided at the edge of the atmosphere with the calling of gulls. Bob and Dave, as always, bound together in the curse of the family Hodge.

  38. November 15, 2009 1:57 PM

    Anatoli and Kongar-ool kicked into their horses’ flanks. The beasts launched along the black shingle, sending up spray, sea-foam collecting on their hooves. It was a clear day. Along the horizon, across the narrow sea, the Bohemian coast shimmered.

    The two riders wheeled to a halt. Anatoli removed a small device from his jerkin of thick hide and held it out. He was recording the sea and the gulls overhead, for the pair’s debut album, Sixty Seahorses in My Herd.
    A few metres away, Kongar-ool fiddled with his mobile phone, eventually stuffing the device into a pocket on his tassled saddle.
    “I can’t get Bob,”he called to his brother. “Crossed line.” Anatoli, lost in the whine and uprush of the sea, gave a vague nod. Kongar-ool tried the phone again and this time it connected.
    “Bob?” he asked in inexpert English down the guttering line. “Bob? It’s Kangar-ool. We think we’ve lost our book of chants. Very important….Bob?” did we leave it in your office on last day? Bob?”

    Someone was speaking but Kongar-ool wasn’t sure who. He pressed on. “Very important book for us, sun propellers,” he translated his own tongue incorrectly, “small green book. Very small, fits in pocket…”

  39. pinkroom permalink
    November 15, 2009 2:27 PM

    It is at this point in the narrative, dear reader, that we must explain that the Bohemia upon which our horseman ride, is not the geograpical Bohemia, which would take considerable Global Warming to attain a coastline but rather the Bohemia of fanciful construction, upon which the seas of imagination and the sea of cares variously lap and storm.

    It is here that the fabled literary chicken lives, together with the failed super-hero, Chaos Theory.

    Anatoli and Kongar-ool have their orders…

  40. November 15, 2009 2:37 PM

    “What did Bob say?” Anatoli asked as they rode inland. Kongar-ool shrugged.
    “Nothing I understood,” he replied, glum suddenly. He anticipated a journey, an unkind one, a journey of retrieval.

    Anatoli said nothing. Despite his reverie the coast made him uneasy. Family legend, embroidered with each re-telling but supported by certain crumbling documents, suggested that an ancestor of his had been Bohemian, escaping by sea from some jealous king only to be shipwrecked here on the black shingle. The bears here were fierce, and occasionally one still heard that a fisherman had made an unpleasant exit, pursured by a lolloping mound of hunger.

  41. November 15, 2009 2:58 PM


    Bohemia, Sunday 14th November.

    The police commissioner of Bohemia today warned the population about the growing threat of lolloping mounds of hunger. Speaking from his office in a rotunda he was reported as saying ” Normally lolloping mounds keep to the forests but they seem to have deserted their usual habitat because of the increasing turbulence of our seagull population. Visitors are warned to steer clear of the region especially if on horseback”

    ************NEWSFLASH ENDS**************NEWSFLASH ENDS**********

  42. November 15, 2009 3:20 PM

    Nanna Hodge gave her mobile phone a shake, her habitual response when the device – as it increasingly did – performed functions seemingly of its own volition. She read the newsflash again, confused. Was this about Dave? She had been thinking about Dave, how he had always been the more bohemian of her two boys. But this was about something else. Could phones read your mind? Did they do that now? It was hard to keep up.

    Bob seemed to have drifted away, angered by something she had said no doubt. Their every conversation was a verbal postponement of his infuriation. Was she slower, her thoughts distracted and tidal, or was Dave becoming less patient? Bob. She meant Bob. Poor dear. She shuffled into the lounge, where sunlight peeped through the pale curtains, and switched on the television. A newsreader, Edward something, was shouting something alarming so she turned the dial to ITV, the picture dissolving in antique snow. It was a quiz show. She switched it off and picked up a book, settling her bulk into the chair that had over years been settled and bullied into a perfect ergonomic moulding of her backside. She blinked, reading ‘Chapter Three, the Coast of Bohemia’. She could not remember chapters one or two and the attempt at recall induced sleep.

    The river bulged at the bottom of her sloping garden, the gated path threatening to flood.

  43. pinkroom permalink
    November 15, 2009 9:12 PM

    Bob trudged down to the bottom of the garden with sandbags, time and time again, to bolster the gate.

    Piling on the agony.

    This was not life the way he would have scripted it. Stuck in this kip next to the river, living back with his mam and nanna… fetching and carrying for them, running errands for them in a car that clunked and juddered clown-like to the tune “Loser Bob, loser Bob…”. All this whilst he brother Dave, of the now blessed memory, had cavorted about upon whatever Bohemian adventure suited: gambolling in the fields of Arcady with artists’ models or scratching verse in the Forest of Arden moving ever closer to the foot-hills of fame.

    And there was definately something very fishy about his death. Even that could not be dull as his would surely be… a prolonged, painful and oh-so-predictable failure of heart, lung or liver.

    If Dave really was dead he would know it. Sense it. Feel it. But despiite all evidence pointing that way, his soul and the seagulls were telling him something different…

  44. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:33 AM

    Nanna Hodge returned to the living room. Some compulsion or other, (she wasn’t sure what it was exactly), had given her the notion to enter the garden and look at the river. A change had come over the river that was quite extraordinary. It was swollen up along its length to form a convex meniscus; but strangely, despite the fact that the river was still in full current, the skin of its surface never broke. She could see fish passing by in small groups of twos and threes, looking out at a world they’d never seen before. Birds swept down to the water, but veered away at the last moment, as if put afright by something inexplicable. At the bottom of the garden Nanna’s remaining son had been laying down sand bags.

    When Nanna returned to her favourite chair she noticed that the cusion was missing. She went into the kitchen where she found her grandaughter, Felicity, layering a pallid putty-like material into her chair cushion.
    “Whatever are you doing, dearie?”
    “I’m taking a mould of your arse-print, Nanna. We’ve got to do it for college. We’ve all got to represent our families using abtract expressions of their solid realities. So I’m collecting everyone’s arse-print to make a sculptural collage. Your’s is the best so far.”
    At that moment Nanna’s mobile began to ring from its place on the armrest of her chair. Nanna stood frozen to the spot, ignoring it. The phone rang off. Then it rang again. Then rang off. Then rang again.
    “Your phone’s ringing in the livingroom Nanna,” said Felicity.
    “Shhhh, dear,” said Nanna. “Be quiet or the phone will hear you.”
    Felicity said nothing. Nanna was behaving very oddly of late, odder than ever before. It saddened Felicity that Nanna seemed to be going a bit batty of late. She admired Nanna very much. Nanna had the best arse-print in the whole family.

  45. parallax permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:26 AM

    Bob doodled swirly patterns with his index finger on the Nissan Primera’s crap -splattered carapace, barely acknowledging Granda Hodge’s spittle flecked chin pressed hard against the back window.

    “It’s no wonder Bob’s fucked and Dave’s fucked off,” mouthed Granda incoherently ,”what with my wife being not only his Nan but also his mother and Felicity being both his sister and niece … I wonder if he knows that Dave’s his Dad?” Granda attempted a shrug without success.

  46. pinkroom permalink
    November 16, 2009 8:21 AM

    Crap on a crap car, crap day, crap life” mused Bob as he swirled.

    There was something fishy about Dave’s death, they had buried a few charred remains but what if? What if? What fucking if?

    … and now nanna shouting out something about the fish in a river. The whole family tree was muddled, the Hodge curse they called it. Somebody was going to have to sit down with a pen and paper and work the whole family tree out…

  47. November 16, 2009 9:13 AM

    Dave crossed the garden; the silted pond made from a salvaged tin bath, the buddleia, and climbed over the fence. It bowed under his weight. He passed through the park, the swings set into concrete. The electricity substation crackled and jumped with arcs of disturbed power, causing the wind-up radio strapped to his pack to cough into life.

    ‘…as yet no sign of any conclusion or commencement to hostilities but we’ll keep you updated after the weather we report on a woman in Sydney who is not only her son’s mother but also his grandmother…*ha ha*…sounds like someone took a trip up Olympus…and not for the view…’

    The voice faded as Dave moved away, down a narrow path which opened onto the ring road. There was no traffic but a milk float lay overturned and fuming in the centre of the Larkman intersection. He hefted the mop-handle and, unconsciously, patted his breast pocket where the stolen songbook nestled, his best chance at protection.

    He calmed himself with a song from Fifty Seahorses, on which he’d played conch, softly ululating as the road dipped into a shallow river valley. Whoever he was trying to get to – it was hazier than the radio reception – he hoped they would be glad to see him.

  48. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 16, 2009 11:08 AM

    After washing the caked moulding from her hands Felicity went up to her room and logged on to her mailbox. She had three more messages from that crazy cult again. The subject line on the first message read “Felicity, without your dream the dream is incomplete…”

    Fucking nutters, she thought, and deleted all three messages, all of them unread. She’d been getting these crazy things for over a fortnight, from some crowd calling themselves The IllumiNation. She’d met a few of them, had been almost acccosted by them at every turn, all of them dressed in yellow. One of them had turned up just a while ago in fact, but she had slunk down inside the family car so that she couldn’t be seen.

    Felicity spent a while at her messages and then logged on to her favourite blog, a thing on the Guardian site called Poster Poems. It was facilitated by some Irish poet called Billy Mills and as the page came up she saw that he’d posted a new theme: Ululation. “This month,” ran Billy Mills on the blog, “I want you to give me your ululations…”

    Then the intro went on to explain ululations in past and contemporary poetry, its Irish and Scottish equivelent in “keening”, and then cited a few poems that either ululated or at the very least referenced ululation as a key theme. With this in view Billy had posted links to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, a smattering of poems by an Afro-American poet called Norman H. Pritchard, and a link to something called “Panic Grass” – an obscure “revelatory” poem from the 1960’s by an even obscurer poet called Charles Upton.

    Felicity checked out all the links and then scrolled down to read the poems by the bloggers. As usual, the Irish Bloggers, (most of whome, on the whole, were mentally unhinged), had already began to post. One poster, by the name of Curtingstall, had posted a sonnet called “Message in a Dandelion Globe” which Felicity thought was totally off its tits. Getting to the end of the poem, however, she was suddenly filled with disquiet. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but it bothered her. A shiver ran up her spine. Finally she read a poem by someone signing as MeltonMobray. At last, a poem she could relate to.

  49. parallax permalink
    November 16, 2009 12:20 PM

    “Dave mate,” they chorused in a birthday surprise chirrup, “where the fuck have you been? You won’t believe how unperturbed we were, Skye suggested that we should email Felicity to check out how you were travelling.”

    “As if,” yawned Skye, scratching her pubes.

    “I’m over this Lord of the Rings crap,” ejaculated Dave as he crashed against the wall, clutching his ejaculation and gripping a poster of New Zealand’s photo-opportunity of Peter Jackson set against a Milford Sound fjord.

    “What other drugs are on offer?” he murmured, semi-consciously.

    “Well there’s Magic Realism,” whispered Gonzo, who liked to speak in whoo-hoo Capitals.

    “What’s that then?” they feigned with devout interest, “the source of the Orinoco?”

    “Exactly, it starts as a trickle,” droned Gozo, doing the mesmerised fingers in front of the eyes trick.

    “Fuck trickle,” boomed the exhausted, prostate Dave, “I need Deluge, with a magic realist capital D.”

    “I’ve got Realism,” licked Hiawatha.

    “Fuck, ok I’ll take that,” said an uncommitted, near-comatosed Dave. “It’ll do until I face tomorrow’s challenge.” Haiwatha assumed the position.

    “Fuck, thank god the backpacker’s crashed,” said surfer-Phoenix, rolling a splif in alcohol before microwaving it for consumption.

    “So, what’s his problem?” they asked together and to no-one in particular.

    “Fuck knows.” They nodded.

    “Yeah, you’re right – he’ll sort it out in the morning”

  50. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:48 PM

    Inside a cyber cafe the teen leant into the screen. His yellow hoody was draped over the back of the chair, and he leant against it, squashing the hood into the small of his back. He’d been there over an hour, surfing through the conspiracy sites. The one he’d just been reading was called All The Daves, and its main theme was the impotance of all the people called Dave who were alive on the planet at any one time. It relied a lot on the concept of synchronicity, but as far as conspiracy theories were concerned it wasn’t quite up their with the greats. In the teen’s case, he was only actually interested in one Dave, and that particular Dave wasn’t coming up on All The Daves. Nevertheless, the teen had a task to complete, part of which was to trawl the latest outbreaks of paranoia for anything that might be of interest to his fellow coherts in the IllumiNation.

    Having become bored with All The Daves he looked at his watch. He’d give it another short while and then he’d check again on the Hodge family. He logged on to his mail account and sent another anonymous email to Felicity Hodge, although, at this stage, he doubted she’d ever reply. All his emails to her to date had been left unanswered. He’d have to try something else, something perhaps a bit more overtly intrusive. Time was running out.

    Before leaving the computer he logged on to one final site, the Guardian blog of Poster Poems. Of late it had been flagged up by the IllumiNation as containging some interesting posts that seemed relevant to the current situation. None of the posters were IllumiNation members as far as anyone could determine, but it would appear that some of them were possibly acting as conduits for the coming emergency. As soon as he logged on he saw that a new theme had been posted: Ululation. This immediately caught his eye for the forthcoming times were known in the prophecies of the IllumiNation as the “Time of Wailing”.

    The teen scrolled down through the blog. Only a dozen poems had so far been posted, his favourite of which was one my a certain MeltonMowbray. However, another in particular caught his eye as well, so much so that he printed out a copy of the entire page.

    The teen leant back in his chair. As he read the poem his lips moved, for he always mouthed the words as he read. The piece was called “Message in a Dendelion Globe”. It was a sonnet, but the final couplet, especially, pricked his interest.

    Before leaving the cafe the teen forwarded the link to his contacts. Out on the pavement, in the indifferent sunlight, he read once more through the poem.

    Message in a Dandelion Globe

    This dandelion clock, its soft workings
    inert until set with a breath; its tock
    the tick of every spoke, their fine strokings
    against the air a keening that will mock
    the real aggrieved who mourn the loss of sleep;
    ululate a tremor through the grass-dream,
    while on its green roof flocks of blunt-toothed sheep
    tear up its woven cloak. For it would seem
    that any child who makes a wish of breath
    against these downy heads, can set the thoughts
    of weedlings out to root themselves as death
    to all the lawns whose maths account but noughts.
    For the breath of a felicitous one
    broadcasts the pattern for all those to come.

    The teen looked at the sky. In the far distance he could see a single gull, sunlight flashing off its wings. He headed down the street, towards the river, in the direction of the Hodges.

  51. November 16, 2009 8:19 PM

    Might want to check this out (and even participate) before they take the page down… (it’ll take a few minutes to figure out what’s going on, unaided, so, in a nutshell… erm… we’ve invaded a White Supremacist site that’s masquerading as a Black Supremacist site in order to foment a North American race war)…

  52. November 16, 2009 8:45 PM

    (just to clear up a syntactical ambiguity in the above comment: *we’re* not trying to foment a North American race war…)

  53. November 16, 2009 10:11 PM I tried to post a YouTube clip of Ebony & Ivory to bring both sides together but it wasn’t having it. I don’t know whether the site has stopped taking comments, whether the tune was one bad taste step too far or whether my lap-top has run out of coal.

  54. pinkroom permalink
    November 16, 2009 11:20 PM

    …. and meanwhile back in the suburbs poor, portly Bob Hodge began to weep. His granpa’s colostomy-bag had spilled out upon the much stained grey cloth plush of the Primera’s back seat… the very seat where, in his dreams, nearly ten years before, he had once imagined nights at the pictures, and a little light sexual intercourse with his girlfriend of the time.

    Dreams turned shit. Outside and in.

    It was, he decided a metaphor of sorts, as was that river which was rising so strangely and relentlessly.

    Drown us all with a bit of luck.

    “C’mon old fella… let’s get you inside, ay”

  55. November 17, 2009 12:53 AM

    “ I tried to post a YouTube clip of Ebony & Ivory…”

    I think you crossed a line there, Al.

  56. November 17, 2009 9:05 AM

    SA I’ll put it on my CV.

  57. parallax permalink
    November 17, 2009 1:24 PM

    SA – you’re stopping the flow. Either add your well-heeled porno-noir to this collaboration or get off the highway.

    Actually, we need a Finbar’s Hotel production meeting guys (SA feel free to pitch in) – we’re losing the plot (individual style is irrelevant) but we need a framework, an ethic or at least a sense of destination.

    Ok – we’ve got Bob and Dave as central characters and their family anchors in Nanna, Granpa and Felicity – pinkroom this is your Alan Bennett area. We’ve got a quest happening in some sort of Camargue Otherland courtesy of exitb’s expansive fusion of his own input amalgamated with Cormac Tolkien McCarthy. Jack, you’re working on infiltration and conspiracy theories in Stieg Larsson fashion.

    So, how do we make this work without disclosing denouement?

  58. November 17, 2009 2:27 PM

    Truth 1.01:

    The Tuvan throat singers, whose chants are accredited with subterranean disturbance and meteorological transcendence, had their holy book of chants stolen by bohemian chancer Dave, who had been invited to their recording session by defeated brother Bob. Dave was on commission to deliver the book to Tuva of the IllumiNation (to repay a bad debt) but, after a night of combined chanting/hallucinogens, awoke in a quite different place, remembering little. Tuva has decided that Felicity’s trust will bring him closer to the book so he has begun to weave his way into her life. The book’s owners, Anatoli and Kongar-ool, have begun their own pursuit of Dave. Who will prevail?

    The bird-shit codes, convex meniscus, crossed lines, poetry and invisible catastrophe are all symptoms of worsening meta-fictional collapse.

  59. November 17, 2009 2:45 PM

    Truth: 1.02:

    Dave is dead. His exploits are nothing more than Nanna Hodge’s nap-time misremembering of the chapters in the book she’s reading.

    Bob’s attempts to shore up the flooding river become ever-more desperate and Felicity is drawn into a conspiratorial spiral by Tuva, whose theories are based on nothing more than a febrile mis-reading of an out-of-print paperback novel (coincidentally, the same book that Nanna is reading). Tuva is the illegitimate son of one of the Hodge brothers but is too nervous to make contact directly. Is he Dave’s. r Bob’s?

  60. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:26 PM

    Truth anotherbit:

    Precisely. We’ve had this plot all along, Parralax. Pay attention please. The Meta-fictional stuff allows us all to weave in and out of ExitB’s plot-tease. And another thing. Can we please stop having characters ululate, unless it’s for a sex scene. Any ululations can be posted (via this portal) to the Poster Poems blog: Ululations. Geddit?

  61. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:52 PM

    Felicity came down to check if her plaster casts were drying up okay. In passing Nanna’s chair she idly stopped to pick up the tattered paperback that Nanna had been reading. It was an old Pyramid paperback from 1964, one of those American paperback originals. She looked at the cover. Very sci-fi for Nanna, thought Felicty. The book was called “The Subterrestrials” and had a naked man on the cover with an enormous opened eye at his navel. His head, its face blurred and indistinct, was surrounded by a halo of purple flame. Underneath the title, in vivid orange lettering, was the legend, “They went beneath the city and discovered a secret worse than death…”

    The author was someone Felicity had never heard of, someone called Gin Kellabriast. Felicity assumed that the author must be a man and she gave a quick glance at the back cover where there was a blurb by someone called Harlan Ellison: “Gin Kallabriast is the Bodhisattva of the sacred mind, come down from heaven to blow our brains. His writing comes from the future and shows us the way.”

    Felicity opend the book up and looked at the copyright page. A small paragraph read: “Original copyright Greenleaf Corporation 1961. Portions of this book originally appeared in Fantastic Magazine in serial form, under the title “The Illuminators”.

    Felicity put the book back on Nanna’s chair. She wanted to give it a read, but not now.

  62. pinkroom permalink
    November 18, 2009 12:36 AM

    As it was it was Bob who picked up the paperback after hosing down Granpa. He took a pencil and began to sketch out his family tree in the end-papers.

    Grandpa and Nanna Hodge

    A son (deceased) married to Bob’s mam

    Three children: Dave (now recently deceased? Much older/hipper than Bob, rumoured to be Bob’s, and Bob’s sister, Felicity’s dad?
    And Felicity.

    It was certainly murky. Was Dave, Nanna’s son or grandson?. If grandson he was both Bob and Felicity’s father and half-brother. Stranger relationships no doubt existed somewhere in Gloucestshire. But not too many.

    “Oh well, we are what we are.” Mused Bob, and what they were was shortly to be flooded, as the rising river pushed past the bagged gate like so much dolchelatte…

  63. November 18, 2009 3:51 PM

    The river had broken its banks and Dave was forced to clamber through the tangled foliage that clogged the steep bank rising from the now submerged riverside path. He tripped over rusted bicycle frames and collapsed fridges. He remembered, greyly, that this site has once been a favourite fly-tipping spot from the side-road that hugged the top of the slope. He peeled open a can of tuna and ate it as he walked.
    Despite the allure of a flat, paved surface upon which to walk, Dave avoided the road. The radio on his pack was silent but this only increased his unease, the sense that something nearby was waiting to trick him out into the open. He imagined armoured trucks idling or rolling silently along, matching his pace, the uniformed figures inside checking their watches and twitching with impatience.

    He reached a gouge in the embankment, where a wide concrete pipe from the May & Baker factory had channelled waste into the river where Dave had swum as a child. The river boiled and churned here, as if against a competing tidal shoulder. Dave noticed for the first time how the water seemed to bulge upwards against gravity in a phenomenon he imagined impossible and could not find a name for. The way was blocked, unless he reached the road where he had heard a metallic creaking some way back.

    Forgetting the worst delusions and even worse successes of the previous night’s experiments, Dave took the green book from his breast pocket and flicked through it. The text was dense and tiny and in a language and script Dave did not understand. This did not trouble him unduly; he had always held knowledge as a major impediment to understanding and thought as the worst gaoler of the body’s potential. And song, after all, was the body’s business. He chose a page that felt correct and held the text up to his face, squinting and reckless of being heard. The song leapt from the page into his lungs and began to play him. Dave merely hoped his desire to cross the water would catch somewhere in the music.

    A figure began to become apparent on the far side of the water. Dave fought the urge to run. He wanted his mother.

  64. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 18, 2009 7:34 PM

    Felicity could hear her father calling like a fucking lunatic from out in the garden. She cursed under her breath but decided to just ignore him. She was surfing the net for Gin Kellabriast but wasn’t making much headway. Firstly, there wasn’t a single photograph of him to be found anywhere, and the only coherent information that she could find, and which was practically useless anyway, was a short entry in Wikipedia:

    “Gin Kellabriast was an American science-fiction writer and sorceror who was born on the 2nd of May 1932 and disappeared without trace from a fishing trawler in Newfoundland on 3rd of May 1967. (Citation needed).

    He was the author of two science fiction novels, “Johnny Applesperm” (1962) and “The Subterrestrials” (1964), as well as a collection of short stories, “Butterfly Sandwiches” (1966).

    He was a friend of the writer Margaret St. Clair, a science fiction novelist and practitioner of Wicca. (Citation needed). He is also mentioned in some of the literature of Carlos Casteneda and had been identified by some as the stranger who met Casteneda in the Arizona Bus Depot in 1960 and was responsible for introducing him to the sorceror Don Juan. (Citation Needed).”

    Felicity had no idea who Margaret St. Clair of Carlos Casteneda were and she just couldn’t be bothered to look them up. By that stage here father was screaming blue murder from the garden, so Felicity went to an upstairs window at the back of the house and looked down into the garden.

    The river at the end of the garden was moving incredibly swiftly, but was swollen up above its bank in a weirdly torrential mesniscus. Although the river had not yet brust in full, it was nevertheless leaking a luminescent discharge of sodden silt that was sweeping into the garden and up to the very back of the house. Bob was at the bottom of the garden, up to his waist in vivid green silt, pathetically piling up sandbags that were breached in at least three places, the strange wall of the river towering over his head. Felicity watched in amazement as fish and bicycle frames flashed past inside the water. Just beneath her window, at the threshold of the back door, Felicity could see stranded fish, writhing spastically in the grass and along the concrete verge, mouthing nonwords of fish-talk as they died in the afternoon air.

    “Fuck,” thought Felicity, “I’m getting out of here…”

    On her way to the front door Felicity picked up the copy of “The Subterrestrials”, which had now been abandoned on the kitchen table. She slammed the front door behind her as she left the house and made her way hurriedly up the street.

  65. pinkroom permalink
    November 18, 2009 9:00 PM

    First port of call, and it really would be port the rate that river was going was the house of her vbf Kayleigh.

    Hello Mrs Mulligan, Kayleigh in?
    Of course pet… on the computer as ever. Go right-up.

    Kayleigh Mulligan had been her best friend pretty much all her life and despite, perhaps because, being different in just about every way it was possible to be, they always just clicked along together just perfectly.

    My Lady, to you bitch.

    They fell about laughing as teenagers sometimes will, just happy to be each others company and certainly as far as Felicity was concerned anything was better than being stuck in that house of complete and total embarrasment by the river with the two piss-stinking geriatrics, her care-worn drudge of a mother and a big brother who was becoming really worryingly weirder by the day, and today had been just the Weirdest Day Ever.

    So how was the funeral?

  66. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 19, 2009 12:05 AM

    In a stone hexagonal chamber beneath the River Feale, a Chaos Poet was calling forth a shade. The poet’s familiar, a black freshwater crayfish, was scurrying about the floor, flexing its antennae. The poet was reciting a ritual poem and beating his breast with alternate fists:

    from the hag’s cleft
    come forth from death,
    break the waters
    birth you backwards
    return you one
    your head erupts
    in purple wax
    o pope of stone
    o pope of fire
    today from yes-
    terday retire

    The poet repeated the poem over and over. He’d been repeating it thus for hours, had placed his conscious mind under an enchantment while doing so. The black crayfish clicked in time with each beat of a fist on the poet’s breast.

    Out of the backwardsforwards the Chaos Poet became unself-aware.

    Not I Not Am.

    The Chaos Poet blinked. Standing before him was a naked angel with an enormous eye at its navel; the angel’s head was shrouded in a halo of purple flame, its face burred and indistinct. The angel was speaking:


  67. pinkroom permalink
    November 19, 2009 12:45 AM

    Just fucked-up, like everything else seems to be ’round here lately.

    Felicity replied.

    And that much was true she reflected as Kayleigh returned to the dog-eared copy of “The Subterrestials” she had brought around as small payment for the coffees and cakes that were so normal a part of domestic life chez Mulligan but were an outlandish at Casa Hodge. All the things that had been happening lately and that farce of a funeral was the cherry on the icing.

    Nobody could say for sure those little crumbs of ash and bone they buried today were Dave. The DNA was inconclusive and the circumstances decidedly iffy… it wouldn’t be the first time he’d lighted out for Tuva, the fictional Bohemia, or some point between.

    And who was Dave anyway? She hardly knew him, although he was 1,000 times a cooler as a brother than that fat drop-kick Bob… why couldn’t he get himself totally incinerated?

    And it was at that very moment that Kayleigh shot upright as if some strange God were pulling a string tied through her chest.

    “Fuck off! Flik, you are n-e-v-e-r going to believe this. Somebody’s written out your family tree in this book and, if I’m reading it right it looks like your “brother” Dave might also be your dad. O – My – Fucking – God. You skanky, web-fingered cow!”

  68. mishari permalink*
    November 19, 2009 12:29 PM

    Afternoon, all. Just a flying visit, I’m afraid. Love the collective evolutionary novel.

    Apropos of nothing, really–but I thought this story might amuse:

    The late Huw Wheldon of the BBC once described to me a series, made in the early days of radio, about celebrated exiles who had lived in London.

    At one stage, this had involved tracking down an ancient retiree who had toiled in the British Museum’s reading room during the Victorian epoch. Asked if he could remember a certain Karl Marx, the wheezing old pensioner at first came up empty.

    But when primed with different prompts about the once-diligent attendee (monopolizing the same seat number, always there between opening and closing time, heavily bearded, suffering from carbuncles, tending to lunch in the Museum Tavern, very much interested in works on political economy), he let the fount of memory be unsealed.

    “Oh Mr. Marx, yes, to be sure. Gave us a lot of work ’e did, with all ’is calls for books and papers …”

    His interviewers craned forward eagerly, to hear the man say: “And then one day ’e just stopped coming. And you know what’s a funny fing, sir?” A pregnant pause. “Nobody’s ever ’eard of ’im since!”

    This, clearly, was one of those stubborn proletarians for the alleviation of whose false consciousness Marx had laboured in vain.

    –Christopher Hitchens, from a review of Marx’s Das Kapital:A Biography by Francis Wheen

  69. Captain Ned permalink
    November 19, 2009 9:46 PM

    Professor Nataliya Churikhova handled her copy of Gin Kellabriast’s ‘Johnny Applesperm’ furtively. No-one from the conference would venture this far from the city centre, she knew that, and certainly not at this hour, but still, the thought that one of them might discover her fondness for cheap sci-fi pulp chilled her to the marrow. She knew her standing among her peers could ill afford another knock, however trivial.

    The coffee was cold and bitter. The toast was soggy. The beans grimaced at her from the plate with an dispiriting belligerance. She ate her breakfast nonetheless, the appalling taste soon fading from her mouth as she became immersed in her book. The curled, yellow pages, stained here and there with tea, jam and sundry unidentifiable substances; the lurid cover, with its picture of an iron-jawed space captain fending off scantily-clad snake-women with a laser gun; the accumulated smell of countless owners, who, in the nearly fifty years since the book’s appearance, had briefly owned it, consumed it, passed it on: these were all familiar, gloriously so. But as she read, Nataliya became aware that something was wrong, something she could not identify. A little cauldron of unease bubbled over in the back of her mind. There was something strange about Kellabriast’s writing, something off-putting yet at the same time compelling. The sentences were odd; they were very odd. Not good, exactly, but not what she’d expected. They coiled and uncoiled, barked, pleaded, declaimed. There was a note of sadness, of grief that sounded faintly through the unexceptional storyline – Johnny Applesperm, ordinary Joe from Nebraska, is kidnapped by the grey-skinned, three-eyed Kongarians, frequent but unobstrusive visitors to Earth, and taken to the galaxy of Avut, where he is inducted into Kongarian society and promoted through the ranks of their army, engaged in an unceasing war against the snake-people of the planet Ool – which brought her almost to the verge of tears. Absurd. She knew that. Silly and ridiculous. Time to put the book down. Time to head off to the conference centre, time to face those soul-sapping bores for another day. But first, one page more.

    She sighed, finished for now. She glanced once more at the front cover, and at the back with its charmingly breathless blurb. To the front again. She studied the picture a little more closely. It was riotously bad. Who could have created such a laughable image? She checked inside the cover, and the name of the artist, as soon as she glimpsed it, astounded her. Anatoli Grubal. Anatoli. Yes, it had to be him.

  70. Captain Ned permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:34 PM

    Nataliya thought back to Kyzyl. Kyzyl was not a place to which her thoughts turned back often these days – the memories were so vague, and so unpleasant – but it was there that she first met Anatoli and his curious, volatile friend Kongar-ool. At some vile, piss-sodden bar they’d got drunk together, expensively so, and it was then that Anatoli started up with his stories of an ancient book of Tuvan chants – one of the oldest books in existence, he said. A small, battered, but sumptuously illuminated volume his grandfather had liberated from a German farmhouse during the war (how it ended up there was anyone’s guess), this book, was so sought-after, said Anatoli, that he’d had to kill in order to keep his hands on it. Fourteen men at least, but he hadn’t kept an exact count.

    ‘All big hairy men, Natalyia, with hands as big as my head. They were not nice. I didn’t want to kill them, Natalyia, but I had to. They wanted my book, you see.’

    ‘I killed them, not you, Anatoli,’ said Kongar-ool, spitting disgustedly at the bar and swatting the flies from his moustache . ‘Stop lying. Natalyia doesn’t believe you, do you Natalyia? Look at him, and look at me. Look at my muscles, Natalyia. Look at them. And look at my tattoos. Who would you say is more capable of killing twenty three men?’

    Natalyia didn’t reply. She wanted to know more about the book. Anatoli and Kongar-ool, however, were more interested in giving another airing to their oft-rehearsed differences.

    ‘Stop looking at Natalyia like that,’ Anatoli warned. ‘I don’t like it. You are a bad man, Kongar-ool. You are a very bad man.’

    ‘Who are you calling bad man? You are the bad man, Anatoli. You are the worst of men. Natalyia, I could tell you things about him. Horrible things. He is a very bad man.’

    ‘I am not a bad man. Your mother is a bad man, Kongar-ool. And much uglier.’

    That was when the first punch was thrown – the first of many, which quickly increased in force and bloody efficacy. Eventually the three of them staggered back to Anatoli’s flat, where the two men hugged and passed out on the sofa, snoring before their heads even touched the cushions.

    Natalyia lit a cigarette. She was on edge. She’d heard rumours before of this Tuvan book of chants, which in the arrogance of post-doctoral youth she’d dismissed as the idle chatter of her rheum-eyed elders. She was in Tuva for serious musicological research purposes, not to chase fantasies. But a few drunken words from a couple of crag-faced deadbeats had changed everything. In a frenzy she went through every drawer in the flat, her hands shaking in desperation. She looked under the bed, behind the curtains, on top of wardrobes. Chairs and tables were noisily overturned, the men fortunately too drunk to be disturbed. Natalyia reached the point where she was ready to rip out the floorboards with her fingernails – but then she chanced to open the oven and find a foil-wrapped package hidden in a casserole dish. Without even opening it, she knew she had what she was looking for. A calmness, then. An unshakeable confidence and feeling of tranquillity. She placed the package in her handbag and made for the door.

    ‘You take another step, Natalyia, and we will slit your throat.’

    She froze. She must not look behind her.

    ‘We don’t want to kill you, but we will if we have to. Take the book out of the bag and put it on the floor. Then walk away, Natalyia. Walk away, or you will die.’

    Slowly, she complied with the demand.

    ‘Thank you. Now go. If we ever see you again, we will kill you.’

    In the street Natalyia wept furiously. The cold wind blew leaves and dirt into her face, dogs growled in the shadows. In an alleyway, a tramp attempted a spot of throat singing, but could only vomit over his bare feet. Natalyia screamed at him dementedly, cursing him and all of Kyzyl with a vehemence that bemused the tramp. Natalyia walked on to the station and stayed there until the first morning train, leaving without picking up her things from the hotel. Throughout the journey home, one thought repeated itself exhileratingly in her head: I must have that book. I must have that book.

  71. Captain Ned permalink
    November 19, 2009 11:45 PM

    So how had these two come to know Gin Kellabriast, wondered Natalyia? There must have been some acquaintance. Kongarians. Ool. Avut. These things could not be put down to coincidence. Anatoli had never told her his surname, but Grubal sounded about right. But what now? Natalyia felt she had to investigate further, but why? Investigate what, exactly? Well, she’d think about it when she got home, whenever that would be. Now she really had to leave, or she’d miss the start of the conference, and today, of all days, she could not afford to be late. The last conference speech she’d given had been such a disaster that it was essential that she gave a good account of herself now. She hurriedly committed the remnants of her coffee to the back of her throat and got up. But wait. Wait now. Where is it? Panic engulfed her, and this was real, sweaty, delirious panic. She groaned, and sensed censorious eyes being turned towards her as she flung her chair across the room. It was gone. Her laptop was gone. All notes, they were in that bag, together with her laptop, and they were all gone. Natalyia sank to the ground and ululated.

  72. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 20, 2009 1:14 AM

    Evening had settled over the city. The bloated river, now risen twenty feet above its banks like a trembling jelly, was glowing a vivid green as it snaked below the streets at the bottom of Comfort Hill. The teen, his hood up and pulled forwards to cover most of his face, was leaning against a streetlamp across from the house he’d followed Felicity to. Felicity had been in there for hours. He’d wait for her though, even if he had to wait until the morning. He was cold, but his hands were gloved in thin leather. Every few minutes he’d momentarily remove a glove so that he could turn a page of the book he was reading, a collection of short stories by Gin Kellabriast.

    The piss-yellow streetlamp lit up the page, page 90, the beginning of a story he’d already read dozens of times previously: “Doctor Nang’s Bottle of Eyes.”

    On the other side of the street a stray cat squeezed itself out of shadow, crossed over in a diagonal path towards the teen and rubbed its tail against the lampost, then snuggled against the teen’s legs, purring. The teen looked up. Frail moths were flitting about, flumping into him. High above, the moon was pinching itself into the darkening sky.

  73. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 20, 2009 1:35 AM

    Question 7 (Allow 20 minutes):

    Please answer the following, based on the opening sentence of Gin Kellabriast’s Hugo-nominated short story, “Doctor Nang’s Bottle of Eyes”:

    “Doctor Nang’s tent had no opening and no seam, yet the doctor appeared capable of being within or without whenever he wished.”

    (a) What is a seam?

    (b) Taking note of the meaning of “without” in the above sentence, is it true to say that the tent is empty or full of Nang only relative to Nang being in or out of the tent? Please qualify your answer.

    (c) What is bilocation?

    (d) Discuss the following statement: Tent is a metaphor for vagina.

  74. November 20, 2009 7:12 AM

    Dave sat glum at the water side. The figure hung jammed in the air, a static mist of pigment and looping whispers.

    It had been this way for a day. Nothing had moved and Dave had been unable to act, as if his movements – thought even – were determined by some distracted demiurge perched on a cliff in rural Spain, and the internet connection had cut out for the previous 24 hours…

  75. pinkroom permalink
    November 20, 2009 7:13 PM

    But Felicity was barely listening,

    out of the window she could see the bale-light of two men’s eyes turned towards her. The first a young man in his late teens holding a book by his side as an unnoticed cat made a figure of eight between his legs, the other an older cat of the human kind looking very like her brother, father, or possibly both, Dave, who was sitting at the edge of the still-rising water. Both seemed to be, in that moment, possessed of some subterrestial energy.

  76. freep permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:24 PM

    Chapter 2.
    Beneath the awkward riveted struts that supported the National Clock, they met, where diagonal shadows sliced the tarmac into harsh segments.

  77. pinkroom permalink
    November 22, 2009 10:44 PM

    ‘On time, as expected… shall we take a short walk?’

    Within less than a minute, they had turned into a side-street where a single storefront Italian cafe waited. The door was locked behind them as two coffees of an eye-watering arabica just as brisky appeared on the table between them. The elder, heavier, man, who had been waiting at the clock, offered an MS cigarette, taking one for himself. The younger man declined.

    ‘Very wise, for me… well…”

    He exhaled noisily and wheezily in what may have been a laugh.

    “…but enough of all the small talk; you have brought what we discussed of course.”

  78. freep permalink
    November 22, 2009 10:56 PM

    Yes. It is here, in lump form. I hope you can …

  79. MeltonMowbray permalink
    November 22, 2009 11:16 PM

    … fit it into…

  80. pinkroom permalink
    November 23, 2009 12:29 AM

    the subterrestial of your choice.

  81. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 23, 2009 3:33 AM

    the subterrestrial of your choice…

    “What? What’d you say?” said Felicity, transfixed at the window.

    “I said nothin'” said Kayleigh. “What’s so interesting down on the street anyway? Is that creep in the yellow hoody still down there? He’s a fucking tosser, don’t have anything to do with him.”

    Felicity felt as if she was in some form of thickening gunk. A gunk that was passing in and out of her like a ‘flu snot. She felt as if she was in several places at once. Several people were talking at her from differnt directions.

    the subterrestrial of your choice…

    “Fuck’s sake, Flick, have you been listening to a single fucking word I’ve said?”

    Felicity turned from the window. She needed to get air. Kayleigh was lounging on her bed looking at that shitting fucking minging mad paperback.

    “I’m going outside. I’m going home. I need to get some air.”

    Kayleigh sat up. “Jesus, Flick, are you insane? You can’t go home. Haven’t you been listening to a bloody word I’ve been saying, you dopey cow! There’s about eight feet of water after flooding the houses at the bottom of Comfort Hill. You’re safer up here. You won’t be able to go home. The fire brigade and the police and the fuckling Navy have been driving down the street for the past two hours since you got here, what’s fucking wrong with you? Jesus, Flick, you look like shit, you need to crash here for the night. Your family’s fine. Don’t be worrying about them. They’re probably all holed upstairs playing scrabble till the flood waters go down.”

    the subterrestrial of your choice…
    the subterrestrial of your choice…
    the subterrestrial of your choice…

    Felicity thought her head was about to explode or implode or fuckplode, she had no idea what. She had to get out, she just had to. She burst from Kayleigh’s room and down the stairs and out onto the street.

    Down at the bottom of Comfort Hill she could see the floodwaters, sickly green in the streetlamps; the blue and red lights of police cars and ambulances and fire engines, like strange migrant souls, were flashing off the waters. Further in the distance the main body of ther river had still not burst, but was trembling almost thirty feet up towards the night sky. Strange wormlike lightnings were playing over the top of it.

    The teen in the yellow hoody was still on the other side of the street, his head aflutter with moths, a boney stray cat at his feet.

    Felicty began to make her way down the hill, but the teen crossed the street and made his way staright for her, the cat following right behind him. She stopped dead where she was.

    “Look, just fuck off! Just fucking fuck off!” she screamed.

    The teen was unfazed. “My name’s Tuva.”

    “Just. Fuck. Off!” spat Felicity, and stormed down the hill. Tuva followed, smiling to himself. Things were going to work out, he could tell. The cat seemed to be able to tell as well, for she followed too.

    Kayleigh watched from her bedroom window. “Stupid fucking cow…”

  82. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 23, 2009 4:07 AM

    A coach full of people, gazing from the windows like lost ghouls, passed Tuva and Felicity as they made their way down the street. The coach was headed in the opposite direction, up to the top of Comfort Hill. It was followed a few moments later by two ambulances tearing up the street at top speed, their lights flaring.

    At the bottom of the hill Felicity was stopped by three burly policemen at a make-shift checkpoint. Tuva held back. The police officers were telling Felicity in no uncertain terms that she was to turn back. Just behind them the streets were flooded with a shining green water, like a lurid syphlitic piss. There was a smell off it too that was utterly vile. On the water itself, making their way towards the dry end of the street, were several boats pulled by firemen and soldiers. In the boats were the residents of the flooded houses, wrapped and shivering in tnin blankets. Felicity spotted her family in the nearest boat.

    “Dad, dad, it’s me!”

    Some firemen pulled the near boat up onto the sloping shore of the street, as close as they could to the opened doors of a waiting ambulance. Felicity watched as her nan was lifted onto a stretcher and carried into the back of the ambulance. Felicity’s mum followed, seemingly unaware that her daughter was calling to her from behind the checkpoint. Felicity’s dad spotted het though. His skin was a pale lilac colour, he looked awful.

    “Flick, where the hell have you been? We’ve been phoning you all bloody night.” His voice was weak, his eyes dull and defeated. Felicy had a very faint feeling of guilt – her phone had been switched off – but guilt wasn’t really one of her strong points, so it passed in a moment.

    “I’m going with your mum and nanna in the ambulance. Go to Kayleigh’s house and stay there the night. Do as you’re told, love.”

    The checkpoint was opened up to let the ambulance through, and it sped up the hill. More boatloads of people were being pulled up out of the water. Felicity noticed that a lot of them had that leprous lilac tinge to their skin.

    “See that colour?” said Tuva from behind her, “that’s from contact with the water. Don’t let it near your skin, it’s bad.”

    “I’m still expecting you to fuck off,” snapped Felicity.

    Tuva gave her a steady look. “Okay, I know this is all very weird and all happening far too fast, but I can actually help. I’ll take you back up the hill to your friend’s house. I’ll call on you in the morning.”

    “I’m not going back up the hill. I’m going to my own house. I’ve got stuff to get. And all you need to do is to fuck off. So fuck off!”

    Tuva realised that arguing with her was a waste of time.

    “Look, those cops aren’t going to let you through that checkpoint. And there’ll be checkpoints in all the other adjoining streets that lead anywhere near the water. And getting into the water is really really not what you want to do. But I know a way maybe to get past the cops and maybe we can get you to your house without getting wet. But what’s so important that you have to go there for anyway?”

    “I’ve got to get my art project. I need it for Monday otherwise I won’t get my grade for my foundation course.”

    “Okay, but trust me. And no going into the water.”

    Tuva marched back up the hill and took a small street to the left, followed by the skinny cat and a cloud of flittery moths. Felicity, despite herself, began to follow.

  83. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 23, 2009 4:40 AM

    “So what’s this art project then.”

    “It’s the arse-prints of all my family. I took the moulds from the depressions their arses made on their favourite chairs. And don’t make any smart comments.”

    “It sounds cool. I like art. An arse-print is both intimate and absurd at the same time, poignant and surreal. I like it, it sounds like a good idea.”

    Felicity felt a pang of annoyance. “Don’t fucking shit with me.”

    “I’m not. Those arse-prints of your family sound really cool. I’m being sincere. Anyway, stop here.”

    They had come exactly half-way along the side-street adjoining the two main roads that led up to Comfort Hill.

    “What’s this?” asked Felicity.

    “See this door?” said Tuva, “Well, this is the exact midway point separating the back gardens of the houses of the two adjoining streets. See, there’s another one on the opposite side of the street. Between all the gardens, all the way up and down the hill, runs a line of alleyways. They’re secured by these doors so that thieves and mad fuckers won’t be climbing into the backs of people’s gardens and into their houses. I used to live in one of these streets, but way over on the otherside of the burrough. That’s how I know about them.”

    Tuva cupped his hands together, his fingers locked tight. “Step onto my hands and I’ll give you a push-up. Climb over the top of this door and you’ll be in the alleyway between the two sets of gardens. It’ll run all the way down to the water. I’ll be right behind you.”

    Felicity stepped into Tuva’s hand and he pushed her up to the top of the door. She straddled the top for a moment, looking down into the alley. It was overgrown with thistles. “Fuckit,” she whispered down to him, “it’s thick with fucking thistles, it’s like a bloody jungle!”

    “Just go down. I’ll follow you. Or, if you want, you can go back up the hill to your friend’s house, like I said in the first place.”

    Felicity gave a grunt of disgust and lowered herself into the alley. The thistles stood up just below her breasts, prickled into her clothing. “Fuckfuckfuck!”

    “Shhhhh! Jesus, you’ll have every fucking dog in every fucking garden barking up our holes!” Tuva was beside her in a moment. “Hey, cool! Thistles! Thistles are lucky. Follow me, I’ll walk ahead and stamp them down.”

    The cat jumped up above their heads and walked ahead of them atop the fences and walls of the joining gardens. Tuva walked in a kind of sideways fashion, quite expertly and quickly, squashing a path through the thistles. As Felicity followed she noticed that moths were flitting up from the thistles and congregating in a thick mass on Tuva’s yellow hoody. Tuva appeared oblivious to this ever accumlating outer-coating of moth-skin, but it kind of gave Felicity the creeps. The alley sloped downhill and after about twenty yards Tuva stopped. Several feel in front of them the thistle tops were covered in thick green water. Ten feet further on they could see the end of the alley, marked by a green timber door.

    “Walk back up the path a bit,” instructed Tuva. I’m going to get up on the wall and kick that fucking door down. Let’s hope it floats and is sound enough to take our weight.”

  84. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 23, 2009 5:14 AM

    The door wasn’t an ideal raft, as it floated just under the topmost skin of the water, but both Tuva and Felicity were wearing Doc Martens. Tuva’s, it should be said, were bright yellow, but under the circumstances they quite complimented the luridly green skummy water. Tuva was rowing as best as he possibly could with a long broken-off branch of leafy willow. Felicity was standing middleways on the door, stiffly holding the cat, which was purring contentedly. Tuva’s yellow hoody was almost completely covered in grey moths. Felicity was beginning to warm to Tuva. He was beginning to look, well, like a kind of organic art-form.

    Just over the roofs of the houses they could see the eerie body of the river, now totally opaque and jellified, its top crowned with a complex lacework of slender blue lightnings.

    “That’s my house over there. But fuck, what’s that in the top window, right in my room? Is my room on fire or what?” Felicity felt suddenly hopeless.

    From the top window shone a strange blue luminesence.

    “It’s the same colour as the lightning on top of the river. But it’s only in your house, none of the other houses in your street. What have you got in your room?” Tuva sounded suddenly very alert, an odd authority vibrant in his voice.

    “What do you mean? There’s nothing in my room. Just my stuff and the arse-prints.”

    “Of course,” said Tuva, ” that’s what it is. Your art-work, Felicty, it’s tuned into Frequencies. That’s what’s happening to the river as well, to all water, the Frequencies are coming online and certain things are tuning into them.”

    “What the fuck are you talking about? What fucking frequencies?”

    “Your artwork, and it’s obviously something informed intuitively from you, works on the primal Frequencies. That’s why you were important! It’s your art! I thought maybe you wrote poetry or something, but it’s your arse-prints!”

    “Stop talking shite-pox and talk sense. I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”

    “Okay, look. Every century at least a dozen artists tune into the frequencies. The two most powerful writers to do it in the last century were James Joyce and Gin Kellabriast.”

    “Oh fuck, not him again…”

    “No no, listen a minute. James Joyce wrote his last major work completely in Frequency. Finnegan’s Wake is a Frequency Channeler. There are at least two people that the IllumiNation know of who do the same thing today. Some mad fucking poet in Ireland and some throat singer in Bohemia – from a small place, coincidentally, called Tuva. And Gin Kellabriast did the same. Look, why do you think I’m covered in moths? They’re drawn to the Frequency.”

    Tuva put down the willow oar and gently, so that he wouldn’t hurt any of the moths, unzipped his hoody. From the waist-band of his jeans he pulled his copy of Gin Kellabriasts’ “Butterfly Sandwiches”. The book glowed a bight blue. The moths immediately swarmed into the air. Tuva tucked the book quickly back into his jeans and zipped up the hoody. The moths settled back on to him.

    “Fuck,” muttered Felicity. “Fuckfuckfuck!”

  85. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 23, 2009 5:32 AM

    Felicity held her family arse-prints, wrapped and swaddled in a blanket, close to her breast like a new-born child. They were fucking heavy though. She was sulking. She was sulking because Tuva had found a manky nylon windcheater belonging to her nanna in the house and insisted that she wear it. She was sulking because the many nylon windcheater was bright yellow. Tuva said that yellow was a “protective” colour. She was sulking because Tuva might actually not be a fucking mad shitting shite-pox afterall. But most of all, she was sulking because she was half-covered in moths. Half of Tuva’s had migrated onto her.

    Through the fibres of the folded blanket a blue wash of luminesence bathed Tuva and Felicity as Tuva paddled the door one-handedly down the flooded street. In his left hand Tuva was cradling the cat.

    The world was suddenly awash in blue. Awash in blue.

    “Fuck, what’s happening!!!!!” screeched Felicity.

    In front of her eyes Tuva disappeared in a collapsing flash of yellow and blue. The door rose violently beneath her. The river was collapsing, she could see it from the corner of her eye. In one instant the river. In Lump form. Would fit into.

    Felicity was in a bubble of blue light. Then black light. She was a seed. Fit into.

  86. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 23, 2009 9:08 AM

    Four things happened:

    (i) The river burst from its long setting of jelly;
    (ii) The copy of The Subterrestrials that Kayleigh was reading from burst into blue flame;
    (iii) Kayleigh wet herself;
    (iv) Kayleigh’s pee, like a wonderful parrafin, set fire to her legs and she went up in a wonderful blue hazy flash.

    Oh, and of course, everywhere else lots of other shit was happening too.

  87. Captain Ned permalink
    November 23, 2009 10:44 PM

    ‘Yeah, well Ginsberg said he fucking loved it. Loved it.’

    ‘Ginsberg’s a moron.’

    ‘And Vonnegut’s not? Man, I don’t get how can dig that fucking square. Who gives a shit what he thinks? So he hates my book. So what. So fucking what! Why are you so happy about that, anyway? You prick, I’ll tell you why, it’s because you’re jealous. You fucking piece-of-shit mediocrity. What the fuck do you know, motherfucker? You, my friend, are nothing. NOTHING. I’ve always got bad vibes from you, you know that? Always. Right from the start. The whole fucking energy field around you is like, it’s totally giving off the essential emptiness of your soul, man. I mean, give me a fucking break, already. Just ’cause you’re life’s shitty doesn’t mean you have to bring me down with your socially fucking conditioned negativity, OK?’


    ‘No, I haven’t fucking finished. Don’t tell me to fucking finish, alright! I’ll finish when I fucking want to finish. Don’t try to tell me when I’m finished.’

    ‘Gin, I know this whole guru thing is kinda getting to you… ‘

    ‘Don’t call me that. I can sense the tone in your voice.’

    ‘The tone?’

    ‘The tone. The fucking tone. Don’t fucking talk to me with that fucking tone.’

    ‘So what tone do you want me to adopt, buddy? Reverence and humbled awe, o wise one?’

    ‘Well, You wouldn’t be the only one if you did.’

    ‘Thanks, but I’m not that much of a sucker. Although on the other hand, unlike you, I haven’t produced a literary masterpiece. I mean, I gotta hand it to you, man, that ‘Johnny Applesperm’ was some fucking book.’

    ”Applesperm’ was pulp. It paid the bills. I know that. Don’t bring that shit up with me. You think you’re being funny, huh?’

    ‘No, no. ‘Johnny Applesperm’ – now that was funny.’

    ‘Shut up! SHUT THE FUCK UP! Fuck ‘Johnny Applesperm’. Fuck you! Have you even read ‘The Subterrestrials’? You couldn’t possibly be standing here mocking me like some bitter pathetic loser if you had the slightest notion, the faintest fucking shadow of a comprehension of what I achieved with that book, of what I fucking put into it. Not that I’d expect a guy like you to get it if you did read it, but your usual contemptible ignorance and cynicism kinda suggests to me that that you haven’t.’

    ‘I have read it, Gin. Believe me, I’ve read it. I wouldn’t otherwise admit to such a thing.’

    ‘Fuck you! FUCK YOU!’

    ‘Careful, Gin, my man, you’re drawing attention to yourself here. This is a party. Relax. You gonna be a cool cat, or what? Have some fucking pot and calm down, for fuck’s sake. I was just messing with you.’

    ‘I don’t like being messed with.’

    ‘Not befitting of a man of your intellectual and spiritual eminence. I know, I know. I’m sorry… Look, there’s your woman. She’s got a joint. Get her over here.’

    ‘She’s talking to the Russians.’

    ‘Those two weirdoes? Honestly, man, what do you and Maggie see in them? They give me the creeps.’

    ‘They’re… interesting.’

    ‘What are they doing here? You think they’re spies? I think they’re spies. I think it’s our patriotic duty to take those motherfuckers down and show them some good ol’ fashioned violent aggression, the Uncle Sam way. I mean, they’re using up all the pot. And all the pussy’s going after them. Including Maggie, by the looks of things.’

    ‘Just you watch it.’

    ‘But what are they doing here? It’s not every day you see a couple of nineteen-year-old Russians fetch up in California. Maybe there was a mix-up with the plane, and they were actually supposed to go to Cuba. Or New York.’

    ‘They’re dissidents.’

    ‘Dissidents my ass. They’re too young to be dissidents. They haven’t got a political idea in their heads. Look at them! Pot and pussy, it’s all they’re interested in.’

    ‘They seem to be your primary areas of concern, too.’

    ‘For me, they are political. The times, my friend – it’s the times.’

  88. pinkroom permalink
    November 25, 2009 12:05 AM

    All this and other seeming gibberish poured from Kayleigh as she burned, as if all the reading of a short lifetime were spraying out from her in sound and flame. Felicity, returning to her room, knew the drill… such fits had become more common of late.

    A custard tart. A little runny in the centre; a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

    For some reason this was the only the only confection that could return her friend to her usual cheery state. Two bites later they egan to talk…

  89. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 25, 2009 1:44 PM

    Exercise 17: (Allow three hours)

    Below are five Common elements of genre fiction. Take any two and use them to continue, in several chapters, any of the great classics of Literature (except for The Koran, which is protected under Islamic Law).

    (a) It was all a dream
    (b) The Butler did it
    (c) The whole family are incestuously realated to one another
    (d) Nothing is as it seems
    (e) Custard tarts are harbingers of the unknown

  90. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 25, 2009 1:53 PM

    The box contained six Sainsbury’s custard tarts, each in an aluminium cake-casing. The centres were slightly runny. The box had been in the pantry for three days and as yet it still remained unopened. The sell-by date was on the far end of the box facing into the wall of the pantry. The pantry door was closed so that no light could enter. The box of custard tarts was in darkness. The custard tarts themselves, slightly sickly when bitten into, were in double darkness, being already enclosed in their cardboard container. Nothing was as it seemed, however, and the custard tarts had become self-aware the moment they had been boxed. They dreamt now, inside their inner cellophane protective bag, a collective dream of the might have been.

  91. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 25, 2009 5:04 PM

    As she began to burn with blue flame Kayleigh screamed her lungs out. She ran around her room trying to beat down the flames, desperately pulling the curtains off the rail in an attempt to use them to suffocate the fire.

    Kayleigh stopped screaming, her mind suddenly calm. The curtains hung limply in her hands but were immune to the flame; then the curtains passed through her hands and fell, as slow as a falling feather, to the floor. The window, slowly slowly, burst inwards under a flood of gelatinous gunk, and in a moment Kayleigh was surrounded by static. Sound, total and unbroken. Like nothing. Like nothing ever before. Like a nothing greater than any everything.

    Kayleigh began to descend through gelatinous vibrations, her body still burning a vivid blue all about her. Her clothing, her flesh, her hair, all burned brightly with blue flame, but not one part of her seemed consumed by it. Or perhaps she was being consumed, but at a rate infinitesimally slow. Kayleigh had this very thought herself, and it surprised her greatly, for such an order of thinking would never normally occur in her mind.

    Kayleigh passed down, down, through miles of vibrating jelly. Down. For miles, miles she could deduce intuitively, but miles that passed in seconds of time. Then out into a freer darkness. Below her masses of brightly silvered bodies passed through darker depths, each tiny body reflecting her blue flame. Below them she could see creatures even greater in size. As she came upon them she could determine that they were sperm whales, ploughing through the greatest depths of the sea. She passed through one of them, through its flesh, its incredible innards, the enormous chamber of its gut, passed out through its underside, gazed upwards to see it swim on, apparently unaware that a burning teenager had passed through it. Down down down went Kayleigh, down through glopping sea-silt, down through thick rock, rock that had once been the sea itself, but was now just memory of sea, memory of things dead and accumulated as a sloughed skin, down through layers of granite, down through fifty-eight kilometres of earthly crust, down through two-thousand-nine-hundred kilometres of mantle, down through four-thousand-seven-hundred-and-forty kilometres of burning core, up through two-thousand-nine-hundred kilometres of mantle, up through fifty-eight kilometres of earthly crust, up through layers of granite, up through memory of things dead and accumulated as a sloughed skin, up through glopping sea-silt, up into dark cold ocean, up through upper miles of gelatinous seas, and up, up above the land.

    Below her Kayleigh could see Asiatic cities engulfed in gelatinous floods, then thinning streamers of cloud, then flocks of cranes, then cloud, cloud, gelationus cloud, then the Earth, small as a button beneath her. Kayleigh looked up. Above her the stars, then the entire solar system and the solar systems beyond that and the solar systems beyond those, the entirety of space. She’d pass through other stars, other planets, pass into the beginning of all time, of all creation.

    Kayleigh burned a vivid blue in the darknes of space, unconsumed, or perhaps being consumed slowly slowly. Keyleigh raised her burning blue arms and embraced all that was to be.

  92. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 25, 2009 5:14 PM

    Dave had been frozen at the water side for an indeterminate time; a time so indeterminate that his watch would be unable to record its passing. Before him the figure hung jammed in the air, a static mist of pigment and looping whispers, a wraith as indeterminable as the passing time.

    Suddenly, the wind-up radio strapped to his back began to sputter into life again. It was picking up frequencies, frequencies from some part of his packed lunch. In his pack a small custard tart, its centre innately gelatinous, was conducting frequencies from the ether…

  93. pinkroom permalink
    November 25, 2009 10:51 PM

    somehere among which was the low, persistent grumbling of his son-brother Bob.

    Having persuaded Felicity to stay at that weirdo Kayleigh’s for ttthe night it now fell to him to evacuate his mother, nanna and grandpa from the house about to flood.

    It had been the work of hours but with the old folks in the back with their stains, smells and colostomies and his mother worrying, worrying, worrying in an endless loop of anxiety.

    He fired-up the Primera.

    The pity of it was it was basically a solid enough motor. 108,000 miles on the clock, new brakes, newish rubber but the bodywork and interior had been utterly trashed by careless parking, helpless passengers and the endless to-ing and fro-ing to health clinics and day centres.

    And the steering column had always been a problem and no, of all times, that familiar, unmusical twonging returned. The sound of the horns of a dilemma. Should he spend the 250 to mend again a motor now worth now more than 200 if that.

    With such cheerful thoughts he pulled in to the Travel Lodge his mother had booked for them…

  94. November 26, 2009 12:02 PM

    Dave flickered in and out…as if indeterminate, a Schroedinger hipster in full sight. The conscious part of him somehow knew that, next week, when the distracted demiurge that shooed his fate left the hilltop Spanish town with its fucking awful internet connection and returned to London (around Tuesday, the wind seemed to hiss through the bullrushes), he may well become a more active participant in his own destiny…

  95. pinkroom permalink
    November 26, 2009 9:49 PM

    With increasingly loud twonging, he parked the car in the only bay witha space either side. Necessary of course to unburden the old folk… a zimmer apiece in the Primera’s capacious boot.

    What a hideous procession they made. The receptionist… all face-powder and stale polyester had a fixed-smile of fathomless pity met Bob as she passed over the keys to their cheerless new homes.

  96. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 27, 2009 6:57 PM

    Tuva was standing upright, but suspended in mid-air. In his right hand he was still holding the leafy willow-oar and snuggled under his left arm was the cat. The cat wriggled free of Tuva and landed at Tuva’s feet, strangely suspended in mid-air also. Surrounding them both was a tunnel of corruscating yellowy-grey energy which stretched endlessly ahead and behind them. Tuva looked about. He immediately recognised his surroundings as matching a description in a story by Gin Kellabriast called “In the Cabinet of Lost Socks”, and knew that he was inside an anti-ouroboronic siphon. According to Kellabriast an anti-ouroboronic siphon was an infinite loop of energy that regurgitated itself from itself, or, as Kellabriast had put it, “shat out the nothing of its negative integrity”.

    Tuva knew from Kellabriast that anti-ouroboronic siphons were “brood symbiotic parasites of themselves” and that they often bisected others of their own kind.

    It was at that moment that Tuva noticed that his hoody was fluctuating oddly.

  97. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 27, 2009 8:55 PM

    In a stone circular room beneath the River Feale the Chaos Poet was sitting on a low stone chair and scibbling into a red and black notebook. On the armrest of the stone chair was the large freshwater crayfish, its antennae wavering gently. A few feet from the poet, combing her long black hair before a full-length mirror, was a woman in a long brocade coat of vivid gold. She was speaking to the poet, but was intent on combing her hair.

    “We must be off soon, Seanín Brae. The river above us is already beginning to shift into other planes. If the portal is damaged then we’ll be trapped here indefinitely.”

    “Won’t be a jiff, my love. I’m just writing in a poem, its an englyn, I just composed it this minute. It’s called ‘A midnight gastropod on my garden path’. Let me recite it for you..”

    The poet shut the notebook and closed his eyes, reciting the short verse from memory:

    “Moonlight oils your glistening skin.
    On your back the moon you’re in.
    Shell a trumpet less its din.”

    The woman smiled with approval. “That’s lovely Seanín Brae. You should recite it for Lord Thripp, I think he’d very much approve. But now, my love, we must go.”

    The woman placed her hairbrush into a golden satchel and stepped into the mirror. In a second she was gone. The poet got up from his seat and lifted the crayfish into his left hand and cradled it gently close to his breast. The poet walked to the mirror, his footfalls resounding heavily in the chamber, and glanced at his reflection. He smiled briefly at himself and then stepped into the mirror. In less than a moment there was nothing relected in the mirror except the empty circular room. A few moments later the walls of the chamber began to tremble and the mirror was shattered into hundreds of fragments, each fragment reflecting the final moments of the circular room.

  98. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 27, 2009 9:26 PM

    As Tuva looked at his sleeve he could see that the moths had somehow replicated at tremendous speed, or perhaps there’d been more moths clinging to him than he’d realised. But whatever the reason his hoody was now utterly thick with moths. Moths crawling over moths. He went to unzip the hoody only to discover that the zipper had been replaced by a metallic moth. He pulled the moth downwards and the hoody slowly unzipped, but the teeth of the zip were now the entwined legs of moths, which released their grip on themselves and let the hoody open. To his astonishment Tuva could see that the hoody had been completely assimilated by the moths, inside and out. Or maybe they had simply eaten his hoody into non-existence and were now mimicking it, he wasn’t quite sure what. But whatever it was that had happened, Tuva was now wearing a hoody composed entirely of moths.

    Tuva could feel the hood fluttering up about his head until his head was covered. It felt strangely pleasant. Of a sudden the entire hoody gave a flutter and an amazing sensation passed through his entire body.

    Up ahead, perhaps a few hundred yards, for it was difficult to judge distance in this corruscating space, the tunnel appeared to be undergoing some form of fissuring. Tuva guessed that another anti-ouroboronic siphon had bisected the one he was in, but he had no idea what would happen once he reached that junction.

  99. pinkroom permalink
    November 27, 2009 11:43 PM

    Bob had had better nights. As might have been expected the two adjoining rooms were not properly cleaned and the cigarette smoke of two decades had pickled the soft fabrics and furnishings such as they were. Oh well… they would soon have the deep joy of cleaning-up up whatever semi-liquid horrors nanna and granda left behind them once the waters had subsided.

    Was it possible for wallpaper to both smell bad and whisper sinisterly?

    Tuva… Tuva… Tuva…

    Again and again the name of that whack-job, hooded rat-boy who’d been sniffing around his sister and her freakshow girlf. recently.

  100. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 28, 2009 1:17 AM

    Tuva’s hoody was fluttering involuntarily, and the fluttering was a strange whisper. Because the hoody was up over his head it was as if the whispering was surrounding him totally, but it made him feel somehow safe, somehow less alone. The junction ahead came up closer and closer.

    Tuva had no idea through what mechanism or propulsion he was being moved along the siphon, but assumed perhaps that himself and the cat (and the moth-hoody) were merely riding some form of energy current. But his speed appeared constant. Suddenly, up ahead, something very odd seemed to pass through the junction ahead of them…it was a… it was a fully furnished room…he could see part of a wall with old-fashioned wallpaper, the kind that repeated an up-and-down flower pattern that looked strangely uterine, and a well-worn arm chair, empty, but bordered with a zimmer frame… and then the room was gone, disappeared up the bisecting siphon….

    Tuva squinted, not quite believing his eyes, but by the time he could actually come to believe them…the room was gone. Getting closer now to the junction, perhaps ten yards, something else passed in front of him. Two people.

    First there was a woman with long black hair and sallow skin. She was wearing an incredibly ornate brocade coat, and she was the most beautifl woman he’d set eyes on. She turned briefly in his direction and he could see the green of her eye. Her face lit up, but not at the sight of Tuva, but rather at seeing the skinny cat. She was obviously a cat-person. Behind her was a man with a shaven head. He was wearing a dark grey tweed suit with a waistcoat beneath the jacket, and he was clutching was looked like an enormous black lobster. What was most surprising though, was that he appeared to be wearing metal shoes. As Tuva looked again it dawned on him that the man’s shoes were made from beaten silver. As the man was approaching the end of the junction he turned and waved. But he wasn’t waving at Tuva. He was waving at the cat.

    Within a few moments, not far behind this strange couple, Tuva came upon the junction himself. There was a sudden shudder of energy and Tuva and the cat was taken into the bisecting siphon, a few short yards behind the man and the woman.

    In front of them Tuva could see a wavering green light, and then he could make out green flames. A green fire was raging in the middle of the siphon but the two in front appeared to be approaching it with utter calm. As they passed into the flames the flames were suddenly gone. And so were the couple.

    Tuva was now alone once more, travelling up another anti-ouroboronic siphon, an anti-ouroboronic siphon that looked no different to the one he’d just left. The only difference now was that Tuva felt suddenly and utterly alone. Except for the cat. And the moth-hoody. And his leafy willow oar. But essentialy, yes essentially, he was alone. In an anti-ouroboronic siphon. Whatever the fuck that was.

    Tuva put the willow oar down beside him. It lay at his feet beside the cat, keeping constant motion. At least it wouldn’t be getting lost, whatever good it would ever be. Tuva unzipped the moth hoody and pulled out the copy of Gin Kellabriast’s “Butterfly Sandwiches.” He opened the page at the story called “In the Cabinet of Lost Socks”.

    It was time to do some reading…

  101. November 28, 2009 9:02 AM

    ‘Help me,” Dave called up to the figure that shimmered like heat haze above the water. It softened into feminine curves then altered, dispersing into skittering motes; reformed, turned itself like a page, looped, swallowed itself. The contortions continued and Dave sensed that he was being mocked in some way. He picked up a stone, actually a section of glazed tile rounded by element and idleness, and flung it into the figure’s heart. Struck, the figure rolled in on itself, momentarily resembling a crystal sphincter before puckering into nothingness. Dave was left at the waterside, glum and embarrassed for having tried.

    The river, which had been swelling like a milk-skinned blister, began to recede. The water rippled, shouldering ahead in the direction Dave had been travelling leaving only the pearl-like meniscus jellified and placental on the drained riverbed. Carp, freshwater crabs and tiny blue crayfish spasmed and jerked in the collapsed weeds. Somewhere upstream, Dave thought, people are drowning.

    But the way was clear, as Dave had asked the remote, churlish ghost. He pocketed the small green book and waded down into the mud, picking his way through the marbled sludge; it looked like blackened, exposed whale-fat. The mud rose almost to Dave’s knees. He switched on the radio and listened as he climbed the opposite bank of the stream and trudged through dense foliage. The far bank of what had been the river was lined with warehouses converted into flats. The windows were dark, silvery and all closed. From his cover, Dave scryed them for movement but there was nothing. If there had been an evacuation then he had not been invited. If everyone was dead, then he had not been invited. He wondered if mother – the name he now gave without thought to whoever it was he vaguely knew he must reach – was safe, or as remote as those empty rooms hidden behind near-mirrored glass and set above a full-bled river. The radio crackled.

    ‘…unsure as to whether the measures are complete…mainly to higher, more mountainous regions…advised to stay indoors and follow the instructions given in the nearest holy book…’

    I have been abandoned, Dave thought. And fuck books. Full of smug assertions, lies, decorous and endless elaborations on the bloody obvious and toothless promises of redemption. Even these thoughts hurt him with the effort, like a willow-armed man trying to lift a piano. Keep it in the body, he thought, vaguely. Thinking was getting hard.

    He was becoming strange in his isolation.

    Ideas that were not his seemed to climb him like creepers from the high weeds, wrapping his legs ivy-like and elemental. When I see mother – he stopped, his body shocked by imagined violence – I shall kill her. The moment passed and was forgotten as he negotiated his way over a fallen birch. It was damp and rotting; the bark fell away under his feet.

    He took the book of Tuvan chants and, as he walked, page by page, began to eat it.

  102. InvisibleJack permalink
    November 28, 2009 12:24 PM

    The man and woman entered the green flame. They were somewhere else. Sometimes it just happens, lives enter other lives and then they leave. It just happens. Likewise the couple entered the green flame and were gone. To somewhere else. Out of the story as it were. For good. Somewhere else. A place no one knows. It happens.

  103. pinkroom permalink
    November 28, 2009 8:16 PM

    Poor Bob was really beginning to regret the cheese sandwich he had hastily had for supper late the previous evening. These early hours voices and increasingly images emanating from the smoke-traces around this hideous room were becoming more real by the minute.

  104. November 28, 2009 8:58 PM

    “I’m sorry, but there are some problems with your visa, Sir.”

    “What problem?” Anatoli frowned, drumming his fingers against the polished desk. The woman from BA avoided his gaze, pretending to scrutinise the visa.
    “Well, you give your address as 14, Bohemia Seaview, Lyzyk.”
    “Yes, that is the address.”
    “Anatoli, what is trouble?” Kongar-ool rasped. He hovered a few metres away, his face half-hidden by an upturned collar embroidered by his mother. His hand shifted closer to a short, curved knife at his side.
    “No trouble,” Anatoli gestured him away. “That is the address the woman at the embassy told us to use.”
    “I see,” the woman sighed. “Well, to begin with, it impossible to have a seaview of Bohemia. Bohemia is landlocked.”
    “There is no sea there.”
    “This is fool,” Anatoli shook his head, “I have ridden the black sands of Lyzyk since I was a boy, and the distant shore of Bohemia was ever there; far yet close with promise in my dreams, a mist-bleached haze suddenly broken with the dark azure of its ancient mountains. And always the bears, ululating across the waves.”
    “I can show you a map, sir, if that’ll help.”
    “I need no map.” Anatoli’s voice rose in frustration. From behind him came an answering splutter and snort.
    “Sir,” the woman hissed, “could you ask your friend to control his horse.”
    “Kongar-ool…take Yenisei to see the planes take off, or something. The woman is afraid.”
    “I am not afraid.”
    “You are afraid. Is okay.” Anatoli leaned forward with a piratical smile. “Whether or not there is sea in Bohemia is not so important. It’s not our real address.”
    “And why did you give a fake address, sir?” The woman, unconsciously, glanced at the clock high up across the concourse. It was earlier than it had any right to be.
    “Woman in embassy told us we must have address. We are nomadic. Our home is the tundra, the sky’s endless ice-field; we traverse the seasons as you traverse the streets of your city. We are rooted as the Tylreia tree, which drinks from the earth’s innermost womb, yet we ride the plains as the wind does: unseen, untouchable, yet all is moved as it passes.”
    “So why didn’t you write that?”
    “Didn’t fit on form.”
    “Let’s start again…what is the reason for your visit to the UK?”
    “It is…a secret. A secret of revenge…”
    “You’re not helping yourself, sir…”
    “To visit the London Tower, Madame Two-Swords…and Bluewater for shopping.”
    “That’s better. And your horses? I presume you have transport documents and containment facilities…”
    “I have eight tickets. One for myself, one for Kongar-ool…”

    Under the desk, BA employee Jessica Gorse stabbed herself in the thigh with a biro. She gave a small gasp of release, which Anatoli took as evidence he’d charmed her. From his jacket he drew a silver hipflask he’d stolen from a drunken writer at a party many years ago, swigged the molten brew then proffered the flask to Jessica.

    He would lash his belt to the plane and hang on until England if he had to. Without the book, they could not sing. And life without song was an ash-choked grave.

  105. Captain Ned permalink
    November 29, 2009 12:40 AM

    ‘Well, dear, I don’t really know where to begin,’ the old woman said, stirring a cup of pinkish tea redolent of old pot-pourri. ‘Would you like to know when I first met Gin? That day I’ll never forget, I’ll tell you. It was in Wyoming; it all started in Wyoming, in a small town called Wheatland. I’d just graduated from high school, and there I was, pretty as a picture, just a girl, an innocent girl, and my folks were happy, my brother hadn’t gone crazy, my sister had all her arms and legs, and Gin was, well, he was so handsome. He was the new boy at the school. I had a crush on him from the first moment I saw him. Do you believe in love at first sight, dear? I know it’s not fashionable these days. You young people! But there are spirits among us, you know, they direct us wherever we go, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Do you know, I lost my reading glasses yesterday? I have no idea where they are. Such a good pair! I’ve had them for twenty years. Of all the darn mischief! Well, never mind, I’m sure they’ll turn up. You haven’t seen them, have you dear?’

    ‘No. I have not seen your reading glasses. Now, Ms Drexler, you would make me very happy if you would talk about when you met Kongar-ool and Anatoli. Try to remember all you can.’

    ‘Of course, dear. Sorry. You haven’t come all the way from Russia to listen to me jabbering away about whatever comes into my little old head. Well now, let’s see… But how about some cake first? I made it two days ago. Or was it twelve? But it’s a nice cake, full of seeds and goodness and love. Now, you just sit there, I’ll go into the kitchen and fetch it for you.’

    Natalyia sighed wearily; this did not bode well. Still, she was determined to try, at least, to get as much out of this meeting as she possibly could. It was not as if she now had anything else with which to occupy her time.

    The cake was set triumphantly on the table before her; Natalyia eyed it with something close to despair. Were those bite marks around the base? A rat’s? A small dog’s? It was hard to tell. As the knife cut into the middle of the sponge a sharp-smelling red paste oozed out and spread across the plate. Maggie grinned.

    ‘My own special recipe. You’ll love it, I know you will.’

    Natalyia took up what was proffered her with the extremest reluctance; nonetheless, she smiled as she forced a piece down her throat. She must not gag. Whatever she did, she must not gag.

    ‘There now, dear. Isn’t that simply wonderful? My mother used to make something similar, but over the years I’ve learned to do it my own way. Gin used to go wild over my cake. He was so funny! He’d say, ‘Maggie, honey, fix me up some of that fucking cake or I’ll fucking kill somebody!’ He was always saying things like that, always threatening to kill somebody. But he was a gentle soul, really. There was an aura about him that just radiated tranquility and perfect oneness with the world. That’s what I loved most about him, I suppose. It’s such an attractive quality in a man, don’t you find?’

    ‘Ms Drexler, I have no wish to seem rude…’

    ‘Of course, of course,’ said Ms Drexler, sitting down, the reddened knife still clutched tightly in her hand. ‘I do apologize, dear. When you get to my age, you see… But now, what did you want to know? Oh yes, those two young Russians. Do you know them by any chance? They’re from your part of the world, aren’t they?’

    ‘Yes. We have met. But you knew them for some years, didn’t you? When did you meet them for first time?’

    ‘Well, let’s see if I can remember…’ The old woman was silent awhile as she licked the sticky red paste from the blade, cutting her tongue slightly, but ignoring the wound. ‘I think it was in 1964 that they first came to California. Yes, that’s right. I’m sure of it. Gin had just published ‘The Subterrestrials’ – that was his magnum opus, as they say – and things were going swell. We were living just outside San Francisco in a darling little house, and we were going to lots of parties and smoking a lot of the old Mary Jane. Oh yes, we were naughty back then! Naughty like you wouldn’t believe, dear! My, how I’d love to get my hands on the stuff now! But I don’t think they’d stand for it in a place like this, if you know what I mean. Anyway, we were going to parties a lot, and at one of these parties, there were these two Russians… ‘

    ‘So sorry to interrupt, Ms Drexler,’ said Natalyia, a puzzling detail just then striking her, ‘but are you sure that it was the year 1964 when Anatoli and Kongar-ool first met you? But that is impossible!’

    ‘Yes, damn it, I’m sure!’ snapped Ms Drexler with disconcerting abruptness. ‘You think I’m lying? Or senile? Who the hell are you anyway? What are you doing here? You get out of my apartment, you goddamn Communist whore!’

    Natalyia was momentarily dazed by this unexpected outburst, but collected herself enough to reach for her copy of ‘Johnny Applesperm’ from her handbag. Ms Drexler softened immediately at the sight of it

    ‘So very sorry, Ms Drexler, to cause you upset,’ said Natalyia, reaching out with her hand so that it gently clasped the old woman’s wrist. ‘So very sorry. Only I have here copy of ‘Johnny Applesperm’, and here you see front cover is by Anatoli. This book, you see here, was published in 1962. That is two years before you first met them.’

    ‘Well, I wouldn’t worry over a tiny thing like that,’ Ms Drexler replied cheerfully. ‘Time is a very strange thing, Professor Churikhova. I’m more certain of that now than ever I was before. There are all sorts of odd quirks that you come across, things that don’t seem to make sense – only they do, if you look at them the right way. Gin was marvellous for that. Time does weird things. Maybe Anatoli did draw this cover in 1962; maybe he was here in California all along, before he actually got here – got here physically, I mean. Time doesn’t always run the way you expect it to run, Natalyia. Can I call you Natalyia? You can call me Maggie, dear. Time is a greater, far more magical thing than we humans can ordinarily comprehend, especially when we try to regulate it with our so-called scientific rules, which are hopelessly inadequate. Only certain chosen minds, like Gin’s, can really understand the mystery of each passing second, can truly appreciate the majesty of the infinite aeons. Or maybe this is just a later edition.’

    ‘Yes. Maybe it is later edition.’

    Natalyia frowned. She looked inside the cover again; it didn’t say that it was a later edition. She’d have to research this further.

  106. pinkroom permalink
    November 29, 2009 11:41 AM

    To block the visions and silence the voices Bob’s mind turned once again to the family tree he had briefly sketched in the end-papers of The Subterrestials” before the day had gone tits up completely.

    By a strange coincidence Felicity chose that very moment to pick-up the book that lay between her and Kayleigh. In all the excitement of the day, she had almost forgotten the crazed possibility that her big brother Dave may also be her father but there, scrawled in green crayon, was that very possibilty.

    she was sure she had seen Dave earlier, beside the waters boiling to a thick skin. They clearlyneeded to talk.

  107. pinkroom permalink
    December 1, 2009 11:43 PM

    Bob also decided he really needed to talk to his father/brother Dave. He had barely slept the night before haunted as he was with whisperings of the hooded boy Tuva, the horseman Konger-ool and his father/brother Dave gazing out to the seas lapping around the land-locked Bohemia, all limp and dreamy with a couple of hot Elfin chicks draped around his slender loins…

    Why had the girls never fancied him that way? But the answer was as broad as the fatty-livered gut now pressed against the table of the Little Chef across the car-park of the Travel Lodge. Had there ever been a tableau of such rancid despair. Bob with a table to himself, a gratis egg-stained Daily Mail and the remains of a Full English hester Blumenthal had clearly not got his hands on yet. No free-range Wiltshire pig for Bob… yet another title perhaps for the “Misery Memoir” he was currently in deep research for. Next table was crowded with his weeping mother and the two old people in their night clothes and overcoats; had he any same left he might have taken the trouble to reprove his away-with-the-fairies grandda, absent-mindedly masturbating as the young woman in the red and white uniform bustled prettily between the tables.

    All this… this hideous cavalcade, was his responsibility alone; his one and only life on some back burner burning lard, disappeaing in clouds of sickening black smoke, tainting all it touched. It was time for Dave to step-up…

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