Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Forsaken - Friday Flash

Every town has one. Or one at the very least.

A patch of unhallowed ground. Some forlorn stretch of shattered tarmac. The pockmarked wasteland.

Terrain once staked out by man, now ceded by him. Bereft of signature jetsam, the condoms, syringes and empty rotgut bottles indicative of an agonised withdrawal.

Yet within an urban jungle, Nature does not make so bold as to reassert her dominion. Dereliction's removal men seemingly having thrown petrifying dust sheets over these fixtures and ill-fittings. The mosaic of the pulverised concrete, akin to the pebbledash cast of the surrounding building walls. As if the scene has been turned on its side. Even rootless litter appears to have been nailed down in permanent display. Blown from pillar to post, this particular spot has been deemed refuse's final blotching place. A potters field for the non-biodegradable. Devoid of potters and any living organisms at all.

Notionally delimited by the chain-link fence. But the border is indeterminate, for the fence has been trampled down. The negative space between the twisted metal links presents the only barrier now. Bayonet reeds jutting through these apertures. Chlorophyll halberdiers, braided with nettles and brambles sagging under their load of barbs and thorns. Sapper tripwires for where no feet ever tread. Tributary Nature's token conscription all present and correct, yet unable to advance any further. Held in suspended animation, just like the metal and brick all around. There is no nourishment to be derived here.

Wooden palettes charred from hosting obsolete fires. All colour long bled into their black hearts. Yet still this is not the predominant hue tugging the eye's apprehension. Jagged scars of livid brown rust uncannily funnels all sightlines. Oil drums, drainpipes, corrugated roofs, each a corroded excremental brown. Shed flakes like metal dandruff speckles the ground.

A brick building with entrance boarded up and all its windows put through. Thick gobbets of crystallised glass, a sheet laminate atop the torn up concrete. Razor wire lines the low roof. Strips of fabric and plastic bags snagged on its barbs ought to billow in the disdainful drafts, but they too are pinioned fast.

Aloft the building, a boxy metal housing. An air conditioning unit or electrical generator. Here where nothing respires, nor is any drawing of energy invoked. The caged blades are fossilised, like silted anchors dredged from the sea. Clamped to the building's walls, some outsized toy duct piping. Terminating in a chimney of simple geometric lines, a scaled down version of a watchtower at Auschwitz.

In among all this stasis, there is yet one outpost of movement. At the very verge of vision, something flaps fitfully, with just the faintest of feathery deviation from the rigid and the upright. Playing breeze-borne peek-a-boo from behind an unencumbered fence post, a bouquet of cut flowers. Desiccated. Mummified. Lifeless like everything else in this rubblescape. A fitting tribute to that other importation. The murdered little boy dumped here yesterday, today or last month. The forsaken living memory here can't quite recall.

Every town has one. One at the very least.

30 comments:

A. M. Harte said...

I like how you started and finished with the same line -- so often that technique doesn't work well, but here it is quite striking.

Very powerful and detailed imagery; I particularly like "The pockmarked wasteland. Terrain once staked out by man, now ceded by him" because that introduced the setting so accurately.

You give the place great character, and I liked the contradictions you pointed out such as the A/C unit in a place that doesn't breathe. Also, the murdered boy was a nice touch!

Very interesting. :-)

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks. There is actually just one word difference between first and last line!

ganymeder said...

This was like a vivid photograph. Loved the commentary about the forgotten flowers for the forgotten murdered boy. Very, very dark but done well.

Jen Brubacher said...

I love the negative space as the only remaining barrier, and the repetition between the first and last lines. The twist is beautiful and sad but it doesn't take away from the overall feeling of decay and familiarity of this lot. This is really good.

dijeratic said...

I think this is one of the sharpest, finest of yours I've read - the desolation of it, and the subtle horror of the ending - you build upon banality to sickness and it works, perfect.

judebram said...

Beautifully painted.

mazzz in Leeds said...

"obsolete fires" - mmmm. That's evocative of, oooh, I don't quite know yet. I might well be begging you to let me borrow that one day.

The stasis comes out very well for me, which is perhaps strange as I used to love exploring places like that as a child and used to see them as very much living, if that makes sense

Michael Solender said...

to think of this as a writing exercise just shows how with skill and craft, something as awful as "rubblescape" can be transformed into something that not only deserves a second, but third thought as well. this is some fine writing here.

Sam said...

A masterfull piece, I can almost see the place in your vivd prose. There are some lovely details too. Very impressed.

ThomG said...

What a sharp, descriptive piece. Top-notch writing and description throughout. Yes, a painting, but with words as a brush.

Walt said...

With every paragraph the setting grew more focused. By the time you closed out the piece I had a perfect picture in my mind. Vivid.

I particularly liked the line Shed flakes like metal dandruff speckles the ground. Very detailed.

Thanks for sharing.

Carrie said...

Immediately brought to mind the pictures of seen of the disaster site of Chernobyl. The flaking paint, the quiet a/c. Wow. You're quite a wordsmith. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Cathy Olliffe said...

OK, so I must ask ... why did you differentiate the first and last line with one word?
Interesting how the first and the last line are such clear, sharp staccato blasts to the richness that lies within. Nice contrast. Beautiful descriptions. Like poetry, or something savoury you want to roll around on your tongue.
Like Mazzz, i find these l places very much alive and yet desolate and terribly melancholy.

Marisa Birns said...

"Nature does not make so bold as to reassert her dominion."

I have seen such places.

You've brought this one into sharp relief with such vivid detail and horror. Death of landscape, death of child.

Just painful.

Sulci Collective said...

To Carrie - No you don't, believe me!

Cathy - I simply removed the word 'Or' so that there is an inevitability about there being such a place in each town, with the accompanying certainty that some por benighted person's corpse has been dumped there

Laura Eno said...

Skillful closing of the circle. A chilling reminder of the places we all see and try to ignore.

Deanna Schrayer said...

I love the contradiction of the first line, and all it took was that one word - "or".

I was immediately taken to such a terrible place in our town, and the further I read, the more vivid it became.

One of your best Marc, without question.

Gracie said...

This is magnificent. You truly have a gift with words.

Dark, heartbreaking, perfect piece.

Eric J. Krause said...

Great description throughout. Made this an excellent piece. Well done!

J. M. Strother said...

Dark and grim - captured the very essence of despair. Too many places like this. Sad.
~jon

Mark Kerstetter said...

And some towns have quite a few. Outstanding description. The flowers and the corpse - devastating.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

"All colour long bled into their black hearts. Yet still this is not the predominant hue tugging the eye's apprehension. Jagged scars of livid brown rust uncannily funnels all sightlines."

Just one example of your incredible description that blows my mind! Description and detail are too flat of words to describe what you do - it is more like "word pyrotechnics."

Virginia Moffatt said...

Every town has one... so horrible, but so true...

John Wiswell said...

Spend a lot of time at such a space, Marc, or was this a flight of fancy?

Sulci Collective said...

artistic license when staring down from the raised platform of my local station, wondering how long I'm going to have to wait for my twin boys to show up on the train... (murderous thoughts?)

alisonwells said...

Fabulously evocative. Love particularly the section about the condom and needle/withdrawl. I would have preferred it without the boy because it was already something in itself - absolute disembodied (!) desolation - but then the boy made it something else (personalised it? - even though he was meant to be part of the nothing.)

Tony Noland said...

Terrifically bleak and atmospheric. From dust to dust, but it takes a while.

Liras said...

Rough, gritty, visceral and strong.(Meaning I like it.)

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks to all those who commented. There was something immensely satisfying about writing this piece.

Marc

Maggie said...

I loved the feeling of unease created here. Culminating in the final image. My experience of derelict pieces of ground is that nature does move in quick to take over so we are left wondering why it doesn’t here, or that it has to stay at the edges, and only the spikey – none of the lovely. Everything so static also seems against the norm.
I also liked the allusion to the artist and his/her work. Like the scene is some sort of contender for the Turner prize.
A piece of writing that made me think that we are all responsible for such scenes.