Thursday, 26 July 2012
Heaven had become a hive of hellish hother and pother. Everywhere the eye could range, angels with gossamer wings were scurrying hither and thither, humping armfuls of plaster of paris. Save for those angels who had toppled over and lay prostrate, unable to right themselves. The increasingly feeble splay of their wings heralding the slow extinguishing of their light, like the dying embers of a fire. These angels had revoked their immortality.
Some had curled their wings around in front of them to form a scoop with which to carry a greater volume of the plaster. If they failed to reach their destination before the gypsum hardened, the seraphim were cast solid and pitched headlong to the ground. Yet in fact any contact with the terrestrial substance unwittingly formed a granular seal on their own death warrant. Any besmirching of their diaphanous plumes with the duller clots of the plaster, would eventually set hard, thereby plucking their wings of flight and exposing them to the afflictions of gravity.
Yet still they persisted in their lethal toil. Some celestials simply poured the plaster over themselves and transformed instantly into statues. In suicide thus they became the objects of their collective endeavour. Since the angels were striving to build a terracotta army in their own likeness. Stretching back as far as the horizon and beyond. The host were trying to suggest a swelling of their own ranks to the near infinite. To confront another, oncoming swarm. Finite, but pullulatingly deadly. For mankind was on the move and seeking new pastures. After eviscerating their own terrestrial realm.
Puttos were exhorting their aerial elders to evermore effort. Tooting their long-stemmed trumpets. The very same notes that used to usher in sweet harmonies, now resounded as with the blare of a cataclysmic tocsin. Nude Cupids were firing their forlorn love arrows over the heads of their venerable peers to spur them on yonder. Yet the further down the plaster parade, the more ragged and less-angel like the sculptures appeared. In fact they looked nothing remotely more than a pillar or a termite mound. The remaining angels still feverishly trying to erect statues at this point, complained to their goading juveniles that their delicate hands were only meant for strumming harp strings. Not shaping lime that burned their skin.
Just as the Cherubs were about to remonstrate further with their patriarchs, the latter interposed by what means the humans had finally managed to locate their own ethereal plane. That sublimity which had previously provided them with their inviolability from the grossly material. How man had returned to consider their own ancient maps of earth. Festooned with Cherubs blowing trumpets propelling propitious marine winds and Puttos unfurling scrolled cartographies. Man simply gazed up from the terrestrial landmasses following the orientation of the cherubs and hence were now massed outside the empyreal gates. The Puttos and Cherubs protested that such maps also bore fearsome dragons and Gogs and Magogs. They inquired of their wise ones why the humans had not followed their abyssal trails, why they had only alighted on the celestial? The angels explained that when the humans looked at such monsters, they only saw reflections of themselves.
Irresistibly, mankind's first port of call had been Hell. It being of a more natural fit temperamentally. Imagine their self-righteous shock at being informed by Lucifer that Hell had been the original version of their own earth. Its current searing temperatures and icy inertia were what their earlier incarnations had reduced the planet to. Lucifer and his skeletal crew had been charged with maintaining the fissile core and preventing it from mimicking a supernova. Those scientists who happened to be in the van of the human hordes had been disbelieving, declaiming that no race could ever have the capacities for survival within the fearsome temperatures of a star. Mammon retorted that prototype earth was ever a planet and not a star, only how in their forebears ravenous surge, its magma had been fired up and the molten core irradiated through mankind's meddling and destabilising of the whole fabric. There had flashed the most fleeting flicker of recognition in the faces of the scientists, for after all, similar processes had overtaken their own earth and compelled their verdict of a species-wide emigration. Their smugness swiftly wiped from their countenances, as the press of the multitude from behind impelled them into fiery pits and the abyssal chasm itself. Mankind had delivered its verdict with a casual shrug of barging shoulders and seethed onwards. They were after a superior berth than this home once spurned already. Lucifer had signalled ahead to his angelic brethren.
The Cherubs and Puttos were distraught that their own joyous annunciation and blazoning of human progress had betrayed their own kindred. And yet the humans couldn't have been as terrible as their elders lead them to believe could they? After all, consider the grotesque impressions of their own form rendered here by the angels and compare that with the bewitching pulchritude of the human depictions. No, with such art in their souls, the humans simply wouldn't pull their wings off them as they might do to lowly flies. If anyone was presenting a certain ugliness of the poetic soul, it was the angels themselves with these abominable likenesses. The callow angels turned to welcome their spiritual masters who had proven they could work miracles with base matter...
Taken from my third flash fiction collection:
Available from Amazon Kindle Store free to download 3rd-7th June 2016
Tuesday, 17 July 2012
The Victorian explorer drove into the heart of the jungle, his heart ignited by tales of hidden cities and vast troves of gold. Trussed up tightly in his safari suit and pith helmet, the only decorative adornment was the curlicue of the ends of his moustache. The only life more choked off than he, were those trees suffocated by the vines that enchained them.
The canopy's tendrils were thick and plenteous. They conspired to even banish the light. With their machetes the expedition toiled endlessly to cleave a path. Until they finally cut through to the great temple that had been reclaimed by the jungle, once its human inhabitants had mysteriously melted away. The sheer scale of the edifice fair took the man's breath away and he could only twizzle his moustache by way of appreciation.
This being an era of incipient photography, his box cameras could barely frame any of the grandeur within their pinholes. Even the sketch artist found his hand reeling at the immensity of the task and failed to render a fifth of its full splendour. How was the adventurer to transmit the evidence of his discovery? How was his name to be spread around the world? For the only gold to be had here was in relaying its wonders to his countrymen. The party started taking their machetes to the stonework and slicing off the friezes to transport back to the museums of their Imperial capital far to the West.
The statues and friezes had a room dedicated to themselves within the museum of Oriental art. The lights were turned down lower in this gallery than in any other throughout the exhibition. The gazes of the Buddhas criss-crossed the room, illuminating the gloom with their strange glow of serenity. Nothing else existed in that room, other than their inscrutably smiling visages. Visitors found utter peace in the dark room. They could stay there contemplating for hours, without feeling the need to slit their wrists or dive into the abysses of Mark Rothko's meditative canvases as offered by other temples of entrancement.
People were so transported by their experience in the gallery, that they often became pilgrims to the temple itself, deep in the heart of the cleared jungle. Though dwarfed by the immensity of the temple complex, they didn't quite achieve the same sense of ease and contentment. Many put it down to the stonework being out in the full light under the sky, in contrast with the everlasting restful crepuscule back in the museum. It still didn't prevent their hankering for a stone Buddha of their own and a thriving market in stolen friezes and statues soon developed in order to meet the insatiable demand.
Over time so many friezes had been removed from the temple's walls and porticos, that the temple became a shell of itself already a shell. The visitors dropped off as word of its disappointments trailed back. Meanwhile the Oriental museum had been a victim of its own timeless success and its constraints by being a building constructed in the previous century and in need of modernising. The permanent exhibition was moved to a bright, spanking new purpose built design and for some reasons the Buddhas were ensconced in a light, airy room in order to dispense their luminous smiles. The enchantment of their aura was dispelled.
Accordingly they stopped inspiring people to travel to their original home. The temple was so denuded of any decoration and adornment, other than those friezes too cracked by clumsy hands to be salvageable, that tourists stopped visiting entirely. And in time the jungles once again closed back over the vacated human colony. The Cheshire Cat beams of the Buddhas cast away far from home in a forlorn vault of the museum, may just have broadened imperceptibly. Even as the jungle twizzled its creepers and tendrils in appreciation.
Thursday, 12 July 2012
Ein: The war hero was adorned like a Christmas tree. Gold piping and brocade ran down from his shoulder like poison ivy. Multicoloured banded ribbons of military decorations distended across his breast like chromatography analysis. One empty sleeve of his uniform lay against his chest just below, pinned in place by a medal. The silver branches of its star echoed the shape of the shrapnel that had originally caused his arm to be severed. He gave a salute with the hand of his only arm.
Sechs: The Hindu deity had six arms. In one was the ubiquitous wheel, symbol of the perfect creation of the cosmos. While another carried a fearsome pronged trident. A third cupped a snake, seemingly slithering free from her grasp. A fourth had a lotus bud sitting in the palm of the hand, offered up to the heavens. The fifth countered it with a thunderbolt raised high as if it had issued from the sky and the goddess had snared it in her grip, saving her people. Or perhaps intending to hurl it herself, having snatched it from heaven's quiver. Her last hand gripped a conch shell, poised to be sounded, so as to summon the primordial creative energy of the world.
Sechzehn: The boat was a thing of beauty as it sliced through the water. Sixteen sculls in perfect periodicity, retracted into the stomachs of the oarsmen leaning back, before being repelled away from them again. The upright blades ducking and doffing the last possible moment, at the point which they break the water like a guillemot hunting from the surface. Like the delicate hand movements of an Indian dancer clacking her narrative rhythms. And yet this sixteen limbed beast is more about rhythmic power than grace. The cox with his hands to his exhorting mouth, twitching like the two antennae around the maw of an insect, while its centipedal limbs flared out as the thoracic body of the boat was propelled along. One of the rowers catches a crab and is forced to raise his appendage above his head, perpendicular to the rest of the limbs. As if he had snapped the bone at the elbow.
Acht: The octopus was going ahunting and afishing. Two of its tentacles curled their suction cups around a rock in order to anchor it. It extended a third outwards, wiggling it to make ripples in the water to give the impression that it was bait. A fourth arm was surreptitiously doing some surveillance of its own, monitoring the field around the lure-limb. A fifth arm shot out to grab the victim once it came into range, and the sixth clamped itself around the fifth and reeled its brother back towards its mouth to inject it with venom. The seventh arm prepared to amputate itself as a sacrifice, should the octopus be disturbed while in the act of eating. The last arm wiped a morsel that was clinging to the outside of its maw with the gesture of full satisfaction, like a diner might use the napkin at the end of his meal.
Vier/Zwei: The boy stood with his arms crossed over his chest, each hand hugging its opposite shoulder as if he were in a straitjacket. The man craned his arms out to bid his son into their embrace. The boy didn't move. The man wiggled his hands beckoning to him. The boy stayed held in place. The man took a step forward, his arms still extended, like the prongs of a forklift truck. Sensing no rebuff, the man chanced another forward stride. His face cracked into a lop-sided smile, trying to accentuate the consoling nature of his gesture. The boy seemed to slip further inside his own lost folds, even though there was no discernible outward motion. The man crept forward with slow, unbroken steps until he could envelop the boy. He slotted his arms around the boy's shoulders, but the latter's own arms remained resolutely pinned to himself. "Come on son, come to Dad". The boy spat at him and in the reflexive recoil towards his sullied face, the boy ducked and escaped the older man's flailing arms.
Drei: The clock had three armatures circumnavigating its dial at various velocities. A two-dimensional solar system, wreaking the maximal gravitational force on the observer, holding him in its thrall. He watched as the thick, stubby arm planted itself ramrod straight along on the inside track, all but motionless to the eye. Moving in increments only barely noticeable, was a thinner spine. Laboriously circuiting the clockface, inching away from its larger cousin stood to attention. Like an arthritic limb, slowly it completed a full circle, all in order to nudge its fellow traveller one notch along, before leaving him behind and embarking on another tour. And thus did it proceed once again on its Sisyphean toil. Lapping them both was the thin red pointer, hurtling along with its streamlined needle. Lighting the way for its two country bumpkin bodkins as it studiously ticked off every indented segment round the perimeter of the dial. Its motion a blur, the observer could not always take its progress in. When he tilted his head, sometimes he managed to make the red indicator freeze momentarily in place. Before it skipped off merrily resuming its unfettered revolutions.
Zwei/Null: The frame of the bow was twitching with the pent up force of the string pulling it. His hand steady and steadying at the perfect centre of the wood. His other arm was perpendicular, to them both, as it drew back the wire to where it caressed the stubble of his face. His jaw was being grazed as the cable oscillated with the tension it contained within, exactly mirroring the tendons and ligaments in his arm which were burning with the exertions of containing such elastic power.
One arm precisely cupped the barrel along its entire length as if they were two entwined serpents. The other cocked at the elbow, jutting away from the man's sleek prone form, as his finger palpated the harsh curve of the trigger.
Right arm telescoped out in front of him, the left wrapped up and over the metal tube resting on its shoulder. Like he was carrying harvested wheatsheafs. But the metal tube was like a third limb, his heaped up rear arm like a chancre, an outgrowth of grizzled, diseased tissue. He pressed the trigger and was rocked back by the unseen fourth arm, the trail of fiery smoke that shot out behind him. He released his forward hand from gripping the RPG and brought his hand over his eyes to peer at his target ablaze. Then he swung the tube across his shoulders and casually threaded both hands over it as if he were tied to it like a condemned man as he strode off back into the mountains.
from the Flash Fiction collection available from Amazon
Thursday, 5 July 2012
In some places his body reproached his self-neglect, by wrapping the shrunken skin tight to the cheese-wire of protuberant bone. Yet the terraced folds at the base of his scraggy throat suggested a chicken about to have its neck wrung. The muscles there had atrophied so as to barely carry the weight of his sunken head. Not that he was moved to look the world in the eye anyway.
Which was why he bumped into her. Hard. Of course their coexistence in proximate space within the whole cityscape, was down to the unlikely probabilities so delighted in by ill-fate. But once so inopportunely wrangled, the collision was perhaps inevitable. Since the impact happened to be with a particularly angular and bony part of him, her face screwed up in what- pain or an upbraiding scowl? The noise that would have betrayed which of the two, was about to emit from her mouth, when she caught herself (which steered the view that it couldn't have been reflexive pain after all. Maybe he just lacked the bone density to register any kind of impression). Presumably she had pierced his involuntary disguise as a skeleton and recognised him as her former lover. That might advise mental shock as being stronger than, or at least can act as a retardant on, physical pain.
They began to converse in the middle of the street, while pedestrians bifurcated around them like a corps de ballet. They talked only of the inconsequential. Since the consequential was all too blatant wasn't it? For never once did she comment on his haggard appearance. Maybe she hadn't noticed, although her initial dawning realisation while the pain signals were travelling up the trunk of her wondrous neck tended to gainsay that. Also, in their time together, she had licked every part of his skin, committing the topography of his body to her memory. She could assuredly reconstruct his form in the dark, like soldiers assembling their guns behind a blindfold. There was simply no way she could have failed to notice.
Maybe she just couldn't let herself acknowledge his deterioration, lest it crush her beneath a cataract of guilt. Or perhaps she just simply didn't care. After all, here was she looking utterly radiant. Her skin positively glowed with a sheen. Her lips looked even fuller and more luscious than when he used to adhere them to his own, though conceivably their present state could have been chemically assisted. In which case she must have come by a source of money.
God she smelled good, unlike him with his carious breath and unscourged odours. But if the sour hooks of his rotting self reached her nose as they unfailingly must have, she wasn't letting on. Even her clothes- new clothes he couldn't recall from their shared walk-in closet- looked fabulous on her. They clung in such a way as to accentuate the sinuous curves of her body, unlike his scarecrow rags which only served to hollow him out. They must have been expensively tailored to flow like that. Yes, she had come by a source of money alright. The only question whether it was a primary or secondary wellspring.
Clearly she was flourishing, while on the other end of the pendulum swing, he was disintegrating. And that had been the tidemark of their relationship too. Someone was going to suffer either way in how things could shake out. If they had stayed together, she would be the one forever trapped within her chrysalis, unable to take off and soar. By leaving, she could bloom and prosper, while he just collapsed in on himself utterly bereft.
It had been his decision to let her go. He knew the likely toll exerted on him, but he loved her so much that he could not bear to keep her wings clipped. They hugged for a final time, whereupon the two hundred odd bones of his skeleton dislocated within the soft flesh pouches of her embrace.