When you bob your head to the music it becomes you. You soul plucks it from the air and dances. Others prefer to listen and let the consummation happen inside their body. Either way there is a link hooking the speaker, the headphone, the guitar to the listeners heart. It cannot be said to be affecting the brain, where the sound is merely processed. It flies into the ear, the brain tries to make sense of it but can’t. Music and reason are incompatible, the brain is not adequate to process this type of information. So it chucks it out, discards it in anger down to the heart; “Here, all yours, I don’t know what to do with it!” The heart decides quickly. It doesn’t think about what it hears, it doesn’t try to present an argument as to why some combinations of sound are so moving, so touching. It simply listens and decides. It is open to the emotional onslaught which is coming and ready to be thrown into ecstasy, or perhaps just into a state of indifference; “Meh, next one please, this isn’t doing anything for me!” Music truly is ineffable, irrational, emotional; probably why it is so beautiful.
King Krule’s album Six Feet Beneath the Moon is expected to be released 24th of August, 2013. It promises gold.
I’m at the bottom of the valley, in amongst the sludge and the mire. Around me rise mountainous peaks, five of them into the sky. If you want, I’m rolling in the sweaty palm of a clasping hand. I’ve been here for a long time, mainly by myself. People come and go, but none stay; this isn’t the place for them. I like to think it isn’t the place for me either. Some huts lie around the ground, they are unravelling, logs tumble from their sides leaving gaps in their skin. Once I lived in one and life was somewhat better than it is now; there was something solid under my feet and soft sheets upon which to lie. Now, when I move I leave a trail of mud. I know my place amongst the animals.
I went up one of the peaks once. It was the shortest one and so the most logical to satisfy my curiosity about what might be up there in the clouds. It was a difficult trip and I beat myself up about it. My physical shape did not help me in the ascent, nonetheless I endured and eventually succeeded. At the top there was a shack with a man inside. His shack was a workshop; a large shelf took up most of the room with a stubby stool next to it. The shelf was dripping in resin and scarred all over by the man’s knife. The sunlight lit up the endless dust in the air. The man didn’t seem to be working on anything when I entered, although the smell of fresh sawdust gently stroked my nostrils. He seemed calm when he turned to look at me.
“What are you doing here, son?” He asked me gently. “I was curious about what lay on top of these mountains.” I replied, suddenly unsure of myself. “Many men have come here in the past and to all of them I give the same answer. Do you want to hear it too? Of course you do.” The man smiled ruefully. “I’ve been here since the mountain began to rise from the floor of the earth. Back then it was at the bottom of the ocean, this was a long time ago you understand. I’ve been here for many, many years. Soon after we rose, I built this shack, and inside it my workshop. I built whatever I want. It pleases me to see crafted objects, it makes me happy. Without it I would be in an endless suffering, and I don’t particularly want that.”
“But what do you do with the objects?” I asked, looking around at the largely empty shack. A few models skirted the shelves. Not a lot of work for however many centuries he had inhabited the shack. “Where do you think I get wood from? Once I’ve made something I need to break it to fashion something new. My work is transient. Oh! If you could see some of the beauties I’ve made!” He looked down at his feet, nestled in sawdust.
“And don’t you get lonely? You could live down in the valley. We have huts down there and fresh water from the river.” I tried to hide my eagerness, to not show how I hated the world down there. I had come up here as much to escape the mire as from my curiosity.
“I have no need my son. I am resigned to my lot up in my shack. I have built my life here. I can look back on it with joy and with accomplishment. I have a satisfaction from my achievements. Should I throw it all away to live a life of comfort? How despicable!” He seemed to find it hard to look at my eyes. “Please, leave me now.” He said resignedly.
I stood for a few seconds, and then left the shack saying farewell to this man. I could not understand him. A pitiful case indeed, yet undeniably he had an inner glow to him. His soul was full, and his heart didn’t yearn for more than what fate had given him. I wished at the time that we could have been friends and felt sad trotting down the mountain back to my home in the mire; I would never see this curious man again. In the valley I walked past my previous abodes; the crumbling huts which were not for me. The comfort was a relief when I had it, but it was not where I belonged. My legs seeped into the mud an squelched an earthy blurt. I let the mud support my back and lay down to rest after my long journey. I could see all five peaks looming over me. One was enough for me, I realised then as I was lying there. I no longer needed to know what lay at the top of the others, everything I needed was with me here, in the mire.
The Moscow Metro hovers amongst the most impressive in the world. Statistically it is one of the busiest, most extensive, and deepest mass transit. I am not sure of all the records, but my favourite is that the station Парк Победы (Victory Park) contains the longest escalators in Europe (126 metres long) Here is a video of the trip if you want three minutes of virtual people watching.
Why is it so deep? Many will be quick to say that many metro systems can double up as bunkers during the war, and the depth at which Парк Победы sits would certainly help to protect people in the midst of a nuclear barrage from America. However, the station was only built in 2003, quickly putting any such claims to rest.
What I like about this station though is the theme which it keeps with the previous plans for the metro, one which is embodied by it’s lengthy escalators. Construction beginning in 1931 and the first stations opening in 1935, the Moscow Metro was a grandiose plan of Stalin’s to create a prole’s paradise underground. It drenched Muscovites in Soviet propaganda, and being so accessible there would have been a lot of people spending a lot of time absorbing it all in. The mixing of exquisite chandeliers and shiny marble floors with the Soviet mainstays of farmers, soldiers and factory workers creates a beautiful harmony. The aim of the party was beautifully laid out, and the impression is almost impossible to ignore; there is a beautiful romance felt when you travel through it. It even makes me feel proud, and I’m neither Russian nor Soviet.
At the core of this idea is the verticality of the stations. In most of the older, central ones the designs incline the eye to look upwards. Chandeliers, mosaics (such as those in the picture below taken at Маяаковская), and murals encourage one to walk through the halls with your neck at a forty five degree angle. I took the picture here at Белорусская station, and it is one of many paintings which adorn the ceiling. Some people argue that this attempt to make civilians look up was an attempt to link Stalin to God, or rather replace God with Stalin. Perhaps this is true but I don’t really buy it. I think it more likely had the intention to make the observer feel small and humbled; a part of the great soviet machine being watched over by his heroic ancestors.
This is especially evident on the escalators. Where else are you going to look except up. Slowly rising from the depths into an enormous white dome does stir you somewhat. And when at the top this emotion is met with soviet images it is a fast track to make you associate these grand ideas of beauty and inspiration with the society in which you love. It is a fantastic idea and I don’t know why it has not been repeated more in other metro systems of the world.
After Stalin’s death there was an attempt to lessen the glorification of the metro. Perhaps just to distance the new leaders from their questionable predecessors, it probably also had something to do with the cost I would imagine. Newer stations in the suburbs are quite dull affairs; clean, clinical and efficient. Pictured here is Митино, openened at Christmas, 2009.
The opening of Парк Победы in 2003 was a return to the older style. A mural at the end depicting the victories in 1812, and 1945 is sure to stir patriotic emotions. It is elegant, smooth and rich in colour. I like to think that the designers took a leaf out of Stalin’s book when designing this. Once you reach the top of your three minute journey you’ve had a lot of time to think about those victories. A lot of time to think about how great your country is.
The man emerged from the ocean naked as the day he was born. Drips of salty water still clung to his dark body, glinting in the strong and interrogative light. These were the only remnants of whence he had come. The water had been cool, yet was quickly frazzled from the surface of his skin. As he walked up the gently sloped beach his feet left soft imprints in the moist sand, squeezing the water from underneath him and leaving a velvety smooth impression.
The beach was ten body lengths long from the water to the beginning of life on the island. In front of the man was a strip of vegetation which grew from the fringes of the beach and reached god knew how long into the island. It stretched around the visible perimeter of the island; the second lowest scoring ring on the target. The bulls eye was occupied by a tall sand dune, rising from sea level to twenty times the height of the tallest tree. The dune was conical, shaped from the wind licking all sides equally like an eager child does an ice cream.
Having taken in his surroundings, the man immediately got to work. He walked with caution to the line of the forest and entered tentatively. His feet snapped dry twigs and crumbled soggy wood. Under the canopy was cool and the man stood still for a while, embracing the respite from the heat. Light sneaked through the leaf cover, tracing the forested ground with golden lines. He crouched on his haunches and smelt the earth, rubbing a handful of soil on his face, before delicately licking a sample. To his side he heard the scurrying of rodents in the parched and wrinkled leaves. Once again, darting off in a different direction. The man noted their path, not rising from his squat.
He found a recently fallen fresh stick and bobbed it up and down in his hand to gauge its weight. It was adequate. One hand over the other, he climbed up a tree using his thick toes for support, the stick was clamped between his teeth. Breath came out heavily from his nostrils in steadily shortening increments, spittle slobbered onto the stick. He soon arrived at a split into branches and perched, once again on his haunches, surveying the scene below. He did not use his eyes so much as his ears to track the movement of life. To track the movement of his food.
The breath had calmed to the steady pace of bellows. The stick had been taken from his mouth, dangling spit as it came and freshly imprinted with the mold of his incisors. He lowered it down onto the surface of the tree without taking his hand from it; silently, slowly. His ears pricked at the sound of little feet rustling in the vegetation; they seemed to come from all directions. He picked one and honed his eyes onto it. Ears surfaced when the rodents paused, gathering information like a pair of sonic periscopes. They then submerged themselves once more to continue their plans. The man found one, he locked on, he leaped.
Before his body had left the split branches the rodent shot off in anticipation. But the man saw this coming, he had calculated this into his plans. He swung through the air and drew the stick up behind him. It blurred through a swung arc; at the same time as his feet landed with a crunch, the stick clubbed the rodent’s hidden body. Stillness. He drew up his weapon. The rodent’s spine was broken, a gulley left in his back from the impact. Blood seeped out from its body and was lapped up gratefully by the thirsty leaves. The empty veins now ran red. Any other animals ran off repelled by this foreign and violent appearance.
The man picked up his trophy and sniffed it, rubbed it on his gums. He did not hold it from its tail but rather clasped it in his hand letting the matted fur and red mush squeeze through his fingers. The pair went towards the water, back into the heat of the beach. A trail of blood dripped its way behind them, mapping their route in the sand. He plunged it into the ocean and clumsily scrubbed it clean. Then, with his nails ripped open the treat and peeled the skin from its neck down like a banana. He smelled it again and bit it, chomping and gnashing at the bloody meal.
When he had had his fill he flung the carcass into the sea where it floated still. The head still remained. The lifeless eyes gormlessly stared out to the horizon, tailbone pointing from whence it came. The man wiped blood and spittle from his lips and wiped his hands clean in the ocean. Murky water emanated from him, suspended like some evil silk. He got low, and laid down on the beach with his arms behind his head, face to the sky. The soles of his feet were gently tickled by the water.
He looked up at the sky. It was different to what he knew. An azure radiance embraced him, a perfect compliment to the blonde sand. The light was brighter than when he first alighted on the island. In the sky were two suns, one receding behind the other. Both were of a brilliant purple; the foremost was duller than the other, but even this more subdued sister hummed with energy and beauty. They had made slow progress across the heavens since he had come, yet as he lay there the eclipse of the brighter sister was almost complete. As it bade goodnight and closed the gap the man fell asleep. His belly was full and his mind was curious.
He awoke in the same position. The brighter sun had just returned to full prominence in the sky; it and the other were two snooker balls at the moment of impact. He raised his head and looked out over the ocean. The man was transfixed by the view, the coming together of the two vast blue masses at an indiscernible line in the distance. The dead rodent in front of him remained equally as mesmerised. He arose from the sand and dusted some clung grains from his back.
The cool of the forest once again enticed him, he entered and stretched his freshly-awoken body. Breakfast. The killing technique was repeated and a new rodent was flung to rest with his brethren in their watery grave. The man stood back from the forest and with his hand held firm against his forehead he found the highest tree. He gulped down some ocean water then set off towards it in slow and measured strides.
He hoped that this vantage point would give some information about the island which he had found himself upon. Little knowledge was available to him from the beach, nor from underneath the thick mesh of greenery. He climbed steadily, some forty metres to the top. It was not easy; there were few footholds or branches to aid him. When he slipped he managed to grab his hands around the trunk like a randy puppy on its owners leg. Firm and oversized muscles tensed, corded, and squeezed. At length he reached the top, his forearms were sliced in every direction and blood feebly dribbled from the red lines. Holding onto the weak and leafy top branches he stood at the summit and poked his head above the canopy. To his sides he could see the forest stretching out in a loop around the island; always about ten body lengths from the ocean, everywhere as verdant as where he was standing. Beyond this lay sand to the middle of the island. Dunes whipped up in a frenzy gave the land the texture of ruffled water. As he looked further from the trees the dunes raised higher and higher until they culminated in a peak in the centre of this spherical island. Even from this height however, he couldn’t ascertain anymore useful information. The central dune was his next way point. His brain told him this was the correct way to go.
He hopped down into the crunchy leaves and branches and entered the heart of the island. The sand on the inside of the green ring was dryer making his feet slip as he treaded it. Wind blustered around the inside blowing up the loose particles into the air around his hips. He waded over the dunes until he reached the base. The twin light of the suns beat down on his back, he could see a slimmed shadow in front of him. Broad shoulders were silhouetted as a nimble stick, his fingers barely distinguishable from one another. He kicked at the sand but the shadow did not go; it just gained a new dimension, a new hole for the light to flood.
The climb was arduous but mercifully short. His face pained at the exertion in the heat, exacerbated by the weak foundations beneath his feet. He capitulated near the summit and fell on all fours, reaching the top in this position. His body resembled that of a prisoner chained to the wall, too weak to stand and a face crying out for respite.
The view from the top confirmed his estimations. The island was perfectly round and divided into three uneven sections. A ring of beach, a ring of forest, and a huge pile of sand upon which he stood. He looked to where he had come from and could see no traces; either they had been cleared up or they were too far to see. On the other side of the island he could see movement. Figures, bigger than the rodents he had killed were moving around. Some were in the water, some seemed to be milling in and around the edge of the forest. The man retreated and creeped down to the other side of the sloping peak. He peered over the edge and observed them, fear pulsing from his eyes.
The descent was a lot easier. The island was not big enough for hiding and the man was aware of this. He sidled over the top and began to lumber down the hill. Great slides of sand preceded his feet. The grains whistled down the face of the slope before remerging with the whole after their brief escape. Steps soon became too difficult and clumsy; the man dropped to his side and began to roll. His speed accumulated until he was tumbling down, whipping up grains of sand with his fork like toes. The hill’s gradient slowed him down as he approached the bottom where he was safely delivered to a complete stop.
Picking himself up he made his way over the dunes to the new patch of vegetation. He was aware that if the figures hadn’t seen him at the crow’s nest then they almost certainly would have seen him bouldering down the hill in a flurry of limbs and sand. His cover was blown, and he hoped these creatures were kind. The suns’ relentless pounding continued to fry his back and neck. Sand from the fall took away any remaining moisture in his mouth and only gave back the miserly gift of crunchy teeth.
He entered the vegetation cautiously, hunched over from exhaustion with a faced that had aged a year over the span of one hour. In the shade he saw the figures which he had spotted from the peak. They looked much like he did, however all were female. There were seven of them under the trees. One of them, an adolescent, was pregnant. Between the tree stumps he could see a few younger ones chasing each other around on the beach. Those under the canopy looked up at him upon his entrance. They had familiar faces, familiar expressions. He stood staunch, palms open in an amicable pose. He did not move, expecting them to sidle up to him and sniff him out. Find out how dangerous he was. However most viewed him with the interest normally reserved for a falling leaf. No welcomes were made and indifference emanated from their faces.
A circular clearing had been made in the middle of this congregation. The undergrowth had been cleared leaving a patch of sand which they surrounded either sitting or reclining on the cushy leaves and twigs. The man stood still for a while longer once their gazes had been averted. He began to move, to amble towards them. As he approached he noticed lines and shapes in the sand. One of the younger ones was drawing a line with her finger, gracefully pushing along sand to make a shallow groove in the surface. The others followed her finger with intrigue.
He sat down by them in a clear space, surreptitiously sniffing their alien smell. His nose was satisfied and the nostrils calmed back to normal sizes. He felt no danger from these people and so joined in watching the girl trace more lines. When she had finished their heads raised from the show and they all looked at each and everyone. The man was awarded the same attention as everyone else. He reciprocated the hospitality and intimately looked them all in the eyes.
He made sure they were done before he made an introduction. He leant into the clearing and drew three intersecting lines. He didn’t know how he knew how to do this, but the knowledge was undeniably in his head. The others read his message; ‘No memory’, and one again looked up to gauge the others’ reactions. They seemed unfazed by this admission, as if it was to be expected. A woman directly opposite the man leant in and dashed aside previous messages with her palm. She had a scar on her left arm leading from her finger to her elbow. Her scarred finger drew three small circles all equidistant from one another. From these points, she drew three lines which focused into a meeting in the centre. ‘Stars in place’. All looked up and switched gazes with each other until their eyes rested on the man’s own uncomprehending face.
The children rose and went to frolic and splash in the ocean. The rest of the women save the one carrying child stood up and picked up various instruments. The man remained seated, observing this alien yet familiar scene. The women, now numbering three each climbed their own trees, instruments in hand. Much like he did, they found a perch and crouched on their haunches. Their froze and listened for movement. The man did not need to be told to stay still. One by one they leaped, bringing death to the oblivious little creatures. Over a few hours they went up and down many times in front of the two man audience. They resembled spiders sliding down webs before returning to a haven from which they can silently observe their prey. Any tree offered them protection, and the whole forest floor was their territory to ambush. The man watched, eyes filled with awe at their efficiency. The pregnant adolescent had lain down on her back in the meantime, fingers stretched over her bulbous stomach. By the time the women had dropped their weapons there was a pile of around twenty dead rodents in a pyramid by the clearing.
After the women had finished they went to drink from the ocean and came back to lie with the man. The child had also by now retired to the covering. They sat like this for some time; looking out to the ocean with no messages being given. In the distance small specks became visible in the ocean. They were coming towards the island. The man’s face was struck once again with fear. Of the unknown, of an attack, of something different. He searched for empathy in the others’ faces but none even returned his gaze. Their lack of concern mollified his angst and he turned back to the ocean. The specks were now individually discernible; six forms swimming towards the beach.
Before they even emerged from the ocean he could tell they were men. They all walked up the beach in unison with enormous shoulders occasionally bumping into one another. They too looked almost the same as the man. The same species no doubt. However the gaps between the man’s fingers and toes were filled in with skin. As they entered the shelter they too paid the new man no heed. They collapsed on their backs, lungs rapidly shoveling air through their throats. After a short recuperation they sat up on their buttocks. One stood up and went to the pyramid of food. He doled the rodents out according to the size of the recipient; the adults received two each, children one. The man found two freshly killed rodents in his hands, still sticky with blood. He tucked in.
Once they had finished eating the air had become cooler. The brighter sun had once again begun to hide behind its larger sister. They ventured out into the pleasant dusk air and lay on the dunes. The children once again frolicked in the now sweet air; they chased and tumbled in the sand, they jumped and rolled, they punched and snarled. The adults lay with each other for the most part. Some rose and strolled through the bush and some went for a brief foray into the ocean. The man stayed close to the scarred woman. She seemed to welcome the company; at least, she was not repelled by it. With the eclipse soon to occur the tribe congregated on the dune where most had stayed, children and all. They lay in families; a man and a woman in each others’ arm with a child or two off to the side or at their feet. The dune was tilted in such a manner that their noses pointed directly to the purple suns. The man remained with the scarred woman. As the smaller sun made its exit, all eyes closed for the oncoming night. Sleep had come.
The tribe awoke together in the same position as they had fallen asleep. They scraped sleep from their eyes and gently rose en masse. Starting with the eager youngsters, they strolled to the forest to escape the now blaring double heat of two suns. Under the canopy they ate breakfast, chewing on the remains of the rodents from the day before. The bones were once again discarded into piles once they had been stripped of the flesh.
The men strode from the canopy once breakfast had finished. The largest and broadest stood at the waterfront. His brown hair was matted and flew down to his shoulders. Its colour counterpointed his mahogany skin. He pointed to each man and then pointed out to the horizon in different directions. They all looked on at him and showed their understanding by taking up their position by the water. The leader walked into the ocean and the rest followed. When the water reached his waist he began to swim, the others followed his lead.
Under the canopy the women sat and watched on from the clearing. Some children were playing. The youngest were nuzzling to their mothers’ breasts, calm in the early morning shade. The pregnant lady’s belly had swollen to three times the size of yesterday; it was visibly squirming under her skin. She was encumbered by her seed; she lay on her back, face to the sky and shook her legs from side to side. Once the young had detached from their mothers’ nipples, all the women rose save the one with child and the scarred. They moved slowly and picked up their weapons. Four of them in all, each choosing their own tree from which to hunt. After the first leap and kill of the day, the scarred woman arose, and took a young boy in her arm. They walked out from the shade and drank before heading into the centre of the island.
The man stayed amongst the trees and watched the symphony of the kill. Up and down, smash and death. He sat by the pregnant woman in sympathy. Her stomach was growing in its rumbles like a pot slowly coming to the boil. In the centre of the island the scarred woman and the boy had sat down together under the lip of a dune. The man could see she was drawing in the sand with her finger. The boy was observing attentively, sporadically interrupting with some comments of his own. After each message had been written the pair looked to the skies, eyes following their outstretched pointing arms.
The man decided to explore and entered the ocean at the same point from which the men had embarked earlier. He felt safe and welcome now, but still curious about how he came to be in this position. No memory, and little to suggest it would be coming back to him. He swam along the coast, hugging the beach front. His swimming was fluid; he was faster and stronger in the water than the native men of the island. He could see the figures amongst the trees slowly falling away behind him as he made steady progress around the island. He wanted to investigate the area where he had arrived. Going across the sand would be quicker, but the swim was cooler.
He knew he had made it from the markings that were left. In the beach were his footprints, still embossed into the sparkling wet sand. They had crumbled slightly, lost their previous form but clearly his nonetheless. He took a drink and went to rest in the forest where he had first tried to make sense of where he was. He arose and strode once more into the sea. Under the water the land sharply angled down into darkness. Down the slope he could see a bubbling, it enticed him and drew him in. There were rocks piled together in a ring, an abyss stood strong in the centre; seemingly endless and freezing. The man was curious yet afraid, he placed his hand in it and sharply recoiled from the cold.
He swam back to his companions. In his heart was a deep fear. There are two types of fear. The first is what one feels when faced with a brandished knife, a primeval pupil-dilating reaction, kicking your brain into sudden alertness and excitement; fear. The man who is staring into the oncoming truck will feel this, they call it fight or flight. Often there is no time to ponder on the situation which is going to end in soiled pants. Or one can feel the other, deeper and humbling fear. The type which is only enhanced when it is given thought. The fear of being alone, the fear of lost love, the fear of the infinite and the unknown. The Japanese have a word, yugen, which describes the ineffable emotion felt when pondering on the universe. When staring out into the dark night sky who does not feel the infinite sink into their skin and chill their bones.
By the time he returned to the tribe the men had come back ashore. They were all lying on the beach with their faces to the heavens and chests pumping up and down ceaselessly. There were only two women under the trees, next to the pile of discarded bones. He edged up to the greenery and stood, watching. The one with child was on all fours like a dog, panting and convulsing. A head was slowly emerging from her, slipping out and in like a piece of flotsam ebbing in a harbour. She did not scream, her face didn’t wince from pain. Her panting mimicked those lying on the beach, tired but controlled. No one paid any attention to the soon to be mother. The baby squeezed out under her contractions like a squirt of toothpaste, attached to the tube with a slimy cord. The mother remained in her position, deflated and calming, glancing once or twice over her shoulder to look upon her child. Her eyes showed indifference. The other woman present, who had been chewing on her toenails, looked up upon hearing the plop and crunch of the wet child on the forest floor. She clambered to her feet and strolled over. Picking up the cord in her mouth, she ripped it with her incisors, spitting out little chunks along the way until it had been split and disconnected the baby and mother. She walked with the baby out of the forest. The man watched their progress onto the beach, past the resting men and to the waters edge. When she reached the shore she dunked the child’s head under the water, not paying attention to its feeble struggle. She showed no compunction. Gradually the baby stopped squirming and began to float calmly on the surface of the water. The woman brought it back to the clearing and flung it onto the pile of bones.
The tribe awoke to the sound of scurrying animals in the undergrowth. The sun beat down on them through the gaps in the leaves. The wind carried the crusty smell of salty sea water into their nostrils. As they slowly rose the twigs split under the weight. To the side of them lay the pile of bones. The baby, born only yesterday was there. Most of his flesh had been gnawed away. All that was left was the skin around his toes and knees. No one gave him even a cursory glance, not even the mother. The man looked at him in horror, he raised both his hands to his head and stared.
Having noticed his concern, the scarred lady picked up a twig and sat herself down by the clearing. She scratched some diagram in the sand; “We big.” The first sign said, shown by a large circle. “Food small.” The second, a smaller array of dots. She glanced at the skies and sighed heavily. The men left to swim, still no invitation had been given to him to join in the journeys. Grabbing him by the hand the scarred lady led him out of the forest. It was just the two of them, laying down footprints into the sand. She led him a little way into the centre of the island, there they stopped on her command and sat down opposite each other.
They stared at one another for a long time. Two greatly different entities, tied by their corporal form. There was little compatibility between the two creatures, the language was a barrier in of itself. Their culture varied enormously, the man could not even remember his own, all he knew was that it was different. But in the gaze there was an understanding, one that can only come from such different people. One that says that these people accept each other despite their differences. Beneath both their eyes was a suspicion running strongly, the inherent distrust of the different, hope also ran, and contested in both of their minds for the control of their will.
The woman pointed to the skies, at the suns hanging over their heads. Her finger gracefully traced the edges of the suns, her eyes peeled away from his and locked onto the heat seeping down from above. She hunched over, making to write something in the sand, paused and then used her finger to do so. She drew a circle in the sand, encased by another larger one. The sign read “Today.” She moved in closer to him, not averting her gaze, their knees bumped together. Her hand reached out tentatively and held his penis. She squeezed it and it filled out her hand. She split her view between the man and the sign she had drawn in the sand. The man was different, but not so much that he did not grasp her intentions. He tried to kiss her but she blocked his lips with her hands.
Later that evening, after the men had returned, the tribe huddled under the trees amidst a pleasant atmosphere. The spoils of the day were doled out to everyone, most made themselves busy munching on their food, oblivious to the others around them also absorbed in the feast. Many bones were discarded onto the pile, and many bellies were rubbed with satisfaction. The scarred woman interrupted the daydreamers by standing up. She grasped two handfuls of sand and flung them into the air, it hissed as it flew into the leaves and slunk back down onto the beach. With everyone’s attention she grabbed the man’s penis once again. He became hard quickly, a puzzled and bashful expression played across his face. She encouraged him, guiding him into her, in the middle of a crowd all watching. She flung more sand into the air, this time more vigorously, and the onlookers joined in. Each man took his mate and followed suit.
Waking up as embracing couples the men quickly stretched, ate, and went off on their morning swim. The scarred lady took the man by the hand and led him to the centre of the island, where they had been the day before. They sat down on the sand and held hands together. The man was curious, he pointed to the swimming men, still faintly clear in the sea bobbing like driftwood. Squinting eyes expressed ‘what are they doing?’ She smiled and began to draw in the sand; two humps connected by an oscillating line: “We find new land.” The man stared deeply at her, still confused, yet his curiosity somewhat satiated. Since last night the woman’s belly had grown into a small mound, she stroked it with her free hand, the man lowered himself to the ground and placed his ear against it.
By night time her belly had grown to the size of a ripe watermelon, and wobbled with the swishing sound of the waves. The other women, also impregnated last night had similar bulges growing from them. These women did not however seem interested in their own future children. All the attention was on the scarred women, they came to touch her and to stroke he belly. They did as the man did and placed their ear to it to hear the gurgling mumble from inside her.
The men returned and took their place next to their respective woman. In a seemingly choreographed movement the woman got onto all fours, their man placed one hand under their bellies and one at their rear, ready to help with the extraction. The first moan escaped the throat, followed by a convulsion in her body. In a chain reaction all the woman began to tremble and moan, deep guttural noises. Small fingers, toes slipped out from their behind. The men clasped these protrusions and pulled, with their other hands they pushed up on the bellies. The man helped the scarred lady, learning what to do from observation, however lacked the experienced confidence which the other men showed. He was adequate and the baby, a girl, squirmed and scratched in the red sand below her mother. The man looked on in confusion and love. As had happened the day before, the babies were discarded of quickly and efficiently. First they were taken to the water and drowned, then flung onto the pile of bones to join the already rotting baby from before. The man looked on in horror and picked up his new born. With panic in his eyebrows he clutched it and cradled it. It was protected from harm. The scarred lady looked at her man in deep affection.
Several years had passed since the birthing ritual, and many more children had been born since then. For the man there were now two daughters and two sons. Amongst the rest of the islanders there were a handful of new recruits. The daughter from the before was now an adolescent, physically mature, and hunting like her older mentors. Like her father she had some slight differences to the other islanders. Her fingers and toes were webbed and she was surely more beautiful than any one else on the island. The girl and the rest of the children were the mans life, the scarred woman was now dead, her skull placed at the point in the centre of the island. The point from which these people watched the stars. He had immense love for them, freed up love now that the scarred lady was no longer. Every day he went to the skull to pay his respects and to teach his children the knowledge imparted onto him from his deceased lover. His eldest son was the most knowledgeable of all on the island, his head was rarely fixed on the ground, it was permanently stuck gazing into the heavens.
One day, huddled around the skull the boy took his fathers hand and a look of great exultation came over his face. He hurriedly grabbed a stick and sketched into the sand: “Stars aligned.” The man looked at him with an immensely joyful calm, the looked at each and smiled a smile of a deep understanding. The made their way down to the beach and waited for the men to return from their swim.
When they returned the boy once again wrote in the sand the importance of the day, and the men were injected with a bubbling energy. They picked up the eldest of the man’s girls and carried her into the centre of the island. Great whooping and hollering trailed behind them and there was happiness on everyone’s face, not least on her fathers. They carried her to where the man had landed, through the forest and onto the beach. Here, they placed her down on the sand, each one in turn kissing her and giving her their blessing.. The girl looked lost but proud. The man held her hand and not hesitating they walked into the sea. The water slowly gulped at the waist until they were forced to start swimming. The man had been here before and what he had to do was suddenly so clear in his head. He and his daughter were placed above the abyss he had discovered all those years ago.
Small, fizzing bubbles trickled up to them from below. He caressed her face and stroked her hair. Clasping her skull with his hands he kissed her on the cheek and gave her a nod. The girl obediently submerged herself. After ten seconds the bubbles stopped and the man felt a short tug on his feet. It seemed very quiet, his people on the beach were deadly still. A tear dropped from his eye. His daughter was never to be seen again, she had gone home.
Life was easier when I was younger. On my face grew arching pine trees, stretching into the sky. Grass grew freely, not in patches but in great swathing planes reaching into eternity. Animals would come to me, they would be born on me. I was a haven, and this filled me with such an enormous sense of fulfillment. I used to be necessary, a life-giver, a Gaia. From far and wide they would come but none would stay for long. They visit was transient, maybe for a night or two. A tranquil stay with me, where they could appreciate the air, the stars, the clear water, then move on to wherever they were going. I liked these people, they were courteous and didn’t stay long enough for me to get annoyed with them. Of course some would leave excrement on me, but that is only to be expected. By and large, what they could clean up, they did. They would leave and let the animals take back their rightful throne. Dusting off their shoulders, the animals would rustle out of their nests and frolic in the now empty fields. It was a peaceful time, an easier time.
Many years ago a group of travelers came, clubs in hand and curious peering children skipping along behind them. I figured them to be the usual troupe; just passing through on their way to somewhere important. One man took the lead, and swinging his club back and forth ordered the others to stop with impressive dominance. It was hard to say if he was taking the lead or rather maintaining his already strong position of influence. The children slumped down on their already reclining mothers; heads found a pillow in a belly. The men huddled in a group, sprung on their haunches. They had long hair reaching to their shoulder blades, and strong violent bodies. I was hesitant about these visitors at first, something told me to be weary. However, I withheld any reservations I had and decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. Many of my best guests had been the least likely, if one is to judge by appearance. I told myself to dash any prejudice.
The first night did little to calm my nerves. The men, instead of relaxing and gulping down my natural beauty, went on a hunt. This was not a hunt for game, or even vegetation, but rather for wood. In other words; for building materials. I had never seen this before and it worried me a great deal. Did these travelers want to stay here, to live here? No one had made such a decision and the repercussions fluttered my heart. I did not want any humans to live here. Animals were more to my taste, they didn’t quite posses the mental faculty to do any real harm to me. I had seen what humans had done though, I knew what they were capable of. You may claim that humans are simply animals but it doesn’t make much sense beyond the purely technical argument. They posses something unnatural, a will to create and destroy. They want to have more power than God gave them, and I didn’t want to encourage this to happen on my face. I liked it how it was.
My fears, unfortunately, came true. In steady rows the men carried the wood from the little forest to their little camp. Not one tree was spared, not my favourite nor my least favourite; they showed no mercy and clearly had no consideration for me. The neat covering over my face was depleted within three days and a huge transformation was underway. I had no say in the matter, of course. I wondered whether they even realised the distress they were causing, of course no. The grass died in well trodden paths; from their camp to the forest, from the camp to where they pissed and shat, from the forest to the river where they bathed. Yellow tracks of dead vegetation wound their way over my scalp. I could feel them walking down these preordained paths, the slow eventuality of it gave me such a horrible sensation. They were like mosquitoes flitting over my face, yet I had no fingers with which to flick them off.
Soon they had built their houses and halls, churches and pubs. The women gave birth to more parasites and any traveler passing through was inevitably sucked into the allure of a civilised life. Great throngs now trod these paths, which multiplied by the week. I wanted to shake my head and fling off these unwelcome guests, I wanted to sneeze and shoot them into the stratosphere. Alas, I did not have the function to do this. How cruel it is to have no control over your fate yet be subjected to it, to know that it is coming and that it is inevitable. That it is the very opposite of what you dreamed of as a child. That it dashes all your aspirations and smears them all over your face. Cruel indeed.
Now it is today that I am writing. The folk on me began digging into my face in recent years. They take some materials from my head and return to the surface with them. What they see in these objects I don’t know but I fear that it is doing irreparable harm to me. They have bored holes which they run trains through at lightning speed. I can feel the rumble vibrating through me almost always. Under great obelisks they dig into the ground to support the enormous weight now standing above them. Clearly the surface of my face wasn’t enough, they wanted more, they want to seize my entirety. I know that soon there will be none of me left. I hope they realise soon where their precious wood and rock comes from. If it is not for me then they have no future. They will have nothing except their unfulfilled dreams and broken promises to their children. A lack of foresight is what has made this, stupidity if you like, and now I have to pay for it. Sadly they will too.
Before, we lived in harmony. We had two happy groups. The humans. Me and the animals. Now I am dying, as are the animals. The humans will too. They need me yet they are killing me. I repeat, they are killing the thing they need yet I cannot reach out and tell them this massive error that they are committing! It is so frustrating as I slowly wilt away, I want to save these people that I once loved before. I fear that it is too late. Their eyes are blinkered and what has been done is now all that there will be.
A rocket ship,
a three-pronged squid,
a red cone hat and three red tights.
Inside, a spaceman on his virgin flight.
Don’t wait up for me love.
The scientists spin their pencils,
Nails gnawed to the end.
Beeps on a screen,
flash like stars in the sky.
Don’t wait up for me love.
The wall in front of our pioneer
stares him down. A photograph stuck to the wall.
Wife with their child in her arms.
A tear falls, pulled down by the earth.
Don’t wait up for me love.
‘To Mars!’ they said. The red planet!
‘Ooh!’ ‘Aah!’ The crowds bayed with anticipation.
It was him, chosen from a million.
Our hero, proud and humbled, unable to move.
Don’t wait up for me love.
Fire scorches the earth below,
the engines scream at the earth:
“Let us go!”
Painfully, slowly, they part like reluctant lovers.
Don’t wait up for me love.
Through the window our hero sees the cold earth,
suspended in a black womb.
He is shot from the atmosphere into the deep.
Further than any man has ever gone before him.
Don’t wait up for me love,
I’m not coming back.
I got to the platform at 18.30 after a day of running about in search of a ticket. My holiday was already three weeks old and as of yet I had done nothing to make use of it. My girlfriend had broken up with me the day work had finished and the slow healing process had come to fruition. Each day she slid further from my mind and happiness lowly filtered back in. Three weeks of moping around, drinking and smoking is not healthy. Not for the body nor for the mind. I couldn’t help it though; when I get stuck in a rut nothing can extricate me from it save the passage of time. I needed a break to fully cauterize the wound. New places that didn’t remind me of her. and when Liz messaged me that morning that she would be in Riga on her way down through Eastern Europe, I jumped at the opportunity to join her. I left a note for my flatmates and quickly packed a bag with clothes, cables, and a couple of condoms just in case. I had only stayed in one hostel before, but I heard that they’re full of horny travelers. I was getting sick of the whole miserable brokenhearted loser act, I wanted to get back in the game.
The train to Riga left at 19.00 exactly so I had half an hour to spare. I could thank my father for teaching me the maxim; ‘everything takes longer than you think.’ It meant I was never left fidgeting in the backseats of taxis nervously checking my phone, no leaping over airport barriers. No exciting life, but I always made my journey. I was punctual and a man to be trusted. When I said I would be somewhere, people knew that I would be there. I also inherited the other side of this coin; the irritation felt when others weren’t up to my level of punctuality. It shows such great disrespect, everyone knows this, so why do they continue to do it, to let me down? A grown man should be able to control their time, to predict what may happen and account for any event. I had done well on this one, aren’t you proud? Even got on early enough to procure myself a bed. Obviously though, I couldn’t predict everything. Once I got on the train it was not my realm anymore. My punctuality counted for nothing. We were slaves to the whims of the driver or the suicidal man laying on the tracks. My journey was out of my hands and that made me feel strangely nervous.
I hooked the curtain back behind a peg and gazed out the window. My ears were plugged with my music. Another train stood still beside us in the station and the carriage slowly filled with passengers. Next to me, on the other side of the aisle sat four people. They were immediate friends, I could see them in my peripheral vision, hand shaking, back slapping, faces red from laughing so hard. How strange people are. Sit them on a metro or a bus and no niceties are exchanged. As soon as they get on an overnight train though everyone becomes best friends. They are happy to share their life story, their food and their drink. Why? Cynics will say that it is to protect their valuables during the night, an immediate pack is formed who will look out for each other. The friendliness in one compartment creates a hostility to the others: their common enemy. Other cynics will say that it is simply the done thing, so we will all follow suit as we are sheep. It would be rude not to so we must. Me, I’m of the second opinion and I don’t mind participating. If I am forced to though then this ruins everything. God forbid I will be seen talking to some sad cunt due to an outdated social code. We have gadgets now that makes these rules obsolete. We can cocoon ourselves behind our screens and headphones; we can politely ignore social advances.
Outside of Moscow the forests flew by. They looked lush in June’s greenery. Great sumptuous trees bayed over the algae covered ponds; all shades melded together. The midday rain still remained hanging tentatively in the leaves. What a sight! The harmony of nature. Surely this is the greatest advantage of traveling by train, you go on a private path through the heart of a country. A plane sees nothing, a car sees petrol stations, a boat sees fish. A train sees all; nature, cities, farms, the whole beauty and ugliness of the world from the window. If you’re lucky you even get people waving to you.
I could hear the murmur of amiable conversation over my music. An occasional joke would spark off a domino scatter of laughter. At each instance I would twitch my next towards them yet was careful not to establish any eye contact. I felt mildly irritated by the fact I was allowing myself to be distracted from the beauty outside the window. The four of them, up to now engrossed in each others company suddenly quietened down. Those on the aisle looked down the carriage as a single strong and calm voice bowled through the air. I took my headphones out, yawning in fake restlessness. I wanted to hear the voice which had shut down the friendly conversation, some kind of of leader no doubt. I quickly learned that they were a tour group. I suppose it explained why they were so chummy already; perhaps they weren’t weird freaks, uninhibitedly and sickeningly friendly.
By the end of the leaders speech I had discovered their true nature. This was a Christian group and I was slap-bang in the middle of it. My eyes widened in horror. It was all so obvious now. The friendliness was so natural, pure and virtuous. I saw the crosses glistening under the artificial light and the bibles scattered on tables. I recoiled in my seat, hunching into the corner. There was the reason for their strange behaviour. By now they were mingling all through the carriage. New, beaming faces strolled past me by the minute. They were inexplicably happy and there was not a clinking bottle within earshot. What was this strange cult doing going to Riga and why did they think OK to take over this whole carriage. Why was I not warned? What did these freaks think of me? Admittedly, they seemed like nice people. They were happy. But why did they not follow our social codes, so brazenly infringing on each others space like an extended family of sixty members. I became scared and a little offended. With the help of one of the Christians to unfold me bed I retreated up top and once again looked at the passing countryside to calm my nerves.
I wondered what the Muslims would be like. Inherently scarier due to the colour of their skin; what is different is always scary since it is unknown. These people were weird but known quantities. They were sheep that had strayed from the flock. What about the Buddhists? The only religion I had seriously considered, if you can call it a religion. Peaceful but not patronizing. They had clearly reached a higher plane, you could see it on their little yellow faces. Their serenity is palpable. All I could see and hear here was a nervous devotion to their God’s principles. These weirdos didn’t embrace their ideals, they just followed them for the eschatological reward.
What if this was a cult sect? I didn’t know much about Christianity, but I had heard about a lot of suicide cults a la Jonestown. The absurd thought that I was on a death train crossed my mind. We could be about to plunge off a cliff. These cunts would get eternal salvation but I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be joining them. Sweat began to creep from my skin onto my eyebrows. The countryside had changed little, it was still stunning and a welcome distraction from the unsettling events unfolding before my eyes. Churches perched on hilltops in the distance, sparkling in the early evening glow. I loved to visit them before, much like people visit the zoo. To look and to observe these strange creatures. When you are locked in the cage with them it is not so enjoyable.
What if this was a conversion mission? Not only had the Russian cunts enslaved the Latvians before, now they wanted to take their personal freedoms again! Maybe it was even me they wanted to convert! My stomach turned inside me and I rolled over on my simple bed. I had thirteen more hours before I could get off. I tried to think about Riga, a city I knew nothing about, and look forward to the adventure I would have there for the next few days.
The moon was high in the sky, a half crescent staring me in the face. It was much more comforting than what was on the other side of me. I gazed into it deeply and practiced my trick of turning my mind blank. It is far easier to escape unpleasant experiences by ignoring them than to think about them. A new man entered the scene, by the looks and sounds of him the most charismatic man alive. Every word from him was waited on, replied to with tweaked cheeks and flashing teeth. I had to leave and went for a walk. I had seen a restaurant carriage from the platform earlier – what now seemed like a lifetime ago.
Moving down the train, the other carriages reinstated my sanity. Little kids peered out the windows, their tiny feet arched up on a rail. So engrossed were they in the outside world that I didn’t see their beautiful faces of awe. Parents were playing cards and drinking like good normal people should do. Who really knew who these people were though? These Christian cunts had ambushed me the train. The signs were there admittedly, but all the same it was a surprise. Maybe these regular people would surprise me as well.
The bar lady in the restaurant was beautiful and I considered trying to chat her up; maybe I could have a good story to tell to Liz, in addition to the religious onslaught. I decided not to though, I was in no state to come across charming to anyone. I was a bundle of nerves, claustrophobic and scared. I was sure that she could tell this. I chose three Latvian beers to acclimatise to my destination and paid her in Rubles. I had no idea what the Latvian currency was, but I was sure I would soon find out. I wandered slowly back to my base with the beers gently rocking in a bag at my side.
I opened my first beer an turned opened a new book: After Dark by Haruki Murakami. Quick glances of disappointment glared at the hiss of escaping air. I looked back unflinchingly. Having had the conversation briefly interrupted by their judgement, it quickly returned to the topic of how one of them looked identical to a sportsman. I found the very topic bizarre, and even more so from how amusing they found this observation to be. I tried to ignore them and read but I became irate at the inanity. These people can’t discuss anything interesting save they offend God. It is human nature to want to fuck and to drink. These freaks couldn’t enjoy either of these basic rights, denied to them from their overseer. Such a cull of human nature, a repression of our earthly rights to gain celestial rewards. They were pretending to be something they were not. The moonlight was becoming dim and many had already retired to bed, exhausted from their thrilling observations.
I had to to do something about this. There had been a great injustice to me, invading my personal space. Also, a great disrespect had been served to our social codes. It had left me chilled yet they were even more smug than before! The cheek of it! I spotted a young Christian maiden leaving the carriage and made up my mind. I had eleven hours left till Riga and knew that I could not put it any longer. I waited a few seconds to decoy the others and tried to pull a curtain over my face to hide my emotions. Rage was flowing under my skin, lust and appetite were trying to pry out of my mouth, somehow I managed to keep cool and look normal. I arose with my beer bottle and followed her out the carriage.
Waiting outside the toilet I listened to the flow and splash of her piss against the porcelain. She flushed and spent some time making herself beautiful again. I was hopping from one foot to the other, bubbling with excitement. I swigged at the bottle in my hand and steadied myself.
She came out and gave me a huge smile. I lunged at her mouth with my hand; plugging her lips. Her eyes engorged as I had hoped; I wanted to see the fear in her heart. I grabbed her waist with my other hand and pulled her back into the toilet, locking the door behind us. She struggled and lashed out. I felt no pain, I could not in my state of excitement. That tang when you do something bad. I could feel it in every cell of my body. This was something that those people will never experience. I pulled down her trousers and pants exposing an enormous unkempt bush. She screamed and I panicked. The bottle came down and smashed on her head, she crumpled onto the toilet, her forehead came to a rest on the seat. I took the remnants of my beer and wet her vagina with my fingers. Slowly, savouring every moment I stroked myself until I was hard as stone and hoisted her onto the sink. The tap pushed into her hips and she slumped down into the recess. I put myself in her and felt the vengeance of two hundred crusades coursing through me into a single point. Her face was pleasantly still. I looked at it occasionally in between catching glimpses of my gnashing face in the mirror. I didn’t care about the consequences as I pumped away. Maybe I would go to prison. Maybe I would be forgiven by these loonies and treated as a lost soul. Whatever happened I didn’t care. Justice was being served.