Showing posts from October, 2012

Art Pact 238 - Coming to New York

We'd dropped all pretence at friendship and fellow feeling by the time the boat reached New York. While the others all cheered and waved at Liberty Island and the great slowly greening statue that adorned it we sat sourly in our stateroom and pretended that we were still in the middle of the Atlantic - partly to avoid the realisation that the denouement to our journey was rapidly nearing (and with it any chance of reconciliation), and partly (I think) because it gave us the opportunity to ponder favourably on the idea of hacking each other to death with axes and toppling our body over the side for the sharks to eat, out in international waters where the evidence of our crime would never be detected. At least, that is what I thought, and if I know anything about Chivers it is that he thinks along similar lines as me when it comes to homicide.

The stateroom, which on boarding had seemed so luxuriously large as to present us with almost an overabundance of riches when it came to per…

Art Pact 237 - Cellar

I had never experienced such darkness before. Living in the city I'd become used to the ever-present glow of the sodium lighting at night, brighter than the moon, that filled the sky with a bright orange fuzz. Indoors there were the standby lights of electronic equipment - bright as flashlights when one got up in the middle of the night, quite enough to wander the house by with no fear of stubbed toes. Even in my bedroom, where I had done all I could to keep light from disturbing my sleep, there was the faint hint of illumination from behind the curtains, a little line of brightness around the card that I placed in front of my alarm clock's dial so that it wouldn't glare at me. Since my eyes had started working I felt like there had not been a moment of my life where I wasn't able to see something.

Not there. In that cellar was the dark of the abyss, the dark of nothingness, the dark from before the beginning of time and space, when there had been no photons to carry …

Art Pact 236 - Mother's Promise

"I will always love you," she croons. "I will always care for you."

And I understand that for the near future this is true, that she means it to be true. She will look after me, she will attempt to lavish me with all the gifts that she can. But she has already given me too much. This insight, I understand, is something that I have but others do not. She has it to a certain extent, but she does not realise how much greater my own faculty for it is. She sees things only dimly ahead of us - and perhaps that is the source of her misplaced confidence, because in the near future we appear closely entwined, as though she were indeed nothing more than she pretends to be: a doting mother. It is only further on, when this gift of foresight has already begun to manifest itself more strongly in me, that the relationship sours. I can withdraw my focus a little - squint, you might say, although that is as far from the reality of the sensation almost as it is possible to be - an…

Art Pact 235 - Ascending

At first tentative, the great device began to pull free of the ground, drawing up the leg-like structures that had seemed to anchor it so firmly in place. Clods of earth tumbled from metal feet, and the thing itself lurched from side to side as its motors struggled to free it. There was a grinding noise from within, overlaid with a high-pitched whine that might have been motors, and an odd rattling sound like many thousands of marbles tumbling through a waste pipe. At the first motion, too, a cloud of starlings had leapt into the air from their roosting places on the support structures, and now they wheeled and tumbled overhead in their great cloud-like murmuration, a flock of dark fish in the light afternoon sky, circling and twisting and constantly reforming themselves in a strange vortex. They seemed alternately to be mobbing the device and calling it upwards, like parents teaching a fledgling to take the first flaps of its wings.

There were seven legs on the machine, three along …

Art Pact 234 - Golden River

The Auradoor - which was its proper name, meaning Golden River in the language that had been all but destroyed by the coming of the mesh people - flowed down from the mountain in an utterly normal manner for most of its length. It originated in rain that fell at the top of the mount and washed through the mildly sulphurous rocks that the mesh scientists were so in love with. Then, transformed into the yellowy fluid that it would be for most of the rest of its journey, it gathered in little rivulets which in turn congregated into tiny streams, which they went on to unionise into the river itself, growing and growing until finally they formed the great estuary which stretched almost the width of the colonial town known either as Mesh City or as Morgadsville, depending on how formal the referent was. The native folk tended to refer to it more as Morgadsville the older they were, since it had been their tradition only to name towns after their founders. This meant that for the crucial st…

Art Pact 233 - Duel

"No offence," I told Donnie, "but you couldn't win a fist-fight with toddler."

He stared at me, shaking his head.

"I.. what's going through your head?"

"What do you mean?"

"What I mean is, where's the part of your brain that imagined me having a fist-fight with a child? That's just sick. Ridiculous and sick. You"--he poked me in the chest with a finger--"are ridiculous. You're sick. You have a sickness."

I gave him a second of silence.

"Are you finished?"

He nodded.

"Well," I continued, "the part of my brain that's doing the imagining isn't imagining you fighting a toddler mano-a-mano. It's imagining the aftermath of that little encounter - which is to say, you lying supine on a nursery floor while a three-year-old girl stands with one foot one your chest, with her arms like this." I shook both fists out in a triumphant gesture. "That is ridiculous, I grant y…

Art Pact 232 - The Scar

She would some it up later, when asked at a dinner party, as "saws and drills". That was all she would say, staring miserably down into her starter. A minestrone so thick with rice that it could almost have been a risotto, stained deep red and spattered with slivers and chunks of unidentifiable vegetables that the hostess bought at her local farmer's market. The rest of the table was quiet - the question had come at one of those moments when everyone else stopped talking at the same moment, as though there had been some previous agreement. A negative flash mob, she thought, stirring the contents of the bowl. The silverware was nice - so clean, a mirrored surface in which she had examined her face earlier, surreptitiously checking for any sign of the experience that might have been left on her face. It seemed almost obscene that she could find no visible scar. There was the off-colour pale patch across her cheek where she'd been knocked off her bike and landed heavil…

Art Pact 231 - Our uncle and his crimes

Our uncle, in contradistinction to all established human practise, gloried in his enormous crimes while remaining embarrassed about his lesser ones. His position as somewhat about the law in our sleepy little county allowed him a degree of latitude in boasting about his excesses that petty conmen or burglars would have killed for, and he exploited it to the full whenever possible, laughing at dinner parties about the money he'd embezzled from the pension funds, joking when in public about fellow businessmen that he had ruined. The secret behind this impunity, of course, was that he knew himself to be surrounded by those who had benefited directly from his largesse, people who had themselves become so corrupted by association that they could not censure him without becoming eligible for prizes in the service of the advancement of hypocrisy. Even my sister and I, perhaps our uncle's most vocal critics, realised to our shame early in our lives that we depended on him for our hou…

Art Pact 230 - That guy

Oh, that guy. He spends all his time indoors - you know, tied to the computer. Complete sad case, but what are you going to do with those nerdy types anyway? You need someone to make facebook or whatever, right? The art is in keeping them interested without them getting all - you know, stalker-y, right? I mean it's not like he's actually got a chance. No, he's for one of those chunky girls, you know who I mean? Not like, the sassy ones, not the ones who've just put on a few pounds because they've been having bad days recently, but the real full-on... you know, it's depressing just to talk about this. I mean anyway, we're talking about people who somehow manage to live in a different world.

That guy is an embarrassment in class. I mean you'd think he'd be the first to put his hand up, right? To answer all the questions, like nerds do. But he's not like that at all. He keeps his mouth shut, just sits in the middle of the class like some kind of s…

Art Pact 229 - Pits and Peaks

A life thus scattered, as all men's are (and all women's, true, although no man such as I can truly understand that), with such rare peaks of happiness and infrequent pits of despair, but otherwise a flat plain of everyday grind, neither elating nor crushing. Those grey days blend into each other so much that in my life's ledger they might all be subsumed under a single heading, a descriptive flow with variables X and Y and Z, such as an algebraical factoriser might use in his lonely scribblings. One might by rolling a die for each slight variation (say the food I ate on a certain day, or who I visited, or where I walked) throw games of chance for years without once coming upon a combination which I had not already fulfilled. Such a game of Yacht my life would make!

There were moments, however, as I have alluded, in which this everyday script was thrown to one side with great force by the hand of fate, the dice table overturned, if you will, by an angry gamer who tired of…

Art Pact 228 - We Fight Any Dinosaur

We Fight Any Dinosaur! That's our name, and in our competitors' mouths it would also be a hollow boast, but we call a guarantee. If you want a dinosaur fought, give us a call! Here are just some of the services we provide:

We will box a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Five rounds, ten rounds, whatever you want - the only thing we won't do is take a dive! All of our Tyrannosaur boxing events are completely above board and one hundred percent pure adrenaline thrill-rides! Some of you may be thinking - how much of a fight can a T-Rex put up? He only has tiny arms. But let us tell you one thing about Tyrannosaurs: they do not understand English. They cannot be taught the Marquis of Queensbury rules! They will bite and gore like crazy, and our championship dinosaur-pugilists are in great danger during their time in the ring. If you have any chairs whose stuffing is falling out, feel free to bring them, because you'll only need the edge! Also, feel free to leave the chairs at the venue, b…

Art Pact 227 - Baptism

We waited on the riverbank, shivering in our white robes and nothing else. That was the compromise - between being born again as we had the first time, in our altogether, and the terrible sins that the sight of flesh could tempt us to. The backs of my arms were covered in goose bumps, and I wished that the compromise had run more to the shame side of the block, because  my balls were freezing up like little ice cubes. To either side of me were the Monk twins, looking damn foolish in the gently flapping robes. Althorpe Monk was clicking his knuckles, just the same way that he did before extorting lunch money. Easter Monk, on my left side, was mumbling to himself. Not for the first time I wondered how they had managed to grow up with such different personalities but identical in all other ways. What exercise was Easter doing that let him match the muscles of his thuggish, sporty brother? The ways of the world were mysterious - the ways of God, I reminded myself, tuning half my attentio…

Art Pact 226 - Answers about love


No: Ah, well - there's nothing more we could do about that. But let me ask you a question. Have you ever been in love? I mean, not the sort of in love where you say you're in love, but the sort where you really are.

Yes: That sounds like- I mean, I resent the implication. You're calling me a liar. The worst kind of liar.

No: The worst kind of liar? That seems a little presumptuous. Let me tell you a story. When I was younger I asked my vicar whether such-and-such a person was going to hell.

Yes: Who is this such-and-such? That sounds like a foreign name.

No: Again I must disabuse you.

Yes: I prefer it to the alternative, which brings to mind your point. Continue with your story about a priest.

No: A vicar, I said. Let us say that my enemy was Mr. N. E. Body.

Yes: That matches what I know of you. Quite plausible! Continue.

No: This person, N. E. Body, was …

Art Pact 225 - Desk fort

I sat on the floor under the desk, my little happy place. Let me describe it. Our desks are cubicle desks, built in fours that face inwards. The desks curve in the middle, which is where we sit, so that we can turn in our chairs either to the left or to the right and easily find more desk space. Desk designers, you see, are like military generals in that they prepare to fight the previous war. In the old days, when everything in an office was done on paper, having a big desk was no doubt an advantage, and having easy access to it a further advantage. I imagine a bowler-hatted bureaucrat spreading case files (or whatever it is they have - I'm unclear on the details, having been born at the very tail end of the twentieth century) across their vast expanses of planed and varnished woodwork, reading from one, cross-referencing another, and so forth. In those days naturally desk surface would be at a premium. I can even understand how it would have worked as a sort of territory in a s…

Art Pact 224 - Death by Owl

"If there were any other way of getting around the problem..." she told me. Her eyes were large, and her head swivelled around its axis, the fine feathers of her neck ruffled and twisted as they followed her neck around. She flapped her wings once, hooted, then coughed as if embarrassed by this unnecessarily avian outburst.

"I'm sure it can't be the only option," I protested.

"I'm afraid it is."

"No incarceration, perhaps? Surely I could be locked up. For life, perhaps - I'd accept that. Or maybe just for a few decades? It's not that serious a crime, surely. What would you do if another owl had..."

"Another owl," she said firmly, "would not have."

"Are you sure? I mean why is there even a law in the first place, if it's a thing that no-one would do? Are there sentencing guidelines or something?"

"Of course there are guidelines," she said huffily. "We're not savages, you kn…