Language succeeds when it tells us truths concisely.
Language, at its best should be used as the unadorned conduit of meaning.
Often we sacrifice meaning for brevity. Often the volume of our language decimates its meaning.
It is for the communicators of rooted emotion, those who understand the potential dignity of expressed thought to give us their truths and make us feel their understanding as if it were our own.
These are the leaders of people, they who quietly roar change at injustice. There is not more than a handful of them in all our weight of heedless history.
One of them has died.
He was a leader who spoke slowly, checking the words that passed.
He put meaning in forgiveness and in freedom.
For 3 decades he spoke not a word and yet millions heard his voice.
And in a world torn and ripped by confusion, lead by a subdued meaning which makes susceptible the transient attentions of a sprawling humanity to the falsehoods of a misguided few,
his words provided a light that nurtured good.
Although he didn’t directly affect me and I couldn’t really have known his deeds in life, the simple truth of his words has found me.
And I’ll miss him.
'I'm a musician actually.' I told him warily.
'Oh a musician!' His ruddy cheeks lit up, 'Like Dudley Moore, innee.' When he said musician it sounded more like magician.
'Uh, yes, I believe Dudley Moore was also a musician…'
He gave a particularly West-Country grunt of affirmation. There was a pause.
'You don't know that there Beethoven do you? By wife loves he, inner.'
'Well not personally.' I said without confidence, attempting small talk humour.
There was another long pause while he appeared to be cogitating somewhere in his cider impeded mind. As realisation dawned a smile began to break across his face like an egg yolk and the uncomfortable silence was dispelled by his wildly disproportionate laughter. Several people within the laugh’s radius were consequently ensnared by its potency and began laughing with him, to the rhythm of his profoundly shaking stomach.
'Not personally, innee!'
I used this spectacle of comic contagion as cover to slip out unnoticed, and left the ruddy warmth of the pub for the comforting bitterness of an outdoor smoking area.
'Smoking Kills.' The Benson and Hedges packet kindly informed me.
I remained largely indifferent to this valuable intelligence.
The smoke licentiously crept from the cigarette’s glowing end and touched my face in a conspiratory, carcinogen caress. I began to relax slightly.
'I'm a musician.' I said out loud, redundantly. 'm-u-s-i-c-i-a-n,' spelling it out.
The cold night air did not respond. It seemed to think it sounded silly too.
512 days since beginning of Base 17 records»
They played Jupiter from the Planets suite over the tannoy in the compound today. It was a strange experience, hearing ’I bow to thee my country’ floating gently over the quivering heads of huddled families, as the screams from outside reached their loudest. I suspected it to be the doing of Colonel Gregson; his judgement has been in noticeable decline recently. He would normally realise the futility of trying to drown out those irrepressible sounds with pretty music. When the emptiness inside the Hungry people swells into seething masses inside of them, and they throw their whole, cut-bruised bodies against the outer walls of the compound with the accompanying thump of flesh on concrete, again and again, until they become bloodied and weak, there isn’t an awful lot Holst can do, try as he might.
Gregson won’t last much longer. His attempts at leadership are becoming increasingly impotent, and I don’t think he’s really built for the strain. A man can only handle so much screaming before the screaming starts to become part of him. It begins to surreptitiously fill its place amongst his Darker thoughts, jaggedly growing outwards until you get like Gregson: you start to slip up, you lose your focus. That’s the first step. The last, and by far the worst step is when you get used to the screaming. When it starts to actually comfort you. From that point on, things like Right and Wrong, Good Bad; they don’t seem to mean much anymore.
It’s a shame. Gregson’s a good man. Good taste in music.
They did a census of all the people in the compound today. Age, gender, height etc. Gregson said it was to do with provisions or inventory or some army jargon, but it felt like he was entertaining himself more than anything. I think we all knew it couldn’t really be about provisions. We don’t have any provisions.
It was, at least enlightening to find out the nature of the survivors in our little group. Aside from Gregson, the last vestiges of humanity are not warriors. We are timid and ordinary people; some families, a lot of youngish men and women and a very small number of children, all of whom are skinny and on the short side. It is not survival or fighting skills that have kept us alive so far, we have no particular drive or passion for life. I think it’s mostly just the ability to run inconspicuously. That’s how we’ve ended up here alive. In total there is a community of 34 in the compound. 34 inconspicuous runners.
I have never heard the Hungry people scream as loudly as they did today. I couldn’t help but remember the story of Jericho I learnt about in Sunday school. It actually made quite a lot of sense to me, crouched under a steel bed clutching ration packets to my chest. Punishment meted out to a dissolute race by an angry God would be a much more comfortable truth to deal with than the one I’ve had until now; this blind, senseless Hunger. No justice, no reason, no trumpet bearing armies and high impenetrable cities: blind, senseless Hunger.
My son said his first word today. It was ‘ration’. He must have heard the word ration more than Daddy or Papa. I think this should have upset me more than it did.
Perhaps I’ve finally come to terms with the inanity of survival. I no longer have the part of me that wants to fight an existence where the only meaningful conversations can concern how best to avoid starvation.
Maybe I’m just happy he didn’t say something else. Like dead. Or worse. Hungry.
They’re in. They’re inside. They were outside and now they’re not.
Gregson he just walked out there- just straight out why did he open the gate-he just walked out Jesus Christ and now they’re in
All I know is underneath my steel bed. Me my son my rations there is nothing else. We’ll be safe under here they won’t find us. We’re not Hungry. We’re different.
We’re not Hungry.
They’re screaming-they’re in
we’re not Hungry
jesus Christ they’re screaming
we’re not Hungry
i can hear them
we’re not Hungry
we’re not Hungry
we’re not Hungry
<Entry No. 80. End of Entries.>
joshua fit the battle of jericho
joshua fit the battle of jericho
and the walls came tumbling
The three circled the fire as its ambitious shadows grasped outwards to touch their faces. Their backs were quite cold in the night air. The trees, roots and leaves in curious collusion peered inwards to try and share in the secrets of these peculiar three, slowly dropping leaves as they did so. Their quietness was undetectable.
'You know, I'm getting a bit sick of woods' said one, who had the muddiest boots.
Looking around for a response and receiving none from the pensive faces of his companions, he began to whistle to fill the audible silence he had created. It was an aimless, yet pretty tune.
Unsettled by the incongruous whistling, another said gingerly ’So where do you think we’ll stay now? His face was quietly concealed by a hood.
The third, a clear eyed person with complex, tousled hair look surprised to hear his hooded companion speak. He himself refrained from sharing his thoughts.
'Well does it really matter?' He glanced at his clear eyed friend who appeared enthralled by the fire. 'Where we've been there has been food, where we are there is food. I'm going to assume there will be food where we go. We have a fire and the clothes on our back and though I'm not too much of a fan of this whole sleep in a wooded copse thing, it appears to work pretty well for some of us. Why need we worry about what's to come? I'm pretty sure it hasn’t happened yet' While delivering this rhetoric to his hooded companion he stood and paced about a bit. Upon finishing he sat down on a log and whistled the end of his tune.
'What if we never find a home?' The other meekly inquired from under his hood.
'Home? Is that what you want?' He became animated again, his whistling ceased. 'I don't know about you, but I've had just about as much home as I can handle' A crow seemed to vociferate a croak in assent.
The timid speaker withdrew further into his hood in attempt to retract his earlier comment. He still thought what he thought though.
The fire crackled on, unperturbed.
Running a hand through his tousled hair, with a slight discolouring of his clear eyes their silent companion prepared to speak. The wind died down slightly and the flames were no longer fanned, extinguishing some of them. He made sure his companions were watching him.
'Do we really need home?' Was his quiet question to the fire. 'We think we can go where we like, but we can't help but return home. But this tie doesn’t exist, really. There’s no real connection, people who don't understand just like to think there’s one, yet still we are inexorably drawn home. Maybe it tethers us to safety. Maybe it holds us back. Maybe it is an anchor. Maybe a millstone' The fire appeared not to know which. After a long pause, he said ‘I think we’re all homeless’
The clear eyed, tousle-haired gentleman scratched his head and rested it on his dirt-worn knuckles, his opinion spoke. The others’ eyes were downcast, thinking rebellious thoughts conspicuously. They remained this way together, asleep in their poses until night came to an end.
Upon seeing the sun tentatively signalling the morning, they gathered their things, stamped out the fire and swept it, removing any trace of their activities and began to walk out of the woods. They were again silent.
As they left, the trees continued to rustle, gossip and shed leaves in conspiracy. The leaves that fell remained on the ground, and they too rustled in their own way, despite having left the safety of the tree-tops. They rustled when curious strangers who sleep in wooded copses walked on them.
They were very much at home.
So I don’t put anything on tumblr for months, I slap on the old page a collaboration Matt asked me to help him with and suddenly I get more notes than anything I’ve ever done and end up being featured on prose! I’m beginning to think I’ve been missing out while away from tumblr…
I must sincerely thank Matt for involving me with his amazing vision, and give him the credit he deserves as the main creative force behind this project. Wow, I really should do some more collaborations.
Please do have a gander at Matt’s blog http://tooflytorecognize.tumblr.com/ I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
Jim Kennedy rubbed his hands together nervously as he scanned the room. He just got new glasses and they were pinching his nose. He stroked his bald head. A nervous tick left over from adolescence. The people that walked by were dressed in electronic clothing that had come out in 2170. The fabric was solar powered and automatically charged any electronic items on person. The only problem was that the public thought it was too gaudy in the 70s, but in the last ten years, they had slowly become more popular. Jim Kennedy was dressed in a black suit; something that never went out of style. Jim was a lanky man. His hair had started falling out when he was thirty. He always joked that he was lucky he had met his wife, Carol before all his hair fell out. That is, until she died. He sighed. The world was about to enter the twenty-third century and they still hadn’t cured cancer.
They can put a colony on Mars, but they can’t cure cancer. They can make a space elevator, but they can’t cure cancer. They can engineer genetically optimal offspring for close to no cost, but they can’t cure cancer.
He supposed that getting rid of the genetic disposition for cancer could be argued to be a cure, but that didn’t help people like him and Carol, the last generation of which the majority was born naturally. Now close to ninety-eight per cent of all babies born this year were genetically engineered.
There was a little ding from the receptionist’s scanner as she scanned in a new patient, another pregnant woman and her husband. Jim couldn’t stand waiting rooms for exactly that reason. Everything has to ding nowadays. The pregnant woman had blonde hair and blue eyes, just like the receptionist, the husband and the majority of the younger people in the waiting room. No one was bald like Jim. Jim sighed; he and Carol had always joked about his baldness, as she would pat his head and say he was not bald, but merely streamlined. The jokes became less frequent during Carol’s chemotherapy of course. Jim actually thought baldness quite suited her; she bore it with a grace and indifference which he quite admired.
He sighed again and stroked his head. Another ding sounded and a synthetic voice came across the tannoy: ‘Mr Kennedy’s appointment is now ready. Gene Therapy Technician, Doctor Savery is waiting in room M15’. Jim’s watch told him the appointment was exactly on time. It irritated him.
Smoothing down his suit, he left the ding-filled waiting room and walked down an extraordinarily clean corridor to the door marked M15, G.T.T Savery M.D. He knocked and a voice told him to enter with rehearsed tranquility.
He pushed open the door made of minimalist frosted glass. On the other side was a simple office. A desk with its back to an open window sat on a grey shag carpet. London sat in the background. A goldfish swam in a gigantic tank all by itself on the right. The tank was a part of the wall. Behind the desk sat a fat man with a red face: the presumed Dr. Savery. His grotesque mustache sat like a brown caterpillar under his button nose.
He looked like a character out of a fairy tale. The type of character that deceives the naïve protagonist into mistrusting him.
Fortunately, Jim was no protagonist in any story. And even if he were to be, he would be far from the naïve type.
“I want a baby. My wife is dead. I want a son.”
The cheerfulness drained from Savery’s face. This gave Jim a little bit of satisfaction. “I see. I’m sorry for your loss. Do you have a sample of her DNA that we may use?”
“I do. I have a bit of her hair. And I want it to be genetically paired with mine.”
“Naturally. What sort of package shall we give you? The standard? This includes the best resilience against disease, best possible physical specimen given the gene pool, and opting out of unsightly or undesirable characteristics. Choice of eye color and hair color. It’s possible to give you some additional depth if we add a third party of DNA. We have some choice specimens to sample. They’re a little on the pricey side, because of limited supply and high demand, but I think for a customer such as yourself, we can give you a special discount. Five per cent? Seven?”
“No. I don’t want any of that. My wife and me only. And I want the characteristics to be randomized.”
“Yes, I don’t want any say in the matter.”
“Sir, I don’t understand. Your son could turn out to have a predisposition to heart disease or alcoholism that could be avoided. Or worse, he could turn out to be mentally handicapped.”
“When you put it that way, there are some things I would like to have control over.”
“There, I knew you were a reasonable man.”
“I want him to be predisposed to male pattern baldness. I, my father, my grandfather, and my great grandfather all had male pattern baldness. I want my son to have male pattern baldness.”
Savery’s face contorted. “Are you joking? Is this a joke?”
Jim didn’t say anything.
“I don’t understand. Why would you refuse to give your child every advantage? It’s just cruelty to withhold the best chance from them.”
“Their best chance? I’m sorry, now I’m the one who is confused. I am giving my son the chance to understand what it means to be human. To find wonder and beauty in imperfection. When my wife died, she was bald. She was the most beautiful person I knew. Nobody comes close to her equal. She was not born with these so-called ‘advantages’. This is what she would want. That his humanity and random roll of the dice fall where they may lie. And that the roll be viewed without the rose-colored lenses of ‘fortune’ against ‘misfortune’. ‘Advantage’ against ‘disadvantage’. ‘Desirable’ against ‘undesirable’. What a juvenile way to look at things. What are we? Are we worshipers of the physical and appearance of youth and health? No. Death is inescapable. Bald or not, it’s how we live life. Not how we look while we live it.”
Savery was sitting back in his chair. It strained in the effort to hold him up. His floppy chin hung over his collar and rested on the knot of his tie. His eyes bugged out of his head. He looked like he was about to suffocate.
Jim rose from his chair. He put the vial with the DNA samples on the desk.
“Now do your job. Call me when you have our son. And keep your third party samples away from him.”
With that, Jim walked out of that place, with no intention of returning to such a shrine of the vessel and not its contents.
If he had the choice, he would have walked out of that place with Carol and they would have made a child on their own.
He stopped and looked up at the overcast sky. “A promise is a promise, huh? I hope you think it’s worth it.”
And with the crack of sunshine through the clouds, he knew it was a resounding “Of course it is.”
A collaboration with the highly talented Matt of http://tooflytorecognize.tumblr.com/ It was his idea to this sci-fi collaboration and it was an honour to be asked to do it with him and share a part of his vision. Please do enjoy :)
This is a dark night of the soul.
Letters are cascading with cluttersome anguish as they bang at my window; they make a score of jarring nuisances, attempting to assemble an inky soundtrack.
Nights like these, pertaining to this particular pain, they try so devilsomely hard to make themselves apparent. They try to seduce and attract me with the subtle ways one can arrange them, the prolific plosives and succulent sussurations, they try to make me their puppet.
One can abstain from them. One can avoid cunning and unexpected words like ubiquitous, try instead quotidian words like pavement or elbow.
But they always end up drawing me back in. I become lost in them.
Nights like these, I spend hours contemplating the unrelenting perfection of the word ‘perspicaciousness’, and marvel ceaselessly at Shakespearian syllables like ‘soused gurnet’.
I am sometimes prevailed upon to wonder how much of me is just words. I often have little else to offer people, and little, or indeed nothing else about which to think. Or with which to think.
And yet they don’t exist.
Well how can they? There is nothing material, tangible or plausible about them. They are concepts, precariously wobbling on the edge of reality, in a permanent state of befuddling quasi-existence. Without us they would never have even come into being; unless of course, they were there to begin with.
However on nights like these, they still seem to make quite amiable companions.
Maëlys was never what you would call a traditional housewife: She had always hated cooking, and never cooked anything more than was absolutely necessary, she hated anything involving needles and thread or the word ‘crochet’ and she outright refused to let her husband say ‘honey, I’m home!’ on pain of immediate and un-ceremonious castration. Maëlys was never particularly keen on stereotypes, and liked to be independent of the constraints of the ordinary and uninteresting. She decided long ago she would shape her own character, that there was no need to fit a brief in life.
Having said that, when the family lived in a house in one of those cloying little villages you only find in England, where church fetes and baking competitions are common practice, she couldn’t help but feel a little bit of envy for those ‘perfect’ housewives next to whom she lived. They would always be immaculately made up, delicately clutching a vase of hydrangeas or a geometrically indefectible Victoria Sponge cake, wearing light, wispy dresses and winning colourful rosettes for their chutneys and tarts. Maëlys would see them, and although her first reaction would to be to scoff them as automatons and conformists, she would often feel a pang of underlying jealously for their apparent affluence. Or perhaps even guilt; she would often wonder if one of those skinny little things with the Bakewell tarts would have actually made her husband happier if he had married one of them instead. This was certainly untrue, as he would often be scoffing along with Maëlys at these frilly clones, but the fear was still there.
That was why, now that the family was moving house, Maëlys decided to make a slight change to herself; she was going to make gardening her personal project. Gardening wasn’t like baking a cake or knitting; it didn’t involve frilly pinafores, the word ‘crochet’ or other such nonsense. Gardening was earthy, wholesome and productive, and yet it was still a respectable housewife occupation. The new house had a big, long garden next to the driveway, and it already had flowerbeds ready for planting. She could see it now, it was going to be a beautiful sight: dozens of beautiful colours stemming from the blossoms of dozens of plants, all of them individual to her creation and care, all of them a sign of her affluence and skill. She allowed herself to become quite excited about it all.
However, it seemed that whatever random and inexplicable forces which govern the coincidences that take place on this Earth had different plans in my mind for Maëlys and her garden.
Whenever a moving van or someone who wished to help move needed to park in the driveway, Maëlys and her husband would have to move their cars onto Maëlys’ garden. Maëlys was assured that this would not harm the garden, nor make it any more difficult to plant flowers in it and it probably wouldn’t have either. Just so long as it didn’t rain.
It was almost as if English weather decided to rise to the challenge. Because it rained. It rained a lot. Not just cats and dogs but guinea pigs and impala and all the bloody animals at the zoo too. And what that meant for poor Maëlys was that her beautiful garden turned into a slushy, muddy pulp. So now the ground was too flooded to plant anything and Maëlys’ vision of a colourful garden which would make even the best baker of jam sponges jealous had become nothing but a sea of vapid brown.
‘I just wish I could have had this one thing, you know’ Maëlys said to her husband one evening.
‘I know, I’m very sorry about that, it is a terrible shame. Perhaps you could ask Alan Titchmarsh to wave his wand and turn it back into a garden, eh?’ He replied in a very tired attempt to cheer her up. Needless to say, it didn’t really work.
But over the next few weeks after the family had settled into their new home, a rather wonderful occurrence began to take place.
Out of the muddy mess which Maëlys’ garden had become, dozens of poppies began to sprout, grow and spread their gentle red petals, to such an extent that the entirety of the garden was transformed into a dotted canvas of crimson, creating such a thick canopy that the ground could not be seen for poppies. It was, in short quite astonishingly pretty.
Maëlys could hardly believe it. Neither could her husband.
‘How’d you do this?’ He asked.
‘I didn’t do a thing. The seeds must have been in the soil from a long time ago and the churning of the Earth brought them back to the surface again. I’ve read about this happening on occasion, like Flander’s fields sort of thing, but it’s very rare. Especially in this… quantity’
‘Well perhaps they were waiting for the right person to come along.’ Maëlys turned to look at her husband. They both started to laugh.
After that, people were always knocking on their door to tell them how beautiful their garden looked, and asking how they came up with the idea to do it. Maëlys would just smile and say it came to her in a dream.
The family never moved out of that house, and Maëlys kept the garden liked that the whole time, tending to her poppies well into old age.
And no one ever made a jam sponge that could compare to Maëlys’s garden.
Herbert Clark’s tie began to itch.
It was only a slight sensation at first, but it started to increase exponentionally after time, until it became impossible for Herbert to focus on what on Earth was going on in the meeting to which he was supposed to be paying close attention.
The sensation wasn’t like scratchy wool or rough fabric. It was like an insect. Something small and carnivorous biting his neck and throat incessantly, sucking and dredging all the impetus out of him. It was a small thing, an itchy tie, but it wasn’t the only small thing that was affecting Herbert. And lots of small things can become quite momentous when combined.
It was a hot day. In response to this someone had placed an electric fan in the corner. The fan moved from side to side with agonising slowness, and clicked every time it got to the extreme of one side before moving on to the next. It whirred and clucked and was annoyingly mesmerising; it was one of those instances in which bored people become transfixed by annoying things, unable to tear away for lack of interest elsewhere. It was also useless; no one in the room felt its air. Herbert dubbed it the ‘Sisyphus fan’ in his head, which was a brief source of amusement; largely because he liked the idea of that fan spending eternity in hell completing a pointless and impossible task.
The other men in this room were irritating Herbert too. They all looked so God damn similar! Each one: a black or grey suit with a white shirt and tie, shoes polished to earnestly gleaming perfection, hair slicked back and a forced smile that said ‘I’m really listening to your input’. Herbert in that instance could read those smiles though. He saw that none of them cared about executive claptrap like synergy, they were all really thinking ‘How best can I kiss arse so I can brown nose my way into a promotion?’ or something achingly similar to that.
But what really sickened Herbert, was the realisation that he looked just like that too.
Upon having this epiphany, Herbert abruptly stood up. All the identical business faces in the room turned to look at him, including the executive leading the meeting, who stopped talking about synergy to stare daggers at Herbert.
Barely even registering these faces anymore, Herbert began to take off his very itchy tie, and tie it neatly around his head. He then proceeded to take off his shining shoes as well, and then did the same with his trousers, blaser and shirt.
Finally, wearing nothing but a very sweaty vest, boxer shorts and a tie around his head, he proceeded to walk the length of the meeting room to the dumbfounded executive by the door who was leading the talk, and kissed him squarely on the forehead. The executive did nothing, he just stood there in amazement.
Herbert looked at the people in the room for a while, taking in their flabbergasted expressions. He no longer felt contempt for them, he was past that. No, now he felt only pity.
After a short period of drinking in this silence, he eventually opened his mouth and said:
'Sorry fellas, I'm not just not feeling very synergetic today'
With that, he opened the door and left the company forever.
They say he makes fans now.
My notebook is untidy.
I don’t write in it, I scrawl and splurge ink onto its delicate pages, ripping and tearing but keeping it intact. Every time I put my pen against it I’m forcing myself on it, trying to fit the entirety of my tatterdemalion mind roughly in between its covers.
The leather is worn, the binding’s going and the latch on the front no longer clicks because I take it with me everywhere and it doesn’t fit in my pocket. It had a design on the cover but that’s long since faded. My designs are the only architecture allowed in my notebook.
My hand writing is awful too. I take a garish red pen and scratch and scribble with it, leaving something aesthetically atrocious that barely resembles English and only I can read. Every other word is crossed out or looks like it has been crossed out, but never both.
But I like it that way.
My notebook looks like the inside of my head, and I don’t want the writing in it to look pretty or to be evenly spaced like a word document. I want my writing to look like someone’s torn themselves apart with a pen, and my blotchy red scrawls are the bloody aftermath.
And if that means it looks like a two year old has been given a pen and a notebook to shut them up,
So be it.
I’ve been told,
that writing is very attractive.
I’ve been told,
that bleeding literature gently onto parchment
is a great way to get a girl.
So I cut open my pen now and let literary blood coagulate,
but all the girls are out talking to boys,
and I’m extending metaphors in my pyjamas.
He walked calmly to the beach. People played and did beach things; they seemed to enjoy the fulfilment of stereotypical activities.
He wore a shirt with buttons, light of colour but not sanguine: an aged wistfulness, more like. He also wore shorts with parrots on them. They were very bright.
He walked over to a part of the beach largely clear of beachgoers with some particularly nice sand, and set to work on making a sand castle.
The sand castle he started to make was going to be very big. It was going to surprise lifeguards who have been attending beaches all their working lives, Intently and intermittently inattentively watching beach activities for hours on end, and hence had become close to experts on sand castles. None of them had ever seen a sand sculpture so ambitious.
The man with the parrot shorts and the nice shirt had no spade; he instead used his hands. It was difficult that way, but he knew that difficult things are often worth doing. Besides, this way, he knew the castle was truly his; his hands were all that touched it from beginning to completion, the only mechanism of construction being him. It was his creation, nothing to do with any spade manufacturer. This was nice somehow.
He was getting along fine the way he was, too. The sand castle grew and grew at an alarming rate, his hands shaping and patting with satisfying regularity. And it wasn’t just a lump of sand either: stunningly intricate crenellations were shaped under sandy fingertips and walls were patted until they reached an impregnable sheen of solidity, belying the fragility of sand as a building material. It wasn’t long before people came along and became quite interested in this man, his parrot shorts and his magnificent castle.
And as its shape and stature became clearer, people began to see stories in its architecture. Plots and strange, far-off characters amongst the delicate battlements. Meaning became attached irrepressibly to the structure.
People all seemed to see different tales in the man’s castle.
One came along and said ‘That’s where I lived as a child. Not out loud, I mean. I mean, you know, in my head’.
Another said ‘That’s the baron’s castle. But he’s only evil because he wasn’t given ice cream as a child you know’.
And another said ‘Craig lives there. He measures moustaches and fights dragons’.
People seemed to see the man’s marvellous sculpture and drop all inhibitions and let flow their deepest imaginations, leaving all sorts of strange and tall tales told to confused ears.
Long after the creation was finished, people came to see the attraction and there was a great gathering of people around the castle. No one took any pictures; this would have usually been quite strange but all who might have normally were too dumbfounded to think about saving this memory, except as an actual memory. They did talk though. Not just amongst friends, but freely, with everyone they could. They conversed fluidly about the castle and the narrative they saw in it no matter who they were, until it got too dark to see the castle anymore, and they all went home.
The man in the parrot shorts stayed a while though, to look at his castle. He saw through the darkness all of their stories at once, played out among the crumbling spires and hallways of an unusual sand castle.
In the morning, the sand castle was gone. So was the man and his nice shirt and parrot shorts. Tides have a way of doing that; rendering all things impermanent.
After that, everyone just decided to get on with their lives. It had happened, it was wonderful, but it’s not going to happen again.
But everyone who witnessed the man, his parrot shorts and his castle remembers this event with stunning clarity.
And a lot of them now tell it as a story at parties or to friends or grandsons, their eyes lit with passion as they recount that wondrous experience.
No one ever believes them.
A short story based on the blog: ford-notthebloodycar-collier
because he asked nicely
Shaken from the rocky terrain of her mind, Alice gathered up her loose papers before the final bell had time to stop its overzealous peal. She slipped her backpack over thin shoulders and scurried from the emptying class as fast as her legs would carry her.
Making her way to the furthest room in the school, Alice felt like a fish trying to swim against the current. She kept her head down and pushed through the eager afternoon rush until she exited the main hallway and was the only occupant of the lonely hall.
Her steps slowed to a stop and her ears gently perked at the notes filling the empty corridor. The sounds were tentative at first, choppy. She smiled, knowing that he was just messing around and settling in. He always needed a grace period to empty his mind out before he really got going.
She stayed where she was until the notes began to rush toward her. When they swelled big enough to fill the hall, she started toward the classroom. She was careful not to be noticed as she approached the glass for a small peek inside.
The rest of the room was drab and lifeless, but the piano and the boy at the bench defied the small space. His hands danced over waiting keys, inciting a riot of beautiful sound.
He moved fluidly, with a secret smile that stayed strictly between him and the well-worn instrument. She had spent her fair share of time trying to figure out the puzzle in that smile, but she knew she was missing a few of the pieces and left it alone.
Delighted by the scene, Alice dropped her backpack and settled in on the scuffed floor, second hand guitar draped across her lap. With a door between them, she stretched her nimble fingers and began to play.
A piece Estee wrote about me (because I shamelessly begged her to) which actually had a genuine emotional resonance for me.
And it’s also bloody brilliant.
There was a moment.
I was going home. It was my Dad’s car and we crested a hill.
I’d hardly looked out of the window on this journey, but I decided to then and I saw a building.
The thing is, it was more than just a building. I looked up and it struck me as something otherworldy, as it was so perfectly and peculiarly backlit to the point it became any conceivable structure possible, almost amorphous because of the light, but somehow uniquely powerful. I couldn’t rightly tell what it was, cresting the hill. Orange light swanned out gingerly from behind it, in such an affecting colour; it was so immensely warm, it seemed more potent than sunlight, a colour somewhere in between the radiance of firelight and the sweetness of a tangerine. I thought it had to be a sunset, and one of those ‘tricks of the light’ you hear about that had made it look so odd: there’s nothing else that could look so warming and affecting, even if it was a strange colour.
I didn’t consider how peculiar it is to see a sunset at 11 o’ clock at night. To be fair, the whole sight was quite peculiar, and I wouldn’t have doubted any solution, so awestruck was I.
As we went further over the hill on which the building was situated, and the vision of this small, shadowy-fronted structure haloed in orange gradually became what it was, I was actually quite surprised.
It was quite sudden.
We came over the hill and it was floodlights in a car park behind a pub.
That was it. A pub and some floodlights.
The really strange thing is though, I still don’t know whether I’m disappointed or not.
And sometimes, the smallest girl grows up and out until she is sure the tips of her fingers will graze wisps of sky. Despite everything she keeps her arms locked at her sides.
Chin tucked into chest, she smiles. Secretly, she knows what it is to be endless.
At night, when there is no one left to look, her arms reach so she can cradle starless sky. Nimble fingers shred clouds like tear away pieces of cotton candy.
She allows herself a taste and then back to the business of gathering dreams.
She lives humbly, hiding cotton-candy magnificence from the others. The others make their business normality; not as exciting as dream gathering, but with better hours.
The smallest girl doesn’t care about this though, she’s happy to spend her daylight hours fabricating the illusion of being infinitesimal.
This way, at night she can become all the more tremendous.
It’s then that dreams become her strawberry jam and tea cake, her flowery wallpaper or her eccentric aunt: one of those peculiar little pleasures in which one indulges from time to time, but never publicly or with friends.
She keeps her compiled dreams for herself, locked away in a leather-bound notebook with a cloud for a book mark. She looks at them when she’s alone.
The smallest girl holds the door open for you and receives no thank you, the smallest girl gets a haircut that no one notices, the smallest girl never gets more than a second glance from people in the street: she’s practically invisible.
But you should keep your eyes peeled for the smallest girl, because one day you might come across her and not pass her by. And if you notice her and you stop to appreciate her and you’re very, very careful not to step on her, she might just let you see her full height.
Trust me, it is worth the wait: For in her quiet growth there is an astounding beauty that confounds the ordinary with unusual wonder; sweet as candy floss, twice as addictive, and infused with the odour of far off dreams.
Good luck finding her.
Ford- regular text