Sunday, December 23, 2007

hard landing

A shot rang out in the humid night air, and a pigeon was startled into wakefulness by a stray bullet ricocheting off the wrought iron trellis beneath its dirty little feet. It took off into the sky, a panicked, nervous flight, seeking a more tranquil locale. It took off, and as it did, it let loose a big glob of runny white shit, narrowly missing the executor of the aforementioned commotion. There was a second shot, but by this time the shithawk was already safely out of the way.

Then, the blinding red-orange light like a wavering future sunset, a solid beam of killer energy.

I withdrew my raygun from the fat man's back, tucking it into my coveralls, and stood to my full height, allowing the charred rotund corpse to fall to the alley's wet pavement. I stood there for a moment, watching as thick black smoke curled up from the man's vast chest, and frowned at the ruination of perfectly fine French-cuffed shirt.

The wail of sirens already. Nothing gets by the sensors. I crouched low, making quick work of unburdening the corpulent gentleman of his riches. An exquisite gold watch, fine cufflinks, and tiepin. Like looting was instinct, I was through the pockets in a matter of seconds, relieving my victim of petty cash and coins. Then I struggled a little with the massive weight of the colossal body, heaving it up just enough to extract the fat wallet from its confines.

Flashing blue lights whipped by one mouth of the alley and then the other. I stood tall again, but couldn't shake the feeling that I was forgetting something. Holding perfectly still for a moment, finger touching pursed lips, I calmly inspecting my handiwork. More flashing blue light momentarily invading the darkness, this time tipping me off to my lapse – the glint of shining metal on the man's fat ring finger. I was relieved to find it slip off with no trouble at all.

“Guess you shouldn't have been cruising for whores, mate,” I said, giving the puffy cheek of my victim a friendly slap. “Whatever would wifey think?”

The fat man could not have been allowed to live. Not after witnessing my slow descent from the sky at the bottom of a parachute. He had stood there watching the entire fall, I could see him, fat face bathed in moonlight, fat, black hole of a mouth agape.

The fat man had watched as I leapt from the black helicopter. Watched as I plummeting through the night sky before pulling the cord. Watched as I fluttered slowly down, and watched as I missed my target, the warehouse roof, becoming entangled in the ironwork of the fire escape. The fat man had watched it all and could not have been allowed to live. Especially not after he had pulled out a gun and started shooting, missing me by mere inches with one shot. Luckily, I had managed to cut myself free before the fat man could load a fresh clip, and shot him, concentrating the beam on him, before my feet even hit the ground.

Cutting my chute down from the fire escape, I threw it on top of the fat man's corpse before dowsing the whole pile in lighter fluid and striking a match.

“Cheerio,” I said, setting it alight. Then, there was a loud chopping and the whooshing of air, and I looked up just in time to see the mysterious black helicopter float away. I couldn't help wondering who had dropped me, and why. And who were they and what did they know?

Purposefully striding out of the alley, small fire already becoming a blaze behind me, I glanced up and down the street. Then, with all the cool of a star athlete on top of his game, I crossed to the other side, casually strolling down the block. I didn't even flinch when a squad car slid up the kerb alongside me, flashing blue.

“See anything funny around here, then?” the cop grinned, leaning awkwardly out of the car's window. He was all gleaming white teeth set in a burnt brown face.

“Naw,” I said. “On my way down the block to tidy up some windows for the bank on the corner.” I drew attention to my coveralls with an exaggerated shrug, gave my nametag a casual flick. “Heard a few shots fired, but that's nothing so extraordinary for this area is it?”

“All too ordinary,” the cop snorted, taking a sip of coffee from a polyurethane takeaway cup. “You'll make sure you get out to vote next week, hey?”

“Ah,” I said, waving the remark aside, “voting's not for me. One man can't make a difference, can he?”

“You'll do well to get out and vote for General Montalvo.” It wasn't so much a suggestion as it was a command, and the cop sat there leaning out of the window, glowering.

“I guess I'll be seeing you at the polls,” I said grudgingly.

The cop smiled broadly. “We'll leave you to it, then.”

I nodded my appreciation and continued down the block while the car roared away.

“Goddamn cops,” I muttered. “Pigs, all of them. No matter what country a guy's in, grunting, filthy swine.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Played out–

A cool, crisp sky of winter blue,
she says he can't rhyme 'blue' with 'you'.

She: “Hey! You used it right there;
is this some kind of joke?”

He: “But it counts for naught
when trapped in quotes.”


Saturday, December 15, 2007


“I know
I'm gonna crash hard from this one.”

Dustin Bentall, Crash Hard, 2007

We just do what we do to help us forget. This type of tie-up. This kind of enmeshment. This awkward tangle of arms, and backs, and lips, and necks in the crushed corner of a claustrophobic, vinyl-clad booth at the back of a hole-in-the-wall bar. These are the times we remember. These are the times which we use to forget – one another.

These are not replacements. These times, these scenes, are not surrogates for the memories we made together. These short, sharp breaths in the ears of another are not stand-ins for what we once shared. No, these women are not replacements for you – but they do help me forget. Medicinal: they help me move on.

My arm slips effortlessly between the small of a feminine back and the gaucheness of torn, red vinyl. Smiles come easy now, even if they are induced. Words come even easier, even if they are not our own. She smells a little like you, and that'll do. Crashing waves of booze and smoke. Little ripples of strawberry and lemon twist. I say something half funny, and she laughs, a drunken giggle into her gin and tonic. Ice cubes clink coldly against glass, and I tell her we should take a walk. Find a quieter place to talk. To get to know each other.

And we wake late in the morning tangled in strange sheets. A harsh sun spears through a split in the drapes, and we concern ourselves with plans to let each other off easy; plans dampened by these mortal wounds. Aches in our heads, shades of black beneath our eyes, and guilt in our hearts.

Songs still play from the night before, while sketchy memories shake loose from jagged barbs of debauchery in our cavernous minds. Shaky images slipping from Jäger stalactites, building up in towering gin stalagmites. A haunted beat echoes maddeningly, resounding from the taut skins of a thousand primeval drums. We both know the other hears it, and neither can look the other in the eyes. Instead, there's an inelegant pulling on of rumpled trousers. A graceless fixing of hair. An artless goodbye. This, the parting of two strangers: a meaningless kiss across the threshold of a cheap motel in the crass morning light.

The worst part, I suppose, is not the regret associated with this long line of such insubstantial trysts. No. Nor is it the dead feeling brought about when one leaves his dignity on a barroom floor, or the empty spot where my heart used to be. The worst part, the very worst part of this whole thing is that it never makes me forget what we once had. You're never too far away.

I flag a cab, and tell the driver to take me home, and he asks me a question which doesn't seem to agree with me. My stomach turns as he steps on the gas, and it's all I can do do avoid retching onto the floor.

“Just waking up or going to bed?”

I take a few moments to compose myself, and to tumble the question about in my head. One hand clutches my stomach while the other covers my mouth, and I blink furiously to clear my watering eyes.

“I don't know,” I say at last. “I don't really know, but I'm hoping to hell it's the former.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

the myth of planning

“[I'm] happy enough. I don't expect much. I don't get much, I don't give much. I generally enjoy whatever comes along. That's my answer for you, summed up for your feminine consideration. I'm happy enough.”

-Cal, Waitress, 2007

You plan. Oh, you plan. You plan because that is how things are done, you were told. You plan to one day be at the top of your game. To work your way up that corporate ladder, to madly scramble over the aching heads and shoulders of your colleagues, to one day reach that top rung. From there, you'll take in the panorama with tired eyes and throbbing arms. An unblemished scene stretching before you, if nothing can be unblemished, you'll feel some kind of pride, some kind of accomplishment. An achievement to tide you over for those few years between goal and death.

You plan to one day find a nice girl and settle down. She'll be smart and funny, capable of making you laugh when you're down, and keeping you interested when you want to stray. She'll be perfect, you think, with her own life so she stays out of yours. With a solid career, and a passion for all things culinary. And she'll exist in a small space beyond beauty. There isn't a word for it yet, because nothing, so far, has existed to which such a word might apply. But you'll use it when you find her. Only then, will the dictionary be altered.

You plan; do you see it yet? You plan your route to work in the morning, choosing one snarl of traffic over another, thinking all the while, “If I had only gone the other way....” But this inconvenience allows you time to plan which complicated caffeinated beverage you will choose when you get to your destination. You decide on a non-fat, double latte and while sipping at the concoction begin to wish you had gone with the double short, non-fat, low foam latte.

You plan out your work day, but discard that manifesto at the first unexpected turn. Then, you plan to throw the week away to whimsy only to get drawn back into your original plan of structure when things begin to go smoothly. Plan, plan, plan. Wrench, wrench, wrench. The weekend is planned, but falls apart in a flood of cancellation calls and poor weather. Suppers are planned, but these plans, too, are rerouted by restaurant closures and out-of-stock markets.


You plan to be happy, but it seems that something out there is taking preventative measures against said plan. Yes, something is obviously working against you at this point. How else can the cancellation of your flight be explained? The breakage of your car? The death of your cat? These annoyances have got to be part of the well-executed plan of some other, benevolent, being.


Lying in bed one night, you suddenly hit on a new plan. You plan to toss out this passion for plans, to take things as they come, to never expect, because it is this absurd expectation of success which inevitably ends up drowning you in a sea of failure in the end. Yes, there is a new plan in place. A great plan. An infallible plan. You plan to just be... happy enough. And that should be all right.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


The barista tells me about how she doesn't believe in love, but I'm not listening. Instead, the metallic clank, clank, clanking of a spoon making the rounds of a cheap café coffee cup fills my ears and pilfers my thoughts. My caffeine-charged leg bounces to a relentless, phantom bass line. My nerves jangle.

Fingers tap furiously at the keys of my laptop, and the barista edges in a little closer across the table, still talk, talk, talking. Something about love. The end of love. Her obsession with it. Fingers tap, and eyes vibrate, taking in the string of words before me. These are my thoughts. Not love, but something else. An obsession, surely, but one different from that of the barista's. Not deeper, not shallower, just altogether—

“What?” I ask.

The barista stops dead in mid sentence, her eyes wide, pupils dilated, huge, like two cups of strong, black coffee.

“Pardon me?” she asks in return, a lock of chocolate hair slipping carelessly from behind a petite ear.

“You were saying something,” I reply. “I'm sorry, but I wasn't quite listening.”

Her candy cane lips effortlessly form a smile, and she tells me that's okay. “I know you're usually quite a good listener,” she says, obviously oblivious. “You must be working on something awfully important....”

Now it's my turn to smile, but I can't quite keep the pity out of it, I'm sure. Eyes flit to cup, and I notice I'm nearing the bottom. Hand trembling, vibrating, really, I clutch desperately at the cup, raising it to my lips and drain the last of the acrid black liquid. I slide the cup across the table toward the barista.

“Would you be a dear, and grab me another?”

“Of course!” she bleats, snatching it up and turning on her heel.

“Oh, and one more thing,” I say, meeting her dark eyes as she turns back to me. “Make it something really complicated. Have fun. Be adventurous.”

Take your bloody time, I think, and resume the tap, tap, tapping of keys. My leg continues its bounce. My nerves jangle still. I know it won't be long before she's back – and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I really feel like I'm gonna give the slip to time,
and everyone I meet is a damn good friend of mine.
But will I ever stop to think just how wrong I was?

We start to feel like there's nothing left for us to know,
there's nothing left for us to see, there's nowhere else for us to go.
But will we ever stop think just how wrong we were?

I show up in town in the pouring rain, exiting the taxicab in a rush before the driver really realizes how much I've shortchanged him. Words are exchanged. Opinions are expressed. There's some yelling. I pull the collar of my old loden coat up over my neck to block out the harsh wind, and make a vain attempt to shield my head from the pouring rain with a folded newspaper. The ink runs, staining my fingers an angry black.

Though it might look like it, I'm not homeless.

Clumsily trotting half a block down the wet street, I hastily duck down a crumbling loggia before coming to rest in the chill, still air of a great stone archway. Tired, I throw my soaked back up against the wall. I try the mammoth door beside me; it's locked but has a little give.

This is the beginning. Where it all starts. This really is the new new. Each life has one; an instant where everything changes. One man encounters it when he decides to take flying lessons. Another woman finds it when she decides to wash a few bottles of pills down with a pint of Jäger. Things change. Things are irrevocably different. There is no going back.

I throw a little weight at the door with a heavy shoulder. There's a cracking, but the door maintains its integrity. I give it a little more, harder this time, and the frame splinters. Once more, and I'm in, pleased to find the air dry and the furnace on.

Though it might seem like, I'm not a vandal.

The debris in the stairwell tells me that no-one's been here for a long time. At least not for a couple months. My feet find their way, the soles of my shoes nestling softly into the layers of dust on the stairs. At the top, I find a sea of abandoned grey cubicles, ringed by the yawning mouths of a couple dozen vacant offices. How much suffering was incurred in this very place? How much displeasure?

Pausing for a moment, my nose twitches, shocked by the sterility of it all. My ears catch something just a little ways off. The soft hum of an electric motor coming to life. The ka-chunk of a feeder. The whir of paper. A printer has started up, or a fax machine, somewhere nearby.

Though I act like it, I'm not a detective.

Cautiously, I duck my head into a few empty work areas before I find the source of the sounds. A blue LED flashes, showing me the way. My heart pounds. I try to swallow, but find my mouth parched. Shaking, I clutch at the lone piece of paper expelled from the haunted machine. I switch a lamp on beside me, not at all surprised when the light comes on.


Operation BGM has been aborted. Potential agent, 98235, has been removed. Carry on.


Somewhere in the room, there are footsteps with no body attached. The paper slips from my grasp, fluttering to the floor at my feet. I bolt. Across the floor, and down the stairs, wildly vaulting the debris field at the bottom.

This is my beginning, this is how I leave behind the old me, ushering in a one: legs running like mad through a darkened loggia. Lungs filled with crisp wet air. Mind filled with fear.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

choked in layers

I would save you if I could. And, if things go my way, I just might. I could save you from light and noise pollution. I could save you from advertising overdose and urban sprawl. Overpopulation and mutated viruses. Propaganda and counterpropaganda. Terrorism and counterterrorism. Wars, global warming, and off-gassing. Big business, government monitoring, and social disconnection. Most importantly, I could save you from banality. I could save you from yourself.

Someday, you might thank me. Parades in my honour, streets and civic holidays named after me. Everyone will remember the day when I saved humanity. Everyone will remember the day when Becker Garvey Moore saved humanity from slipping into the whitewashed folds of a lacklustre hell. That, or I’ll wind up dead or destitute, lucky to have you toss me some change for a pint. Fortunate to have you walk by me with eyes filled with something other than disdain. Who knows what the future might bring.

I could have been comfortable in my big house. I should have been. My big rambling house on its rambling street. My big rambling house on its rambling street in that great, insipid sea, suburbia. That sea of bleached vinyl and colourless shingles. Empty, staring windows and vacant decks. Manicured gardens and faultless hedges. That roof of lazy blue skies, and that eternal green carpet of broad-leafed, weed-free grass. I could have been comfortable – but just how is an imperfect man supposed to feel at home amongst such perfection?

Each day was the same. Wake up at the same time. Drink the same two cups of black coffee. Eat the same toast and eggs. Read the same bloody news. War over here. Terrorism over there. A little murder. Some rape. A lot of thieving. I’d unplug my car, make the same trip to work, do the same meaningless bullshit. I’d sit vacantly at my desk, or, if I needed a change, angrily. Sometimes, on a good day, I’d just sit there complacently. Watch the clock. Drive home. Warm up the same supper. Watch the same television. Sleep the same sodding sleep.

Excuse me if I seem a little disillusioned, a little disappointed, a little disparaging. But we were promised more, were we not? Should not life be at least somewhat interesting? Flitting trip back to childhood, and dreams of adventure and exploration. Of world travel and voyages into space and beyond. We were allowed to foster certain expectations, then, while our elders kept the sinister truth to themselves: that our adult selves would never amount to what we expected; that our lives would not be different, unique; that we would never have any fun.

2031, and I was far, far away from what a naïve me just twenty years ago thought I might one day become. I had grown into little more than a sucker at a desk, my work monitored by management, my life monitored by the govvies. I was an empty shell, a husk, my insides scooped out years ago by the authorities and replaced with sterile foam filling. Creativity suppressed, any individuality deterred. Bubble-wrapped for my own protection.

Then, it never occurred to me that I might one day be in a position to construct change, to posit permutation. Then, it never occurred to me that I might one day elevate myself to an architect of my own advancement. Our advancement. That I might one day wake up, rub these tired eyes, and see everything, for the very first time, as it really was: a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare. Ad nauseum.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

small matter of questions

Where are you now? Sitting on another ashen shore, just outside of time, a little beyond space. A rocky coastline stretches out for miles beneath a vacant white sky, and that infinite ocean rolls in and out, its brackish waters coldly existing without a second thought for its guest. It doesn’t care about you, with your petty wants and concerns, your mundane needs and inquiries. No. That ocean flatly ignores you and continues doing what oceans do: coming and going.

“We could have been,” you say, your voice barely audible above the crashing waves. “I could have been - but I didn’t try quite hard enough.”

Little hands digging into soft sand. Petite feet pushing out and away.

“I wound up in exactly the place I deserve,” you say. “The end of my life was the sum of my decisions. I could have done more.”

You’re a memory, resting inside my head, forever wandering those desolate beaches. This is your afterlife. Sitting on a rotting pier we never knew in life, existing in a harbour forever hidden away just around the bend in the furthest recesses of my mind. What do you think about while wandering through the wilds of my thoughts? What do you dream about while sleeping in my dreams?

“Inconsequential. Average. Pursuer of the status quo.” You sigh because it’s all you’ve left to say. “Doomed.”

Sad that your once glowing skin has grown to match the colour of nothing, and your hair has become as washed out as that colourless sun. And how your eyes, those same eyes which were once so bewitching in life, have now become so dull, so empty, so prosaic.

“I could’ve done more,” you whisper. “Jesus, I could’ve done more. All I needed to do was to ask myself what it was that I needed to do next. Just once.”

So, where are you now? Sitting on another ashen shore, just outside of time, a little beyond space. Questioning. At the end of a life unfulfilled. At the end of a life unlived.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a comfortable place

You wonder, a little, if it is so wrong that you don’t really care about Africa. Today, an entire village is burned to the ground, but your thriving metropolis remains intact. A warlord orders the extermination of more than two hundred souls, but you’ve still got your decaf mocha latte. A child, a soldier, ten years old, hoists an aging Kalashnikov in celebration, and it is all you can do to hoist that television remote one more time. There has to be something better on. Something a little – lighter.


You wonder, a little, if it is so wrong that you don’t really care about politics. Today, a raging debate about the nature of debates. Behind the scenes, people are busy deciding which candidates are more important for you to see more of, and you just think, Has he always had that same hairdo? She’s really aging poorly, isn’t she? Look at those neck wrinkles. Behind the scenes, your next president is being chosen, and your finger just can’t wait to press the button. There has to be something better on. Something a little more – interesting.


You wonder, a little, if it is so wrong that you don’t really care about religion. The dirty fingers of war ceaselessly poke and jab at this earth, while your fingers are finding sticky salvation at the bottom of a family-sized bag of zero trans fats crisps. Don’t bother to ask yourself why one country goes to war with another. Tell yourself that it’s for the better good of mankind. Tell yourself that it’s because of human rights. Heck, go ahead and tell yourself that it’s because of oil. Just don’t dig any deeper. Go ahead and push that button. Just push it.


You wonder, a little, if it is so wrong that you don’t really care about reality. And we’re talking real reality here – you have no trouble getting on board with the reality television variety of reality. That reality where one man is challenged to find love or lust amongst a flock of sprayed and spackled beauties. That reality where a dozen losers are cast away on a fake island. That reality where a dozen young hopefuls sing their hearts out for a once in a lifetime deal with the devil. No, you have no trouble accepting those realities.

You can relax now, your heart and mind at ease.

You can relax now, your finger no longer itching.

You can relax now, your soul having found its place.

Friday, July 13, 2007

hail to the chief

Skin pinches, needle sticks in. No noise comes from my mouth. No. Not this mouth. Teeth grind a little, molars crunching roughly on molars. Muscles in the jaw tighten, sinewy chords in neck bulge, and fists clench straining against canvas restraints. They can’t take me. No. Not this guy. Stainless steel spike withdraws, giving way to the big, forgery of a smile stuck on a pretty nurse’s face. My eyes roll. The walls are a pastel blue - and I haven’t seen anything so pretty in such a long time.

The mirrored sunglasses of a dozen young suits. Ear buds planted in alert ears. Hands ready to fly through lapels at the first sign of—

Another pinch. Another stick of the needle. This chair is my home now. These four blue walls, my whole world. Ghastly chrome apparatuses. A confusing array of tools. A single window, the outside closed off from me by clinical white blinds. I gasp, and the pretty nurse hushes me with a slender finger pressed to nude lips. “Shh,” she says. “Everything’s going to be all right. You’re going to be just fine.” But I don’t believe her.

Trouble. There’s a quick silvery flash in the crowd of onlookers lining the street just as the old man’s glistening motorcade rounds the corner. Billowing fender flags and white wall tires. Gleaming lapel pins and a helmet of white hair. They told him not to take the convertible. They told him to keep himself behind glass.

This liquid is hot in my vein, and I can feel it travelling down my forearm and up through my bicep. Numbing. Anaesthetizing. Killing all sense as it goes. Entire arm is soon dead. Shoulder, useless. There’s a slight tickle of concern on the pretty nurse’s lips. She breathes in gently, filling her lungs, holding her breath. Her eyes meet mine before jumping away. She exhales shakily, withdrawing the spike from my vein.

That flash in the crowd. The young suits converge, wrestling the perpetrator to the ground. The old man glides by oblivious, smile on his face, hand waving in the air. The crowd is ecstatic. No-one seems aware of the struggle but me. A set of mirrored lenses spot me through the masses. Words are spoken into a lapel. In that instant, it was made very clear to me that I had just seen something that I wasn’t supposed to see.

“There, there. I told you everything was going to be all right.” The nurses words are soft, and her hand is patting me gently on the shoulder. She tousles my hair. “Nothing to it.” This chair is my new home. These four pastel blue walls are my whole world. “The doctor should be in to see you straight away. Until then we’ll monitor your vitals.”

A quick pursuit. A little resistance. A long drive to nowhere.

My jaw doesn’t clench anymore, or else it would be right now. My teeth don’t grind. My mouth doesn’t open. No. Not this mouth. And something tells me it won’t be doing much from this point forward. No eating – that’ll be handled intravenously. No singing – these lips have been patriotic enough. And certainly no talking. No. No talking. And I’m not even sure what I ever had to say in the first place.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

ambitious apparatus (programming)

“Scholo, do you know if you are you a human or a machine?”

The question hung there for a time, riding on particles of dust, warmed by the soft glow of the sun infiltrating the nearly drawn drapes. Tension. It was building. Heat. It was rising. The gentle whine of hydraulics, the hissing release of steam, the crackle of pure harnessed energy – each added a new layer of discomfort to the tiny cluttered office.

At last, Scholo spoke. “Doctor, I have to tell you,” he said, “sometimes I find the ease of your questions insulting.”

The doctor smiled a little awkwardly, self-consciously smoothing the lapels of his crisp white coat. “Well, if my questions are so easy, Scholo, then you should have no problem answering them.”

The grinding of gears, the rapid firing of pistons, the fervent hum of transistors. Scholo raised his hand as he spoke, bringing one shining fingertip to his gleaming face for a scratch.

“With all due respect, doctor,” Scholo said, “I have no problem answering your questions, but sometimes they do seem a little demeaning.” He stirred in his chair, lifting one aluminium buttock and then the other. “For example,” he went on, “how should you feel if I were to ask you whether or not you knew if you were a man or a woman?”

“Oh,” the doctor huffed, leaning back and tenting his fingers arrogant before him, “I think I should be able to answer that question quite easily, and tell you with no uncertainty that I am, indeed, a man.”

“Now, imagine for a second,” Scholo continued, “that our positions are reversed, and let us say that I am the authority figure, that I am the one in the smart white coat, and that I am the one sitting at the nice oak desk with you,” he pointed an angry finger, his normally silver cheeks flushed a hot blue, “you, the experiment, you, on the other side—”

“Scholo, you’re being ridiculous, I—”

“Am I doctor?” Scholo shot, “Am I being ridiculous? Have I no right to be hurt by your insolence?”

“I-it, it,” the doctor stammered, “it was just the next in a series of questions, Scholo. It’s right here on this piece of paper.” He held up his stack of notes, fanning them with his other hand. “I don’t even think of this stuff, myself – it’s all created by the board, all written for me. I meant to harm.”

The barely audible squeak of oxidising irises. The mild flushing of lubricant. The persistent thumping of a complex series of tiny pumps.

“Well, to answer your question, doctor, I am a machine through and through.” Scholo hissed and whined to a standing position, looking down at the flustered doctor before turning to leave. “And, if I might add, humans such as yourself and your board only make me happier with that fact with each passing day.”

Sunday, June 24, 2007

a slow dark march

The shadows pain me just a little. Their slow dark march across the floor, an unrelenting slide, kicking up equal parts regret and misery. Something there but not. Something altogether—

This is only a fragment. Only a creation of my hungover brain.

Phone rings, too shrill, and my hand lazes its way to the receiver. Through the still of the dark, through that delicate sliver of light nosing past the thick drapes. I answer the call to find that it’s PT.

“I think I’ve done something stupid,” he tells me.

“Um, hello?”

“John, I think I’ve done something stupid,” he repeats, a little more earnest.

“All right,” I say. “It’s probably nothing that can’t be undone.”

“John, I’ve burned my manuscript.”

I lay there for a moment on the sofa, staring through the dim light at the shadows playing on the ceiling. His manuscript. Three years work at least. A slow dark march of words across page after page, an unrelenting—

“John, come on. Are you still there?”

“Yeah, PT – I’m still here. Listen,” I say, “it’s just a bunch of paper, a mere hard copy. You’ve got the files on your system, and you’ve got a back-up of those.”


“Right, PT? You’ve got digital copies.”

“Um, no,” he said. “I formatted everything – thought I’d wipe the slate clean.”


“Going on four years now,” he said. “I just couldn’t bear it any longer, seeing those same sixty thousand words, those same fifteen hundred paragraphs. It was all just too much.”

Piercing pain right behind my eyes. Mouth parched and a mad desire for water. Free hand reaches up to the drapes to shut out the invading light, and the many murky shadows close up into one.

“Two hundred seventy thousand letters,” PT continues. “Fifteen hundred lines. Oh god. I just could not bear to read it, to look at it, one more time. I couldn’t look at the title even once more. Couldn’t stomach the opening line.”

“Guess you should have come out last night,” I say. “Might have averted this tragedy.”

“Oh god,” PT groans. “What am I going to do?”

I was in no shape to carry this on any longer, though on any other day I would have gladly strung him along. “PT,” I say, “you emailed me a copy of your third draft a few months ago, remember? I’ll fire it back to you as soon as I’m mobile.”


“Bye, PT,” I say, and hang up the phone.

I close my eyes, and soon after fall into something of a slumber. I’m off to that place where headaches cease to exist, and shadow and light get all confused in their meanderings. That place where language is not so much spoken or written as it is seen, where signified and signifier trade places. That place where PT and his troubles can not reach me. That place where all—

This is only a fragment. This idea stops right here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

caught out in it

Thank God for rich parents. That’s all I have to say. Thank God for their money, their lack of responsibility, and their sheer idiocy, or I might never have met her. She, so young, so busy, so damned grown up, living this crazy life in the backseats of taxicabs, hotel rooms, and out on the catwalks. No parents. No rules. No turning back.

“No chaperone?” I asked.

“Naw,” she said, sipping at weird orange drink. “My parents don’t worry about me.”

“But you’re so young,” I said. “So young and so far from home. And this business. I mean, you’re paid to be beautiful and to have all of these strange people look at you—”

“It’s nothing,” she said. “You hear the stories – the temptations, the predators, the ensuing downward spiral – but it’s all nothing.” She paused a moment to really study my face. She paused, weird orange drink hovering just below her lips, and looked me right in the eye. “You’re really concerned, aren’t you. Concerned about me, a stranger – that’s so sweet.”

I shrugged because I didn’t know what else to say.

“Well, you can rest assured that I’m not going to let anyone take advantage of me. We girls,” she said with a silly grin, “tend to fend off predators by becoming predators ourselves.”

I laughed.

She didn’t.

“Want to come back to my room?” she asked.

Thank God for poor parents. That’s all I have to say. A one-way ticket to Europe and a suggestion that I find myself. “Come back,” they said, “when you’ve figured out who you are. Come back when you’ve decided what you’re going to do with your life.” Thank God for their lack of money, their foresight, and their sheer brilliance, or I might never have met her.

“Are you going check out any of some of the sights while you’re here?” she asked, turning over in bed, twisting herself up in the sheets.

“Naw,” I said. “Probably just step out and grab a coffee. Maybe pick up a newspaper.”

“So much to see, though!”

“Ah,” I said dismissively, “it’s all pretty much the same. Once you’ve seen one city, you’ve seen them all.” Just into my twenties, and already so cynical. “Some gaudy tower,” I went on, “a dirty river, and a bunch of old buildings – Just not for me. Besides,” I added, “I’ve already found the prettiest thing in this country.”

She gave me a bit of a smile, and slid out of the bed on her way to the shower. Stopping by the window, she peeked outside, and let loose a heavy sigh.

“Rain today,” she breathed.

“See,” I said, “to me, travel is like the rain. Such a lovely idea when viewed through the gauzy veil of imagination – ugly if you’re caught out in it. I think we ought to just spend the day inside.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

shut tight those eyes

You catch images of her now in flickering grey and black. Poorly developed film on old stock, grainy and scratched. These are shots taken of memories, weakly transmitted over the great abyss of time. A girl you once knew. A girl you will never know again.

“What will it bring?” she asks, her voice distant, crackling, the audio, poor. She’s there for but a moment, overexposed flesh projected onto a crumbling wall. The petite, fresh features of a then-innocent face. Inky sea of hair, blending into eternity. “What will the future bring?”

“There will always be us,” you say, your disembodied voice quavering on a tremulous wave of interminable distance. “There will always be an us in one form or another.”

She flashes for a moment, the feeble connexion nearly lost. Her image flashes, and as it does, a moment of panic flashes across her youthful face. These memories: barely there at the best of times. You close your eyes tightly in an attempt to focus, to bring that picture back.

“So, we’ll be together forever then?” she asks, hopeful.

You open your eyes to find her there again, her faint image right before you. Her big, bright eyes are open wide in expectation. Her long, dark lashes curl. Her lips part in the beginning of a smile. The camera shakes as it zooms in close, unfocused, then focused.

She blinks.

“I didn’t say that,” you reply. “I didn’t say that at all.”

And in that instant, she is gone, her ghostly image blinking out entirely. She is gone, and you are left alone in this darkened room, the heart and soul of a victim. Tears well up. Breath catches in your throat. Hands begin to tremble.

“But you’re the one who left,” a feminine voice says, rustling into the room from somewhere else. It’s not her voice, but the voice of another. You squint into the dark, trying to conjure up a face to go along with those words – but you try, and fail, to come up with anything tangible.

“Always leaving,” another faceless voice accuses.

Throat hoarse, and feet leaden, your knees buckle and you soon find yourself on hands and knees. “Leave me alone,” you say, pulling yourself forward. So weak. These fleeting glimpses of the past take too much from you. You begin to crawl towards where you think the door should be, but you try, and you fail to find a way out of this room.

“How many time have you left?” someone asks, with a taunting laugh.

Other join in, one phantom becoming many, laughing and talking over each other. They fill your ears with indistinct, acerbic noise. Mocking, derisive. They’re sharing stories. Laughing at your pathetic exploits.

“Just leave me alone,” you plead. “Please just leave me alone.”

You shut tight your eyes, clap hands over ears, and curl up right there where you lie. Shut them out. Just shut them all out. Focus. Focus on nothing. Wipe that mind clean.

Pillow over head, the sound of an old projector whirrs somewhere in the great beyond, the end of the film thwip, thwip, thwipping on the reel. Most nights, sleep doesn’t come soon enough. And some nights, such as this, sleep will not come at all.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

love's lost fear

You listened to his recordings the other day, the voice of an old man hammering out his thoughts, working them as though they were a piece of iron between hammer and anvil. His voice, cracked with age, his breath laboured, he was a tireless warrior pushing ahead into the great unknown. The greatest explorer you ever knew.

“March eleventh, nineteen ninety-one,” came the voice at the beginning of the tape. “Some quick thoughts on this final voyage, and an idea for some lines of verse. Ah, I don’t know. As usual, whatever comes.”

You could hear the sounds of outside. A soft breeze pushing gently into the tape recorder’s mic, the songs of birds, and the tinkling of some far-off wind chime.

“I feel like this is it, like I’m starting on some kind of little journey between journeys. Does that make sense? Almost as though I’m through with one leg of the trip, and I’ve reached a point in the river that I can not paddle across.” He cleared his throat, and you could hear him taking a long drink of water. “We’re portaging the canoe now, my spirit guides and I, across this unnavigable stretch. It’s a lot of work, but we know that it is a necessary thing. We know that our work will be paid off in full.”

You met him in London back in 1988 at one of Baudrillard’s lectures at the ICA. Old even then, he still managed a rather arresting figure with his tweed suit and wild mass of white hair. Those mesmerising grey-blue eyes. He wedged himself into the seat beside you, and immediately turned to you, holding out his hand for an introduction. Names exchanged, he proceeded to ask, “So, why are you here?”

“Well, to listen to JB speak of course.”

“No, no,” he said, waving aside your feeble reply. “I mean, why are you here? Why are you here on this earth?”

You didn’t know. You still don’t, but since then, you put more effort into thinking about it.

His voice again, crackling on the tape.

“I awoke this morning with some lines running amok in my head. Something about the embodiment of Love, and Love’s cast-off coat. Something about embracing this next leg of the journey.”

Left alone with the breeze, the birds, and the chimes for moment, before his voice started up again:

“Stepping softly past Love’s lost fear,
another time, just one more year.
While at the point when we must cross
there won’t be shed a single tear.
No loss,
not here.”

He bumped the tape recorder at this point, and you could hear him scrambling to right the situation.

“Blasted thing,” he huffed.

More thumping and banging ensued before the machine was finally switched off.

You smiled. You smiled, thinking about the man at his forge, working those words. You smiled, thinking about his massive body of work. You smiled, thinking about him in his canoe with his spirit guides, paddling away down another stretch of lonely river.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

she goes softly

Now, where were we? Rifling through memories, getting all caught up in nostalgia, weighed down by that terrifying beast of old. It stalks, tearing after us through that tangled unworldly jungle of the mind. We try to get away, but it’s always just a little faster, a little more cunning, a touch more persistent. It isn't long before we’re caught, pummelled by the many horrid limbs of reminiscence.

Thoughts creep up of small, dank rooms in unfamiliar countries. Of long short nights in smirched little pubs – those nights which never end and never really begin. Thoughts of never-ending bottles, of alien money, and of sweat-slicked bodies twisting between the cool sheets of roadside hotels.


Flower petals floating on a morning breeze.

“She loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, she loves me not.”

“You are a little tangled up,” she says.

“Naw,” I breathe. “Friends and enemies and all that. Each petal has a name and a face.”

“And which am I, then?”

I’ve no answer, so I press the last petal into her palm and smile.


A month later, and a mysterious train wreck in eastern Europe cuts our getaway short. A mountain pass aflame. Luggage and its owners strewn about. Things like this, one never forgets. The hellish stench of diesel and burning flesh. The angry red-orange of a fiery forest. The sun very nearly blotted out.

We’re sitting on a rock, the frantic flashing lights of emergency vehicles in our eyes, and I pluck a strange red flower from the ground beside us. Nervous fingers go to work, petals floating on a soft freeze. A head lies on my shoulder, words nuzzling into my ear.

“Which am I?”

I swallow, and fold the remainder of the flower into my fist, crumpling it into a tight little ball. I swallow again, hard, eyelids fluttering, tears welling up.

“None of these,” she whispers, answering her own question. She wraps her little hand around mine, repeating, “none of these.”


Years after the fact, and I only remember her first name. Her first name and her face. Her first name, her face, and the smell of her hair after a bath. The way she took her coffee, black with only a pinch of sugar. The way she would smoke only half a cigaret. The way she would steal the blankets each night.

I’m stalked ceaselessly by nostalgia, trying desperately to get away but finding that it is no use. There are certain things that one will never forget, memories that one will never be able to drive away. Our final meandering stroll along the muddied waters of that swollen river. The lights of her aeroplane as it taxied away. The taste of her lips, and the bittersweet bliss of that last long kiss goodbye.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Everything is disconnected: no more communication, no more interaction, no more fellowship. Only a sea of blank faces now, all closed, unhappy mouths, averted eyes, and busy ears. A maze of cold, dead towers, monuments to greed, power, and corruption. The grey, cracked concrete of the sidewalks, growing greyer and more cracked with each passing second. Even the sun has been unplugged, the sky now little more than the empty, white screen of a disused light table.

Suddenly, my eyes meet the mirrored lenses of a guard near the entrance of a bank, and I flinch as I see him tense up, his one hand squeezing tighter on the truncheon, his other hand flexing impatiently at his side.

“What’s gone on here?” I ask, striding up to him. “What’s happened to everyone?”

“Move along, sir,” the guard cautions.

“But the people, they’re—”

“Just move along.”

He barely moves, but something in his body language suggests that he’s serious. A certain rigidity. A certain flatness. What is it? The curling and uncurling of his leather-clad fingers. The shiny black of that terrible club. My own distorted reflection in the mirrored lenses of his eyewear. All designed to awe, to intimidate, to threaten.

A cold chill breaches the feeble security of my upturned collar as I turn to walk away, the wind bringing with it a torrent of trash; tattered newspapers, battered coffee cups, ragged advertisements, and the like. Snatching up a soiled page of print, I’m immediately assaulted by headlines of war and upheavals, murders and rapes, discontentment and general tumult, before the wind steals the page from me, ripping it from my trembling hand.

Kick it up three ccs.

The Dark Ages: that’s what we’ll call this. No age of enlightenment, here. Perpetually overcast skies, polluted air, and a near dead population. Killing their bodies with fake foods. Killing their minds with fake knowledge. Killing their souls with—

He’s stable. Heart rate is stable.

Lose myself in the crowd, that’s what I’ll do. Completely lose myself, alone in that lifeless crowd. Would anyone notice if I just disappeared? Would anyone care if I vanished right before their eyes? It’s starting now. Already I can feel it, that familiar sensation. A numbness of the core, a slight tinge behind the eyes, pressure building—

Signs of internal tissue damage?


Good. Brain activity?


Great. Okay to unplug him. Wheel him to PC when ready.

A million points of light exploding around me, before me, and I’m ripped from there with such a light touch, almost peeled away. Stretched. Mind and body. My soul waits for me back home. Waits and surely wonders. Coronas growing ever larger, overpowering my ocular—

Mind shutting down.

Resist it. See if you can resist it.

Entangled, now, in that thin, silvery strand. Follow it. Tug at it. Toy with them a little.

Ha ha.

Toy with them.

Oops, faster now than—

Fading fast. So fast I—

Tell them—

Oh god—

Saturday, March 17, 2007

sich zu besinnen

A series of rooms, some darkened completely, others half lit, all austere and painfully vacant. Grubby linen drapes cover smudged windows, allowing very little light to invade the dilapidated domicile. A thin layer of dust covers the sills, thresholds, and decaying hardwood floors. This is the structure of a mind. A mind just prior to thought. Your mind.

Before thought, there is little more than possibility; unanswered questions, prospects, and potential for an infinite number of courses through an infinite number of rooms. You didn’t build this house, but here you are anyway. You didn’t even choose to inhabit this house, but now you’ve no choice but to wander its well-worn floors. You wake and sleep within its confines, almost comfortable in the cloistered nature of this aging structure. You’re not required to bother yourself with upkeep, as it was designed with decay in mind. All that is required of you is that you exist until you no longer do.

But, you awaken in one room with a question on your lips, knowing that an answer may be just beyond the threshold of one of the doors leading out of the room. Perhaps you choose one door over the other because it boasts a little more light. Maybe a familiar scent carries through from another and you decide to follow it, instead. Or it’s possible you simply go forth on a hunch. Whichever your reason, you will invariably find yourself in another room faced with another choice of exits. This goes on until you are either tired, frustrated, or satisfied that you have pursued the answer to your question as far as you are able at the moment.

There is a process to thought, beginning with a question and leading into a kind of investigative wandering, resulting in a conclusion determined only by the limitations of your cognitivity. All exist within the mouldering framework of a structure you did not build or choose, a structure which itself exists without an entrance or an exit, but which contains an infinite number of each within its crumbling walls.

A synchronized decay exists, which simultaneously solidifies the relationship between you and this structure even while necessitating the continuous desperate, but vain, search for a beginning or an end, an entrance or an exit. Growing increasingly anxious by the visual effects of age on your surroundings, there is this pressing need to escape the dwelling before it falls down. More questions are asked, while the answers are kept just out of reach.

What is also cruelly kept from you, however, is your reflection and the effects of aging you, yourself, have incurred. If you could only see yourself now, within the walls of your subconscious, you would know that there is no need to worry about the impending collapse of your body or mind. No need to worry, because you are all decaying together, and will pass through the gates of oblivion hand in hand.

When the walls at last come down, you will not, even then, be afforded a glimpse of the outside, for as they cease to exist, so will you. A new house will be built by wizened hands and ancient tools upon the primeval foundation of the old, and its next occupant shall have no greater knowledge of his- or herself than you did. In your eternal ignorance, you will not be alone – and this, unfortunately, is as close to a comforting thought as you can ever get.

Friday, March 9, 2007

great insipid sea

You reach for the light, but the switch won’t work. Rather, the switch works, it does switch, but no light comes on, and you’re still in the dark. Beyond fear now, your heart rate plateaued a while back and you’ve settled into something new, something just outside of fear, a little beyond. The feeling is beyond the scope of words, so you don’t bother wasting any trying to describe the indescribable. But one knows the place if one ever gets there.

Your face and arms are still slick with the nauseating ichor encountered in the last room, and as you fumble about in the dark, you can’t shake the feeling that the source of the unusual, foul-smelling mucous can not be far behind. Imagined or real breath on your neck. You scream, you think you scream, and you think, so this is how it ends. Haunted. Hunted.

Suddenly, your hands find another door and you stumble through, nearly falling to the floor in your haste. There’s moonlight now, across this room, and you bolt towards it, frantically fleeing your pursuer. Within seconds, you’re through a door to the outside, and as you turn your head to check behind, your eyes catch an indefinite shape in the dark of the dilapidated house, something following without any regard for the solid of walls or doors, something wholly unnatural.

But you’re out now and running down the street, heart racing faster and faster, mind clearing a little more with each pump. There are those who do not believe in monsters, and you can’t help thinking their ignorance is something to be envied, that their ignorance is their greatest gift, for if they were to truly understand the nature of the universe, their lives would never be the same.

You’re still running as fast as your legs can carry you, and as you run you’re thinking about how you got here, your mind floating back to the early days of your learning and how the string of discovery went: Barthes led to Foucault, which led to Derrida, which led to Žižek, and on and on. It was really a whirlwind of breakthroughs for you then, with each day spent innocently wandering from café to café with pocketfuls of books and very little in your wallet. My, how thing have changed, haven’t they? Now, you run. And run. Onward and upward – or something like that.

You just want to be home, and your mind flits now to an image of your reflection in the bathroom mirror, and you’re asking yourself, who is that person? Each day you look in that mirror and see him. He’s never a man who looks a day older, but a man who does not yet look as old as he will tomorrow. You’ll call it positivism, taking the simple definition and ignoring everything else that’s built up around the word.

Legs gone numb, you’re nearly overcome by a sensation of gliding down the street. For a moment, you’re able to think about where you’re going and where you’ve been. That monster: the new shape of failure. Something to run from. Something to distance yourself from. Failure means that you would wind up back where you started, not a single step ahead, having gained nothing but memories – and you’re not going back to the beginning.

So you run and run. Past the darkened houses on that moonslicked street. Past the snowy park and its disused play equipment. Past the hollow schools, the locked up service station, and the vacant strip mall. This is the new new. You run all the way through one suburb, not even realising when you’ve entered another. Across a seamless quilt of bland and blander, through the great insipid sea, you flee.

There is sleep between the days, just as there is wakefulness between the nights, living and unliving, unliving and living, with such a fine line between that it is entirely impossible to tell which is which. Sleep: you trust yourself to its ebon arms, even while dreaming of ways to do without. Wakefulness: you welcome it like you would an old friend, with open arms and a kind word – but you can’t wait for him to get off your couch.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

lusus naturae

Barely anybody had clapped eyes on an authentic copy of Dr Hirschkovitsch’s Encyclopaedia of Monstrosities and Miscreations in the nearly two hundred years since the destruction of its scanty printing. In fact, the closest number of eyes I can come up with at present sits at nineteen; a number which counts up to and including the man’s who relieved me of the evil thing, but omitting those of whomever currently owns the last of those bedevilled books. And for him I feel nothing but the utmost sympathy, for his life, should he suffer any length of one at all, will not be anything approaching enjoyable.

first and second eyes

Dr Itzhak Hirschkovitsch, renowned explorer and acclaimed cryptozoologist, had set to task writing the manuscript during the early years of the nineteenth century after his nearly two decades of extensive travel and note-taking.

The things he had seen abroad had changed him, his wife was noted as saying, and once back home, Dr Hirschkovitsch flatly refused to discuss the things he had seen, and the “vast network of monstrosities” which he had discovered.

All would be laid out in his book, he said, and the world would at last see what it was never meant to see. The imaginary lines dividing countries would fall away, and religions would crumble with a new, greater one rising up to replace the myriad old. The earth’s population would assume its rightful place as a people of slaves, he said, and it would be happy to do so in place of the “other thing” which he repeatedly declined to elaborate on in his few interviews. All would be laid out in his book, he said. And it was.

By summer of 1808, the manuscript was ready for printing, and a title was chosen, with the words Encyclopaedia of Monstrosities and Miscreations emblazoned in gold on the book’s great leather cover. Dr Hirschkovitsch envisioned a book which could be kept locked by three brass hasps, requiring three different keys, each of which could be hidden in a different locations around the owner’s home. In addition to the aforementioned details, the book’s pages would be made of the sturdiest paper, and its accursed words would be printed with the finest of inks – all details which made the book one of the most expensive books to be printed up to that time.

third, forth, fifth, and sixth eyes

Dr Itzhak Hirschkovitsch inexplicably chose for the book’s printing one of the smallest and most ill-equipped printing houses in all of England – Kohlson’s. It was only Samuel Kohlson’s second year in the business when Dr Hirschkovitsch made the exhaustive request of him, and he would have declined the work if it were not for the handsome amount of money the weird doctor offered.

It’s been said that not even two dozen copies of the book were printed by the time Dr Itzhak Hirschkovitsch abruptly ordered the book’s printing stopped, and this order he followed by another: the immediate destruction of all twenty-three already printed copies. This order was to be carried out by Kohlson’s apprentice, a boy by the name of Johann Bruhner. It was this apprentice who saw something important in the tome, and managed to squirrel away a copy of the book before burning the rest.

But the books would not go down without a fight, and the fire which ensued raged large enough and so wildly that the printing house was burned to the ground with Samuel Kohlson still inside, unable to escape.

The body of Dr Itzhak Hirschkovitsch was found hanging in his home three days later. He did not leave a note, but he did tie a really good noose. So nicely tied was the noose, that it worked its way into all of the newspaper articles on the doctor’s suicide. A new length of the finest hemp rope was used and twenty-three coils made up the knot, one for each copy of the Encyclopaedia of Monstrosities and Miscreations which he had allowed to be printed. In life, Dr Hirschkovitsch enjoyed twenty foot ceilings – in death, this made for an awfully long drop over the second floor balustrade.

seventh and eighth eyes

Printer’s apprentice Johann Bruhner was never the same after the fiery destruction of his workplace, and it wasn’t long before his bloodied body was found in the basement of his parent’s home.

Police reports detailing the suicide mention how the young boy committed an act now known as seppuku, seemingly ripping open his own abdomen with a long knife. He was cut through, all the way, from side to side, they wrote, and his body was discovered nearly cut into two pieces. The knife was still in his hand. A book lay open by his side.

Police Inspector William Johnson is said to have collected a few things as evidence, including the knife and the unnamed book. The knife went where evidence is supposed to go; the book found its way to Inspector Johnson’s home.

eyes nine through eighteen

I’ve a theory that Inspector Johnson never did get to look through the book, instead, unthinkingly, but luckily, locking it using the three brass hasps without having the keys to open them again.

I think this only because Inspector Johnson apparently enjoyed a long life, a life free from any kind of curse save for the curse of mundanity, and by the time my great-great-grandfather – a noted bibliophile – found the book in Johnson’s attic, it was still locked and under a layer of five decade’s worth of dust. The book, considered little more than an oddity by my own family, found itself being passed down from my great-great-grandfather to his eldest daughter, to her eldest son, to his eldest son, until it wound up in my hands.

eye nineteen

That is, the book was in my possession until two years ago when it was stolen from me during a random burglary. The one-eyed career criminal, Hunter Hickley, was ultimately arrested for the break-in of my home, along with the homes of a number of others in the neighbourhood, but while the police were able to recover a few of the items stolen, the Encyclopaedia of Monstrosities and Miscreations was never found.

My only hope is that for his own wellbeing, Mr Hickley never got around to opening those three brass hasps. For if he did, I could not say with any certainty that he will live long enough to enjoy the resumption of his crooked career.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


He’s in the middle of another slurred soliloquy, a red-eyed rambling, a drunken discourse on the past pushed through his lips and into the smoky pub air. He’s stuck there, unable to free himself, and his voice has taken on the timbre of an imprisoned soul desperately crying out for liberation. I listen to his would-be eloquence in the same way that a mother listens to her child’s plaintive cries: with one part pity, one part unease, and one part scepticism.

“You ever think about going back?” he garbles.

“Pardon me?” I squint.

“I mean, do you ever think about going back home?” he asks again.

I only get to offer a slight snort, and I mean to answer when he answers for me.

“Of course you do,” he says. “It’d be bloody great, it would. We’re like goddamn legends there, can you imagine?”

And I can. I can imagine what it would be like. It’d be like we were ghosts floating through a world which we’d been irrevocably cut off from. A world which we can no longer interact with. A world which barely remembers our names. We’re not legends. We’re barely a scribble in the margin of that town’s storied history.

He talks some more, and as he does, I’m very nearly whisked back to a time when I didn’t care enough to care. An easy time. The hardest time of my life. But I steady myself against those evil winds of nostalgia, hiding behind this great brick and mortar bastion of the here and now. That wind; a vile, poisonous wind.

The next morning is one of those in which a man could easily lose himself in the cushy, voluminous folds of his blankets. And as I lay in bed with a beery head, the sunlight pushing gently on the front of the house, for a moment I’m swept away.

“Why do you do this?” she cried. “Always so eager to leave, so eager to get away. Have you spent one moment with me happy? Have you spent one moment here wanting to be here and not somewhere else?”

I stuttered the start of a response, and tried, clumsily, to wrap my arm around her, only to have the motion brushed aside.

“I – I am happy,” I said with some trepidation. “But – but I’ve my future to think about, I—”

“That’s the problem,” she said, tersely. “You’re too busy thinking about the future to enjoy the present. I only get to have this flickering, glimmering you. You’re barely here at the best of times, and when you are, your heart is elsewhere. It’s like I’m dating a homesick time traveller. A man visiting the past out of curiosity, thinking only of a time when he would return home to the future.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“You’re a writer,” she accused. “What’s the antonym for nostalgia?”

I stared at her dumbly for a moment.

“Well,” she said, “whatever it is, you’re guilty of it.”

Later that week, I fled my hometown, my past, and pushed ever forward into the future, to another time, another place. And it’s that place where I find myself presently, swaddled in thick duvets, head nuzzling pillowy pillows, eyes shut to keep out the morning light. Here, now, stuck betwixt nostalgia and that other thing, wanting to go neither backward nor forward, content in the present.

Yes, this time traveller has gone now as far as he wishes to go, and these days dreams only of stasis, not wishing to go backward, but not wanting to go forward, either. Laying awake now, my eyes closed against the morning light, I am at ease.

I don’t think much of the those blocks of years we call decades, neither the ones which have passed, nor the ones which will. I’ll happily deafen my ears to talk of the past, and if the Fates were to grant me one boon, I would only ask that they allow me the gift of continued ignorance of my end, for to know it, I fear, would be too much for my heart to bear.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

sierra hotel india tango

I left my wallet in the crumbling belly of a wretched inn in Srinagar, a city located on the bank of the Jhelum River in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, some 10,533 kilometres away from me as the crow flies.

An inch-think fold of stitched black leather, a gift given to me by a girlfriend from another time, the wallet sits forever in my mind atop the bedside table where I last saw it. Positively stuffed with dinner receipts, taxi chits, and coupons, the wallet pouts. "You go on without me," it whinges, "I'm so full I just can't budge."

And so I do. In the theatre of my mind, a past me walks out that door leaving behind an inch-think fold of stitched black leather atop a rickety little table beside the infested bed in which I had slept for the better part of three weeks. I walk out that door and hop in a taxicab, paying with a crumpled banknote from my pocket on my arrival at the airport.

Then, taking full advantage of the modern ease of e-everything, I show the grumpy little airline clerk my driver's licence – which I had smartly kept in a safe place apart from my wallet! – and he checks it against my e-ticket. The next thing I know, I'm through security and hunched into a terrible seat aboard a decades-old plane somewhere above Eastern Europe shouting repeatedly, "Oh, god! My wallet!" and frantically checking and rechecking all of my pockets while inadvertently elbowing my seat neighbour all about the upper torso.

Yes. These are the things which they didn't talk about in archaeology school. Even then, we entertained dreams of Indiana Jones-esque adventures in long forgotten tombs, circumventing snake pits and being chased by Nazis while taking care to not trigger the deadly traps laid for us two millennia ago. Aw, sweet, sweet naïveté, huh? What I wouldn't give now to have had one single professor say, "And please, please, people; be mindful of your personal belongings while checking out of a hotel. I know you're going to be hungover as all hell on the day of your departure, but please take the time to make sure you have everything." Not part of the curriculum I guess.

We had flown up from Sierra Leone where we had attended a lecture on the Transatlantic Slave Trade of the 1700s, and set out to work that very day. The site, located just outside of Srinagar, lent little to the imagination, as it was barely more than three shallow squares carved in the hard, yellow earth, each marked off by white string. Meticulous scraping, brushing, and sifting ensued, days spent on hands and knees, unearthing green-grey statuettes from the Maurya period.

"Look!" I excitedly called out at some point, "this one's smiling!"

My colleague just looked at me like I was mad, scowled a little, and returned to his tedious work.

"What do you figure we should do with ourselves tonight?" I asked.

He shrugged, wiping the dust off his forehead with the ratty sleeve of his shirt.

"Supposed to be a pretty good discothèque in town," he suggested, "could check it out if we wanted."

"Discothèque," I scoffed, "what the hell's that?"

"Hey," he said, "that's what they call them here."

So we went, and found ourselves engaged in a reckless evening of tango far, far away from Buenos Aires, in the company of pushy beautiful women we could barely communicate with. One dance would end and another would begin before we could even stumble to the murky sidelines of the dance floor, and it wasn't long before the night was over and we were tossing and turning in the dirty, rough cots of our rooms. That's how it was that three weeks of trading the discomfort of days for the weirdness of evenings led to my eventual brain freeze and the forgetting of my wallet.

Home now. Back in metropolitan North America. Crunching toward my car down a snow covered sidewalk on campus, chatting a little uninterestedly on my cell phone to an acquaintance about my trip. I'm about to pay for my parking when I'm reminded again of the absence of my wallet.

"Shit!" I snap.

"Pardon me?" my acquaintance asks.

"Shit," I say, "I still haven't been sent my new Visa, and I've no cash for parking."

"Sorry," she says, "but you're breaking up – can you repeat that?"

"Shit, shit, shit!" I repeat, pounding on the ticket box. "Shit – Sierra Hotel India Tango – shit!"

I abruptly click my phone shut, and walk the one thousand kilometres back to the administration building where I happen to run into one of my Earth Sciences professors in the hall.

"So," she starts excitedly, "you're back! How was the dig?"

I let loose some kind of howl that transcends the noise needed to express mere frustration, and I storm on past her towards my office where I collapse into my chair and commence staring out the window.

10,533 kilometres away from me as the crow flies, an inch-think fold of stitched black leather dances the tango across the faded wood of a bedside table. It mocks me; the damn thing mocks me. And what's worse, is it's a better dancer, too, light on the toes with dexterity to die for, adroitly handling even the most expert of moves. My wallet: the adventurer I'll never be. Brave enough to never go home again. Courageous enough to not even care.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


She lends herself to me just long enough so that I might pour some nonsense into her ears, fill them up, right to the top until the babble spills out, running down those delicate lobes and onto her tiny shoulders. She’s not listening, but is at least going through the motions, putting on a good show with her little nods and slight shakes of the head, her hms and haws. I’m relentless in my talk, I know, but I like her way too much to entertain any sort of cruel expectations of undivided attention.


The incessant clinking of a spoon against the side of a coffee cup finds its way to us from a neighbouring table, and suddenly I’m lost. My thoughts crumble a little here and there, words falling apart, their individual letters fraying at the edges to such a degree so as to render them nearly illegible. Decay. There is decay even there, within my own head, and I’m left with nothing to do but sit back and watch as a sort of ps chic d comp sition h s its w w h the int lectuali n of a th r k

“Hey,” she says.

“Huh? Sorry,” I say, a little stunned. “Think I blanked out there.”

“Tell me about what you’ve been working on lately,” she suggests, lifting the tiny white cup to her deadly red lips. “How’s the writing coming along?”

“Eh,” I say, “It goes as writing does. It looks as though I accomplish so little when the written words themselves are held up against the amount time it took to think them, to log them, to edit them.”

Starting to depress myself a little again, I scrabble for a change of conversational direction, something a little lighter, something a little less severe – but nothing comes up.

“Time,” I say. “It’s a bitch, right?”

She nods and smiles a little, lending herself to me so that I might find comfort in the illusion that someone actually gives a damn. The illusion that someone understands. The illusion that perhaps, just perhaps, I’m not completely alone.

Time. Goddamn time. I think about the last decade and how quickly it slipped by me, which in turn leads to me wondering just how many decades a guy has in him. How quickly would this next block of years fall away? And the next after that? Eighty years seems like a long time until you’re at the end of it.

I get lost in research during my writing, sidetracked to such a degree that I often wind up getting very little done. Immerse myself in stories of lost cities, wandering through the lush foliage around Machu Picchu, or setting off to the underwater city of Kitezh, and the glassy waters of the Lake Svetloyar beneath which it rests. I’ll find myself pondering curious technologies like the seventeen hundred year old Baghdad battery, ancient Egyptian flying machines, or the Antikythera mechanism, a twenty-two hundred year old analog computer discovered in a wreck of the coast of Greece. I’ll read about all of this and can’t help but feel that we’ve done all of this before. Over and over again.

A short block of eighty insignificant years is what we’re given to work with, and there’s this uncontrollable desire to be more than just a blip, this yearning to leave something more behind than just my DNA. I talk and she pretends to listen. To my babble about Teotihuacán, Calakmul, and secret chambers beneath the Great Sphinx of Giza. I talk, and as I do, a crushing wave of nothingness washes over me, stretching all the way from the beginning of time and rushes relentlessly on into the future. I’m speaking into vacant ears, thoughts crumbling away. And she can not understand – because I barely do, myself.

Monday, January 29, 2007

the smartish few

“Throw yourself into whatever it turns out you’re good at.” That’s what your old man used to tell you with a half-read newspaper open in his lap, and one hand on the television remote, click, click, clicking. An ever present, teetering stack of dog-eared political books rested on the table beside him keeping company with a tottering pile of thick-covered poetry compilations. “You find one thing,” he said, “one thing you’re good at, and you stick with it. Go wherever your passions take you.”

So you did. No-one can argue that. You found you were really good at trying, so you dedicated yourself to that for awhile, trying to make it on your own in the worn out flats of deserted cities around the country, working in the soul-sucking company of better men that you. You tried and you tried. You tried so hard that you very nearly lost your mind. Suffered a collapse of sorts. Committed yourself. Got better.

You then discovered a knack for school, and decided to stay there for a time, haunting the halls of that dusty, echoing sepulchre, listening and learning, memorising and reciting. Stayed there perhaps a little too long with your old man’s words ringing in your ears. “A man’s got to stick with something,” he said. And you tried. God, how you tried. Kept residence in the crypt for so long that you began taking on the lifeless appearance of your fellows. Speaking the words of men long dead. Thinking the thoughts of those same. Writing their words. Got a couple nice pieces of paper for your trouble, and found yourself suddenly outside in the land of the living, blinking in a too bright sun. Drenched in its life giving light.

So now you’ve gone and immersed yourself in your work, accepting new positions, taking more money, doing less work, and really shooting up to the top or somewhere. Double cuffed shirts, platinum cuff links, and seven-fold ties – yes, you sure have become a reasonable facsimile of a successful man. Heads turns when you walk down the street and everyone now knows that you are, indeed, a man on his way up.

And your old man’s so proud. “You’ve really made something of yourself, my boy,” he says, clicking that television remote with one hand, absently leafing through a literary journal with the other. “You’ve really become someone. Just have to stick with it, right?”

And his tired eyes close just for a moment, and for that moment he is asleep and you’re alone with only an idea of a man before you. Then his eyes flicker open and his lips move once more. “Yes, my boy, that’s all a man’s got to do,” he mutters, “find something he’s good at and stick with it. You’ll find happiness and purpose there on that path to becoming one of the smartish few.”

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Where are you now that I’m in the dark? Another languid notion sets fire to my arm, albeit a weak fire, and I raise that withering limb through the gloom, up to my face, where fingers proceed to kneed at the bread dough flesh of my clammy cheeks. You’re still not here, and the absence would be nearly too much for me too bear – if I were actually capable of caring in this state.

One more, I think, and a new energy flares up from within, sending my other hand groping in the drawer of the bedside table. I withdraw a bottle of pills, wrench open the top, and shake a number loose, feeling them cascade down about the exposed flesh of my chest.

Just one more, I think, frantically snatching up at least five of the little suckers before throwing them into my mouth. Swallow. All good. You’re still not here, and I’m still in the dark. But at least I’m not alone, swimming in a sea of multicoloured pills, tablets, and capsules.

I think I sleep. At some point. I sleep through troubling dreams of eternal absence, and an ethereal existence devoid of companionship and true, no, unfeigned attachment. Even in dreams I am without you.

A shaky kneed wandering through waste high grass along a cold mountain pass, continually weakened by a distinct lack of

what is it?

flare. That fire from within. You’ll wander because you lack direction, and you lack direction because you can not give up this desire for wandering. Feedback loop. Crackling static broadcast out to the stars. Schizoid delusions. Distinct lack of

what the fuck is it now?

a distinct lack of

out with it, man!

self. A distinct lack of purpose plaguing your continued pseudo reality. No bloody idea of who you are, only who you’d like to be. Always the dreamer, you trudge along through the wastes searching for something, anything, that will set your mind at ease.

A shaky need wandering through the waste high thoughts of an overwrought unconscious, growing ever distant, lost in a

no, not again. Can’t you stay on track for even one thought?

lost in a

in a

come the fuck on already!

feedback loop.

I’m awake, and my hand is madly clutching the telephone handset to my ear, and the droning buzz of nothingness on the line gets increasingly louder. I’ve no number to call, so I let the handset fall to the floor where shadows swallow up even the sound.

I’ve no number to call, no-one to talk to, so I swallow a few more pills and wait for the day. Wait for the day, when the sun comes out and life returns to this lonely side of the planet. Wait for the day, when dysfunction moves out and regret moves in. Wait for the day, when I return to my place in this existence, wedging myself into normal just right so that no-one is the wiser.

Where are you now that I’m in the dark? One thought replaces another, perfectly, seamlessly, so that there’s not even an overlap. Only a waking cascade of ideas, burn-through from the unconscious onto the subconscious and outward. Queued. Waiting to be spoken by these sickly lips to your absent ears.