Three Hybrid Pieces
a landscape of language. a syllabary. words visiting hot countries, poor tired words loved by the sun, and words like water. remember them. they are a somewhere.
tea as orange as the sky and brighter than water. and sweet, sweet as a confession. This is where we want to walk, say the feet, we want to walk over the sentences in the sand and feel their punctuation, their breves and tildes. gibbous daylight moon traffic calming devices, humps of found objects lying in the mouth like chocolate, murmuring birdsong: blue heron, Diderick cuckoo, promise. No fishing beyond this point. Even in Arcadia, here I am, says death, and and … I want to dance with you, says star god Fu and touches the truth around his neck, it is a wreath, it doesn’t sleep. Benzaiten closes her hands around the knowledge and says: sleeping flowers: Carnet: permit to drive across frontiers or use a camping site, explanation of an ambiguous word. Scot-free: unpunished. Cenotaph: monument to one whose body is elsewhere. leave a light on through the night. the lights between the trees, voyeurs, all of us. You knew me when I was hungry, whispers mr Zimmerman hoarsely, and mr Alighieri says: All the gold that is beneath the moon.
You should create a god for yourself out of your seven devils, says Zarathustra, they think a lot about you with their pretty souls. Thus a star is thrown into the void and into the icy breath. Nothing of the sort can be said, says Guildenstern, what in God’s name is the matter with you? Who do you think you are? The Girl with her Hair Cut Short is a comedy by Menander, says the ghost. As it happens. Everyone bets with their lives that either God exists, says Pascal, or not. You have to wager. What will you wager? Morton’s fork! shouts another ghost, a false dilemma, it whispers. Uncertainty is the normal state, says Stoppard, you’re nobody special. So there you are, says Guildenstern. Conversely, a formal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning that is always wrong due to a flaw in the logical structure of the argument, says Zarathustra, ignoring Guildenstern completely. It renders the argument invalid, he says. But there’s always a bit of dialectic to help out, says Carl M, I have naturally expressed my thoughts so that I am also right if the opposite thing happens. All the horses behind the veil of ignorance are the same colour, says the first ghost and falls back into the canvas chair. It puts its arm across its eyes. The sun is so hot and abundant, it thinks. One must not think ill of the paradox, says Søren, it is the passion of thought. The ultimate paradox of thought is to discover something that thought itself cannot think. The Qualanders have very strong feelings of love in them. They are free from time and space, says the second ghost. They are roaming dervishes, it says. The true identity of a city is its absence, says Patrick Keiller, as a city it no longer exists, in this it is truly modern. London was the first metropolis to disappear, he says. Helen Keller erasure poetry, says ghost number two. Raymond Williams snorts and waves his arm at the skyscrapers behind them, the alienated city is a space where people are unable to map themselves, he says with his eyes on the sunburnt savannah. Dada rubber, says the ghost of ghost number two, an apparition on a bicycle. Ren means human-heartedness, says ghost number one. The blond grass around their chairs and around their feet ticks and whirs with insects. Stoppard hasn’t the faintest idea of what these insects could possibly look like. What is the last thing you remember? says Guildenstern, shaking the ice in his empty glass. The hundred schools of thought during spring and autumn, says ghost number three, that is where we should’ve walked away, it says, the Dog Star is rising. When the epoch changes, the ways change, says Han Fei and Walter Benjamin says: Every epoch dreams the one to follow. The seven lucky gods on their faraway ship full of treasure say nothing.
Seven severed heads [De rerum natura #4]
The dogs are running tonight, and the moon is baying. Their nails are scratching stories on the wet streets. The dogs are running and the city is howling, so full of people and light and trees. Lions are lying in its roofs. Lions blinking slowly and thinking of wolfsbane and recklessness, their muzzles red with blood. Lions remembering old dreams of thorn thickets and stalking their own piety. The dogs are running and a forsaken theatre whispers lines from old films to itself. Mould growing on its poor carpeting and broken chairs. Dust and ghost ushers. The dogs are running. What is the half-life of courage? Radioactive manholes clank as people climb down to take a little to get them through the night. The dogs are running and the city is building itself another suburb, reaching with its fingers for the river Lethe. Auribus teneo lupum: holding a wolf by the ears.
There is a room. All the walls are painted red. Warm and glossy with our blood. Words live here. There is nothing else in this room. The words are sleek and wet and impossible.
Eleanor: Tibialoconcupiscent: having a lascivious interest in watching a woman put on stockings. Acushla: term of address or endearment, darling. Cacoethes: a bad habit or insatiable urge. Abatjour: skylight or device to direct light into a room.
Elizabeth: Estrapade: a horse’s attempt to remove its rider. Abatis: rampart of felled trees and branches. Dephlogisticate: to make something fireproof.
Mia: Algerining: prowling around with the intent to commit burglary. Adfenestrate: to enter surreptitiously through a window. Aceldama: field of bloodshed or scene of violence. Abscotchalater: one hiding from the police.
Imogen: Abreuvoir: joint or gap between two stones in masonry. Tarantism: an urge to overcome melancholy by dancing.
Fernanda: Nelipot: someone who walks without shoes. Xerophagy: a diet of bread and water.
Thirty years later the house asks: what are you doing here? The kitchen looks annoyed when you want something to eat and there is crime scene tape across all the furniture. The lawn says: the dog is gone.
Mia: Caveat emptor – beware all you want, it will do you no good.
Fernanda: vestal, consumed, tamarind, libretto, maladroit, mondream.
Eleanor: You have such a bountiful skin.
Imogen: I remember. I want to feast on it.
Ghost no.2: I wrap them in salt to protect them, so that they cannot leave me. So that I can remember them. I cannot sleep because these memories awake with a small and terrible sound and unwrap themselves in the dark.
Elizabeth: Mannequins never iron their own clothes or mistake social grace for love. Mannequins live in the light without flinching.
Eleanor: On an imperturbable Friday I dreamt that we were going somewhere in a big WWII car. Your hair was short and black and there was a little white dog between us on the backseat. Outside it was nuclear winter brown.
Ghost no.3: I can hear the owls but I cannot see them. Don’t open your eyes. The cars in the street sound like the ocean.
Mia: Hannibal is at the gates.
Imogen: Don’t be scared. Pass the paraffin.
Bio: Wilna Panagos’ work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Contrast Literary Journal, Gone Lawn, Otoliths, Museum Life , Medusa’s Laugh Press, Prick of the Spindle, The Undertow Review, Ditch Poetry, Psychopomp Magazine, Altpoetics, Hobo Camp Review. She wrote and illustrated a few children’s books and is currently writing something which may or may not turn out to be a fragmented postmodern novel. She believes in orange and pigeons, has an imaginary dog and lives in Pretoria, South Africa.
Her Facebook alter ego is here: www.facebook.com/mariahelena.havisham
Your mother was not allowed to touch the horizon.
“You may look at it, if you want to, but you cannot touch it,” your grandmother told her.
It sounded like a ban, but, in actuality, it was just a law. And you always wondered whether the law spread only on your mother or it was for everyone. Therefore you often violated it. This helped you to live the normal life of a child.
Your mother, on the contrary, never had a childhood. Once she was born she immediately became an adult because your grandmother knew her future. Your grandmother also made an attempt to find out your future, but it was inaccessible to her. So she focused on your mother.
“You cannot touch the horizon!” she reminded her each time.
Your mother just listened to her. The horizon was smooth and clear with a few blurred flourishes of clouds, which your mother tried to decode. She had the secret hope that those flourishes were for her and that once she read them she’d live happily hereafter.
Your grandmother didn’t take it seriously and often made sarcastic comments.
“What’s new?” she asked your mother staring at the horizon.
The horizon changed and each time there was something new. But your grandmother didn’t pay attention to it—she always got to the root. And the root was that your mother didn’t know how to read it. So, days had gone, and the horizon didn’t get closer, and eventually your mother realized that your grandmother might be right. And one day she found no changes in the horizon and she couldn’t wait for the next day to see if something had changed. Alas! The horizon was the same.
“It cannot be!” she whispered to herself. She scrutinized the horizon, but there was no sign apparent.
“It cannot be,” she tried to convince herself. “It must be me—I’m missing something. But I must know the truth!”
Each day the horizon got worse: it got yellowish and the flourish faded out.
“What if it’s dying?” she thought. “What if I’m losing it forever?”
She became somnambulistic. Each night she got up and walked along the skies, but she never approached the horizon—as soon as she got close to it she woke up and immediately fell down to her bed that was put under the skies by your grandmother in order to catch your mother when she fall. So, one day she decided to steal your grandmother’s magnifying glass in order to examine closely the horizon and see the true state of affairs. She waited until your grandmother went to the store to buy some freshly fading flowers (your grandmother loved fading flowers and she decorated the house with them) and took the magnifying glass from her table. The magnifying glass was dull and with crumbs of bread and sugar as if someone had analyzed meals with it. Your mother thoroughly cleaned the thick convex surface and looked through it at the horizon.
…At first, she didn’t notice anything but a large space paved with cracks, which turned out to be roads and paths covered with a golden brown. It was the end of July. Nature got tired of waiting for the rain and smoothly sank like a sandcastle the next morning. There was no one around, just an endless space with arid soil. She was sitting on the bench and slowly scratched the horizon with her fingernail as if it was a winning number under its silvery mist.
“I told you so many times—don’t scratch it!” your grandmother yelled out of the window.
A tiny blurred spot appeared on the other side of the picture and moved toward your mother’s house. She didn’t notice anything, but your grandmother immediately saw it. She got very excited—your mother could hear her running back and forth and rumbling with her keys. Then she leaned out of the window and screamed again: “Stop scratching it!”
The spot was getting closer. It expanded like a fog and covered the horizon’s suburbs, which merged with the earth. Your mother saw airy rivers gracefully streaming down the earth, which carried light triangles of sails on their waves. Your grandmother carefully observed the trajectory of the spot expanding through her magnifying glass.
“Go inside and get changed!” she ordered a few moments later.
Your mother obediently nodded and continued scratching.
“Stop it!” your grandmother screeched and your mother’s fingernail broke.
She had nothing to do but stop it and go inside the house to get changed. Her closet was piled up with her photos and it was difficult to find the appropriate one.
“How many times have I told you to put everything in its place?” your grandmother yelled angrily.
“Which one do you want me to put on?” your mother asked calmly from her closet.
“Take the one with forget-me-not.”
It was an old picture taken a day ago when your mother had no idea about the horizon. She looked much younger then—that expression of unawareness that makes one’s face angelic. She was thinking.
“What are you thinking?” your grandmother cried out from the other room.
“That picture is too young for me… I cannot wear it…”
“Nonsense! Pull it on, I’m telling you!”
Your grandmother cried hysterically. Your mother had never seen her like that. She tried the picture on. It was too tight on her. Her new expression was constantly showing from under that angelic face and your grandmother tried to pull it on. Eventually, it stretched in the middle and covered your mother’s face that now looked a little bit distorted.
“It’s nothing. You look fine,” your grandmother said.
The fog occupied the center and moved toward the house.
“Go inside and wait!” your grandmother ordered.
“Do I have some time?” your mother asked.
Your mother didn’t know what to answer. It was too obvious, no matter what she said.
“Well, I’ll tell you then,” your grandmother said, pointing at the horizon. “Nothing is in there for you. Do you hear me? I said—nothing! When I was a little girl I scratched it once and it was nothing—just emptiness. They promise you everything if you buy their books, but in reality you find nothing. They just want you to buy their unsold stuff. That’s all. Go!”
Of course, your mother didn’t trust her, but she believed her, and she was sure that if your grandmother said something then she knew it better. Therefore your mother went inside and waited until your grandmother called her.
The fog went through the door and clouded the windows. Now your mother couldn’t see what was going on outside. The only clear spot was in the house.
“I want you to meet your future,” your grandmother said.
Then your mother ran to the window, but it was clouded by the future. She couldn’t even see the present or the past.
“How can it be?” your mother thought.
She wanted to discern something outside and pressed her forehead against the window. The windowpane cracked in the middle.
… “Did I tell you not to touch my magnifying glass?” she heard a voice from behind.
Your grandmother entered with freshly fading flowers and looked with reproach at your mother trying to erase the crack.
“This was my grandmother’s present at my wedding,” your grandmother said. “I never got married thanks to it. No one was aloud to touch it but me.”
Your mother looked at the crack that widened and glittered with crystals. She touched it with her little finger. It was cool and fresh.
“Give it to me!” your grandmother ordered.
When she made a step forward your mother closed her eyes and jumped into the coolness of crystal waters. The crack meandered and carried your mother away—to the other side of the glass where you were waiting for her on the horizon with the book in hand. She had always dreamt about the book and she was willing to overcome any obstacles in order to get it. So you held the book above the waters and it shone like a lighthouse, pointing your mother the way to you.
“You cannot swim,” your grandmother said calmly. “Just come back.”
Her voice was reigning above the crystal waters. Your mother got scared. She looked around. She was alone. The book shone far away, but it would not help her much—she had to swim all alone. Then you signaled to her the contents of the first page—all she needed to overcome the river. But she didn’t know how to read it.
“You don’t know how to read it. Come back. You cannot swim,” your grandmother said.
She put her flowers into the vases. All her vases resembled urns. Your mother looked over, trying to find some support, but the only voice she heard was that of your grandmother. So she opened her eyes and found herself in the room again.
“She lied to me and I knew it,” your mother thought. “I should’ve swum.”
Then she looked down to see how deep the crack was. It was pretty deep—like a seven- story house. She bent over the bottom to see what was downstairs, and saw your grandmother serving tea to the future in the backyard. Your grandmother looked up and waved her hand.
“Come here,” she said, “it’s time to have some tea together.”
Then your mother closed her eyes and stepped forward.
For a few nights she was restless. She woke up and went to the closet that no one could hear her. Every evening your grandmother touched her forehead and sang her a lullaby about the snail. It finally worked.
Bio: V. Ulea (Vera Zubarev) is the author of 16 books of prose, poetry and literary criticism. Her book, About Angels, About God, About Poetry (Livingston Press, 2002), won The Top Book Award at the International Book Fair “Green Wave.” Her cycle of poems, Letters from Another Planet, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her works have appeared in the Literary Review,RE:AL, Princeton Arts Review, The Bitter Oleander, Sein und Werden, Apollo’s Lyre, The Dream People, and other journals and magazines. She is the editor of the anthology, Quantum Genre in the Planet Of Arts (appeared in Paraphilia Magazine). Her collection of short stories, Snail, was published by Crossing Chaos (2009). Her new novel, Spherical Violin, is coming.She has won many prestigious international awards for her works, including, most recently, Bella Akhmadulina International literary Prize (2012). Her works have been translated into Czech, Ukrainian and German. She has a PhD in Russian literature and teaches classes on decision making in literature and film in the University of Pennsylvania.
Blood is Not Pink
“I believe my blood is pink,” she said brightly, “not red.”
Richard Jarvis, the English Gentleman, glanced at her with raised eyebrows.
“You know, the red comes from all that red meat you eat,” she explained. “We vegetarians have pink blood. Isn’t that great? Much prettier.”
Richard stared blankly, unsure what to say. Trying to work out if she was being serious or playing some kind of joke. Peacock finally looked up from her book and also fixed her with a brief puzzled stare. But here in the Yellow King cocktail bar, everything was comfortably quiet – too quiet for thinking up a response to something like that. This place was a strange oasis from the bustle of Camden outside. An oasis that Richard always loved. The décor was a surprisingly effective yellow and black, with black wooden tables and soft, low-slung chairs. Quiet classical music in the background and a drinks menu that went on for six pages.
Fortunately the slightly awkward silence was interrupted by Alice, quietly delivering the starter. He focussed on the salad before him with some relief. It looked tasty – packed with leaves, fruit and hot-smoked salmon in a nice seasoned yoghurt dressing.
“Alice,” he said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Peacock shoved her book away and accepted a plate of antipasto with a smile.
“Princess?” he murmured. “You sure you don’t want anything?”
“Oh no – thank you. I am fine, really. And you know, I really do have pink blood.”
Richard coughed and quickly snapped up a sliver of salmon.
“Um,” he managed. “Really?”
Peacock absorbed a thin slice of Parma ham and smiled privately.
“Yes – really. Hey – Peacock. Those artichokes look great?”
“Uhuh,” Peacock said. “Yes – marinated to perfection.”
“Hey – mind if I steel one?”
“Are you sure it won’t pollute that pink blood of yours?”
“No no – I’ll take that one – hasn’t touched the ham . . .”
Before Peacock could respond, the artichoke was captured quickly and ferried towards Princess’s small mouth, which received it eagerly. It squished in there with a waft of olive oil and she made a happy noise. “Hey – these are good.”
Richard chewed salad and grinned.
“I am happy for you,” he said.
Princess shook her head.
“I would demonstrate,” she said enthusiastically, “but, well – you can’t can you.”
“I dunno,” Richard said. “Got a knife?”
Peacock winced. “No no – please. Alice would not be happy . . .”
Princess gave a smug grin. “Then you’ll have to take my word for it, wont you,” she cried. “How’s the salad?”
Richard sighed and pushed the plate in her direction. She grabbed his fork and picked around in there for a moment before capturing a scoop that was safely fish-free. Again that perfect tiny mouth absorbed it with an inbuilt smile.
“Hey,” she protested, muffled. “I know what I am talking about. My blood is pink. End of story.”
“You don’t believe me – I can tell.”
Richard pulled a face. “Well,” he said, “it’s just that prevailing scientific wisdom . . .”
“Fuck that,” she said. “Scientists all eat meat as well.”
“Do they now?” he muttered under his breath, while Peacock coughed over a pickled mushroom.
“After all,” Princess continued happily, “humans never evolved to eat meat, you know. It was after the fall of the Roman Empire that the starving masses were driven to desperation and started to eat each other. And since then we have never managed to shake off the taste for our own flesh. Only now, of course, we are forced to use other animals as surrogates.”
Richard swallowed the last morsel of salmon, carefully saved until the end, and slid his plate aside.
“Yes,” Princess continued. “Back in the middle ages, the favourite dish of the lords of the manor would be a slow roast baby, not three days old, which the villagers were forced to provide as a part of the tithing system. Roasted whole on a spit and with honey and spice.”
“Please,” Peacock said sarcastically, “You’re making me hungry again.”
“Oh tut,” Princess scolded.
Just for a brief second something flickered across Peacock’s face – an almost invisible warning frown. Richard coughed and glanced at her uneasily. The salad was making him feel comfortable and relaxed though. Relaxed enough for something to click in his mind slightly. He leaned forward with an ever so slightly alarming twinkle in his eye.
“Ok,” he said smoothly. “Lets get to the bottom of this. You have some rather interesting theories there. I always had the impression that the red had something to do with iron oxide, haemoglobin, something . . . Um – you are offering to prove this pink blood thing I take it? The essence of science is visible evidence and proof, you know.”
Princess gave him a startled look. “What do you mean?”
“Pink blood,” he said with a happy smile. “That is easy to prove, I think.”
Princess looked uncomfortable.
“You want me to cut myself or something?”
“Please,” Peacock said, “this is a high-class establishment. If you want to cut yourself, do it in the ‘ladies’.”
Richard grinned. “Not at all, hang on one moment.”
He hauled his case up onto the table and, while Princess watched nervously, began rummaging in it.
“Um – Richard . . ?”
“Here we are,” he said, plucking out a green first aid box. “And here,” opening it, “I happen to have a small hypodermic . . . and a sterilized needle. I reckon that would be much more polite, don’t you?”
“Richard,” she said unhappily, “I promise you, my blood is pink.”
“Yes yes of course,” he said. “I believe you. But hey – I think Peacock is a bit dubious. And seeing is the ultimate believing after all.”
“Hey,” Peacock growled, swallowing the last of her artichokes, “leave me out of this. Richard, are you going to . . .”
“Hush,” he said, grinning wider. “Princess, give me your arm.”
“No way,” she cried crossly. “Here – give me that thing. I’ll do it myself, if I have to.”
She snatched the hypodermic and turned away sulkily, rubbing at her arm.
But then Alice arrived again, bearing plates, glancing rather curiously at the hypodermic. Richard gave her a wink.
“One T-bone steak, rare,” she said. “And a side order of our special croquettes. And one Thai Prawns. With jasmine rice. Your friend is not eating?”
“Thank you,” Richard said. “Um – no, I don’t think so. You don’t want anything now?”
“Oh no thank you,” Princess insisted. “I really am not hungry.”
“Especially now,” she muttered, looking at his plate uneasily. “I am a vegetarian and you order a rare steak?”
Richard shrugged again and Alice withdrew. “I like rare steaks,” he said simply, that twinkle still in his eye. “No mystery. And you know . . .”
He cut the steak, which bled red blood onto the plate.
“You know, cows don’t usually eat meat – though it has been known – and yet the blood is still red. That’s curious. But anyway, you were about to demonstrate something I think?”
She scowled and turned away, trying to hide what she was doing from the rest of the diners.
“Ok – now don’t look,” she said.
“Don’t look at your arm?” he asked, puzzled.
“Don’t look at my arm,” she reiterated. She didn’t even roll up her sleeve, simply felt about for a moment, then the hypodermic found its mark. Both Richard and Peacock stopped eating, ignoring her injunction and watching curiously.
There was a flash of pink.
Slowly, her blood coursed into the clear barrel of the hypodermic. Richard and Peacock stared, eyebrows up. In the light from the window, the pink liquid almost seemed to fluoresce – almost glisten and sparkle.
Then Princess whipped it out of her arm and held it up with a triumphant look.
“Happy now?” she demanded, grinning. Richard took it without a word, stared at it from several angles, then squired a tiny amount out onto his napkin and sniffed.
“Ok,” he managed. “I am impressed.”
He vaguely reached for a croquette and bit into it, still frowning.
Princess grinned happily. “So what say?” she said. “Are you interested? You can tell a lot about people from their blood colour. If your blood is red, it is a sign of the impurities. That’s why period blood always remains red.”
Peacock signalled urgently to Alice, who came over.
“A glass of Calvados please,” she said with a sigh.
“Yeah, I’m interested,” Richard said doubtfully, “Though I am still going to eat this steak.”
Princess gave the meat a distasteful look. “Look at it,” she said plaintively. “Blood all over the place. How can I try anything that has been on that plate?”
“Why don’t you order a meal?” Peacock demanded. There was a glitter in her eyes and Richard hastily placed a hand on her knee.
“I shouldn’t,” Princess said. “I don’t like to eat too much. I’m on a diet. Richard, you seem very naïve.”
“Naïve?” he cried, shocked.
“Make that two calvados,” Peacock called, and Alice signalled acknowledgement.
“Hey,” Princess cried. “Can you make it three Calvados? I’ll pay.”
She sat back comfortably. “Food and perversion are inextricably linked,” she said. “From ancient times right up to that – that thing on your plate. In 19th century France, young girls like me would be taken on the day of their 18th birthday – on the day their sex organs opened. Their eyes would be put out and they would be kept in a dark box – and force-fed huge fucking amounts of sweet and spicy food. Until they blew up like soft balloons. And every night they would be massaged for three hours. Then, after a couple of weeks of this, they would be trussed and wrapped and then roasted alive for the king’s banquet. Served whole and basted in their own fat and seasoned by their own food. That was the real delicacy of France.”
“We are a perverted species.”
Richard stared restively at the shimmering pink syringe. “Yes – I have to agree about that,” he said gently.
Peacock drew a deep breath. “Richard – whatever you are thinking, please don’t.”
“Hey,” Princess murmured, leaning forward. “Those croquettes look good. Are they nice?”
Richard flashed her a look. “They are great,” he said. “The Yellow King really knows how to make its special croquettes, but . . .”
“Hey – can I try one?”
Richard hesitated. “Well sure,” he said. “But . . .”
“Richard!” Peacock hissed.
“I really don’t think you ought, it’s . . .”
However, she had already speared one on a fork and swallowed. She made a happy sound and a few more bites and it was gone.
“That’s fabulous. What’s in it?”
“You . . . like it?”
“Yes – a very nice taste. What’s in it?”
She blinked at him.
“Uh uh – can’t you taste it?”
“I never t-tasted . . . before . . .”
“Very finely minced and with a dash of smoked paprika – adds such a wonderful flavour to the potato. I love these things.”
Then Princess was lurching to her feet with a clatter and a choked sound.
“Hey,” Richard cried, spreading his arms, “I was going to warn you, but you just took it . . .”
But Princess was already heading across the room towards the ladies, blundering past a startled Alice and knocking a wine glass from her trey with a dismal smash.
“Richard,” Peacock wailed.
He glanced round at her sharply. “What did I do?”
“You . . . she . . . agg, you did that on purpose.”
“No I didn’t,” he said dryly.
Peacock buried her face in her hands. “That fruitcake is going to flip,” she said heavily.
“Oh gawd,” he muttered. “Yeah – I had better go and see.” He scrambled to his feet and made to follow her, then paused and grabbed up the first aid box.
“Excuse me – sorry Alice. Put that wine glass on my bill.”
“What’s happening?” she demanded.
“Look,” he growled, “If a medical helicopter is needed, I’ll let you know. I don’t think she likes your croquettes.”
“What? But . . .”
With Alice following close behind, he plunged into the sanctum sanctorum of the ladies room, looking round sharply. It didn’t take long to find Princess, either through vision or hearing, for she was on her knees over the toilet bowl, dry-heaving noisily.
“Princess,” he cried. “Take it easy.” He hurried in and grabbed her shoulders, turning her to face him. He stared sharply – at her baggy top flopping open, revealing a glimpse of a small flat pouch strapped to the skin of her arm. A pouch that shimmered a startling pink. He stared at it a moment, then shrugged and fumbled in the first aid box.
“Here,” he said producing a couple of small pills. “Take this – Alice? Some water?”
Princess ignored him though and fumbled in her pocket. He didn’t realise what she was doing until she had grabbed the straight razor and drawn it across her arm.
“What the hell are you doing?” Richard demanded sharply.
“My blood,” she stammered, gazing at the red that flowed from her with huge eyes. “It’s red – it’s fucking red. I – I mean . . .”
“Of course it’s fucking red,” he cried.
She gasped and spluttered, tears streaming down her face, and Richard held her shoulders. “It’s ok,” he said gently. “Hang in there.”
“Meat,” she stammered, cringing with some kind of ultimate horror – cutting again, deeper this time. “I’m – I’m meat.”
“Princess, give me that thing,” he growled. He finally got the razor away from her and held her face firmly.
“Open up,” he commanded.
“No,” she cried. “You will feed me meat . . .”
“No I wont – these are just to calm you down.”
She blinked at the two white pills. “Is there any meat in them?”
“No – no there isn’t. Just herbs and things – and a little sugar probably. They’ll calm you down. Here.”
Alice handed her a glass of water and at last the pills followed the artichoke, salad and croquette down her perfect pink throat. And hopefully, unlike them, they would stay down. She gave a splutter and clung on to him, while he and Alice struggled with bandages, eventually getting her slashed arm under control.
“Alice – I think you had better call someone. There’s going to be stitches here.”
She nodded and hurried out.
“You’re ok,” he said, ruffling her shoulder. “Nothing is happening to you. We all love you . . . you make life interesting for us all. Just take it easy – from the look of things, that croquette was only in contact with you for a minute.”
“But,” she stammered, “But – it’s all red. I’m – I’m . . . red.”
He helped her up and finally supported the floppy figure of the Princess back into the Yellow King and back to a chair, where she sat looking blinky and unhappy.
“Thanks,” she mumbled. She sat there in silence until some friendly people came in to take her away and patch her up – make sure that the red stayed inside where it should be.
Richard picked up the hypodermic and stared at it quizzically – then put it down again with a sigh.
“Fake?” Peacock murmured.
“Of course,” he said. “Alice? Any chance of warming this up a bit?”
“Sure,” she said, taking his plate with the almost untouched steak on it.
“Tell me,” he said wearily, “what would you say to serving braised Princess tomorrow?”
She nodded gravely. “With ginger and crispy potato wedges perhaps?”
“Well – it would make a change from the usual.”
“And don’t forget to serve it on a pink platter.”
Bio: David Rix is an author and publisher from the UK. He runs and does the design work for the specialist Eibonvale Press. His published books are What the Giants were Saying and the novella/story collection Feather, which was shortlisted for the Edge Hill prize. In addition, his shorter works have appeared in various places, including many of the Strange Tales series of anthologies from Tartarus Press and Monster Book For Girls, from Exaggerated Press. As an editor, his first anthology, Rustblind and Silverbright, a collection of Slipstream stories connected to the railways, was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award in the Best Anthology category.
: a writer of nil repute
This is an overview of the life and works of the writer . It was first submitted to, and is believed to have been published in, the first edition of The International Review of Literary Quantum Locking, which sadly is no longer available due to the very nature of its highly contentious subject area.
The works of writer are illusive and difficult to comprehend for most close readers; thus, little recognition has been given to in her own country, Australia. However, certain European post structuralist feminist philosophers in the vein of Cixous and Kristeva have highlighted her achievements of late, while others see something of the school of Jacques Derrida in her works. Given is a writer whose texts are quantum locked, in that her narratives and poems are only visible when not being read, her work is problematical at best and present especial impenetrabilities for translators. Post modernists agree her vision and creativity to be vast and entirely under-appreciated. Her admirers believe her output phenomenal, particularly considering her tragic personal circumstances as indicated in this account below:
While not considered a commercial success, the many works of have found favour with specialist or niche collectors. This, perhaps, is more out of an appreciation of their rarity rather than any literary or other merit. As objects they are difficult to identify and maintain given the inherent physical state but those who have copies have testified to their value.
The value of the works of have also been measured through their academic worth. Recently, academics of the Kristevan school have chiefly found favour and been inspired by this exchange, below, from her first obscure novel:
For feminists, has come to symbolise the silencing of women in culture, and continues to be cited in discourses regarding the Freudian use of the term lack. As a female author significance is enshrined by the absence of even her name, and so she comes to represent all female authors who have been silenced. So to stands for all those historically outside the traditional understanding of the literary cannon and subsequently uncovered by academics such as Dale Spender. Forthcoming research should address works as post-colonial constructs. Yet is also eternally current, as her enforced anonymity can be understood as a comment on the cult of celebrity and a further step beyond the Death of the Author, to the entire Absence of the Author. As, in the slightly more sophisticated later poetry, with this:
And numerous examples abound of eloquence in the face of immense odds. Yet the rarefied world of academia is bitterly divided on including her corpus of prose and poetry in the canon. Some have questioned her ability, and in fact have called into question very existence, comparing her to the infamous Ern Malley, a fictitious 1940s Melbourne poet created in Australia by poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart, the cause of notoriety for many in the Australian literary community. Some, indeed, have joked she is a Malley descendent. Others, avoiding such issues, focus on the works, and detect the influence of seminal Italian writers and academics Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco, and while it is believed she has offered some comment on her literary influences, in her limited edition collection of essays, entitled , this could be considered conjecture. Some followers remain intrigued by voice and discuss how her distinctive Australian style is conveyed and how well it is enjoyed or even understood in international circles.
For all her transparency, the author is chiefly concerned with language and ideological and philosophical barriers to communication – how words delimit meaning as much as they convey significance. Some more imaginative readers have compared her works to that of Pink Floyd, and their construction of The Wall during their famed concert, hinting the very attempt at creation is one that simultaneously invites and alienates the audience. This is a theme that Feminists have also picked up on and it is also a paradox currently under examination by theoretical physicists.
Some post-Symbolists have considered the development of texture in her works, and have written extensively on the evolution from raw and angry ingenuity into something more considered, serious and layered, indicating a maturing in . This is hardly surprising, as the influences of her education seem to have been profound. Indeed, she is believed to have completed an Honours Degree in Literature, her thesis exploring the language of modernist poetry, this excerpt, below, seems to be a typical indicator of her later analytic style and of her influences:
has also written extensively on her educational influences, especially the inspiration she found from lecturers , and from . Her unique gifts seem also to have stemmed from her and , both accomplished artists in oils and sculpture (mainly wood and clay). Below are examples of their extant works, which, are also similarly affected by quantum locking.
This seemingly familial link between the creative output of the has fascinated geneticists, but also equally those interested in the role of environment in shaping lived experience. Others warn of the pathologisation of art and artists and the dangers of medicalising literary or artistic merit and creativity. Furthermore, physicists have expressed interest in conducting experimentation. This is in an effort to better understand quantum locking in addition to investigating some practical applications if it can be harnessed. There could be cause to explore whether her talents would be more usefully employed, in writing legislation, for instance, while others conjecture that she in fact has.
Among the scientific community there are those who maintain this phenomenon can only occur naturally amongst certain individuals involved in creative concerns such as the members of family.
Then there are those who are less interested in whether the author is real, than if her works actually exist, however, some recent analysis shows that what is present is more than merely blank space, but a creation devoid of any method of detection. Science is yet to catch up, as it were, to her works. At the same time, debate within theological circles has considered whether her work is a part of a Via Negativa espoused by mystics in various spiritual traditions, and as embodied, (no pun intended), by Meister Eckhart. There is some debate as to whether her influences extend to Eastern spirituality, such as that of Lao Tzu in that the way that can be spoken of is not The Way. In this way, works of that can be read are not works.
Another traditionalist group have considered whether she is a follower of Rene Guenon, who argued what is most important is inexpressible, or possibly be aware of his notions of selfhood influenced by Hinduism. Within this school it is contended she is a Nihilist or of the Absurdist School and her texts are a commentary on the futility of High Art and a kind of practical joke where all readers are emperors with no clothes. Many foresee the complex debate between linguists, physicists and mystics regarding her achievements continuing.
As a consequence of work, the quantum locked literary movement has garnered sufficient interest to generate multiple theories regarding its place within the broader arts. See the list of texts below, which examine this phenomenon, and which will be examined in depth in further reviews.
There are those, too, who have sought to emulate the texts of , maybe seeking the elusive commercial success that works failed to gain. Few, despite their efforts, have yet succeeded in achieving a comparable evocation of fragility and conflicted eternal temporality that remain the hallmarks of works, if indeed that is their goal. Like so many imitators, they have employed similar devices, or attempted to address the same themes, or modelled their approach to their works in an analogous fashion, yet in this, come to act as only as conduits back to their inspiration, the greatest writer of the early 21st century never to have been read .
The following is a commentary by the author: