stories

I: Air of London – I’m stuck on the ceiling

I am stuck on the ceiling. Do I know how I got there? No. I forgot my own name. Several times. But I consider there are more… pressing concerns. I’m stuck on the ceiling. I think I said that before. But I’m up where they hang the stars, with their long poles, and I wonder sometimes what they hang them on. Or if they just stayed up by themselves.

I can confirm there are hooks they hang the stars from. From the ceiling. But, while it’s a good discovery, I’d rather have both soles of both feet back on the streets on the ground, not up here. I can’t do anything up here.

Perhaps this is just a description in itself though, while remaining calm at least. I’m up here, all alone, with my mouth shut. But to me it seems like everyone else is up there. With their mouths open. And do they look up at me? No. No no no no no! They don’t know I exist. Yet here I am.

Stuck on the damned ceiling.

II: Human Carriage

I: Human Carriage

 

Emptiness leaves, replaced by a vague feeling of comfort. For, see, I have inserted things into space. And that leaves me happy.
Six of them, well, five and a child in their mother’s arms – I am even worse at judging a baby’s sex – fill up the space and I climb into the carriage behind the last man to enter.
Here we are.
All full in here. I am happy with this.
So I lock the doors as I do every time.
Can’t have that kid leaping off to his life. That would be backwards.
Oh no!
Can’t have that.
So I lock them tight.
-If you’re comfortable? I say. I speak in short sentences. Like I do every time. Simple. Short. Disconnected. Easy.
-If you’re comfortable? repeat I, just to ask again. But their eyes are still the same. So I give a hollow smile with full cheeks. -Alright. Sit loose. I will leave you now. A few minutes. To tell the Driver to go.
So I leave, just like that. I tell the Driver to go.
Or, I find my way to the Driver. It’s not an easy feat sometimes. He tends to leave empty coke bottles lying around. He seems fond of the stuff.
Only in glass bottles though.
Never plastic ones.
I hear he collects the caps. The metal caps you could cut yourself on. Maybe
his scars on his knuckles are there for a reason?
Because obsession is painful. Right?

Still.
I steal my way through the forest of upwards snouts.
Bottles, three here, five over there, all huddled like penguins.
Or… sardines, I suppose.
Hah!
What.
-Evening, I say to our Driver.
-Awright? he says to me. Not drinking a coke. Surprisingly. Maybe he doesn’t need the sugar boost just yet.
-Alright? I say back. I didn’t mean to.
He has a smile, just a little few seconds of a smile to ease me. He’s been around me long enough to
know my foibles. Know what I can be like sometimes. Echoing things. Screaming things. Repeating things. Copying things.
-Awright? he says again, but I keep mute this time.
Don’t want to make a fool
of myself.
Do I?
-We off? he says.
I tell him, -Yes. Everyone’s on. Settled. Sat. Comfortable.
-Everyone’s fine.
-Yeh. ‘Kay. Go sit. I’m moving.
-Alright, I look around as he swings to face the forwards direction. I don’t know how he Drives the train.
I suppose he presses forward.
I stare on the floor, at all the empty bottles, I ask if I can take one.
-Go mad.
Does he mean it literally?
I do not ask, merely pluck one off the floor. By the neck.
I don’t want to touch what has the Driver’s spit on it.
-I’ll sit.
-Yeh.
-Okay.
I leave him. No matter how awkward the conversation sounds-
or ‘convo’ as he’d say-
I never really come away rolling my eyes at myself.

So I find my way to my own seat with the bottle.
I want to wipe the opening. Quite
badly.
I don’t want to know where it’s been.
Really.
It might be dusty. But.
There isn’t much to wipe the snout with here.
So I have to use my glove. Very disgusting, especially when I imagine it all.
Oh.
No.

I rest the bottle between my knees and look over my shoulder. I cannot see the people.
There is a wall between us.
But somehow, looking their way is a comfort. For some reason.
I look their way. Are they alright?
My people?
My six?
My five and a child? They’re alright?
They’re awright?
I look back to the bottle. Just resting there as the train begins to shift a little. Like a living thing. It shrugs this way… and that way… before picking up speed it never seems to possess.
To me, to the me who has ridden the train the amount of times as unbent metal bottle tops in the world, it shouldn’t be surprising – should it – the speed the train has. But it is, every time it is.
Just starts off so slow… so slow indeed.
But then.
Two seconds.
Sixty- seventy- eighty!
Fairly skipping along the sleepers.
At least, I think there are sleepers.
On this track?
I actually cannot remember.
But.
Not important.
We are skipping though. And I look at my bottle for a few minutes.
Look at its emptiness.
I should do something about that.

Epistle 1

Simple little discontented heart,

I desire a meeting with you. Not a long one, mind, just a few minutes. A quiet nod on a street corner, a stranger-turned-acquaintance, talking it up with the other. Feel free to study my palms as you do so, to try and read between each crease. But meet with you I must.

 

To attempt a meeting place would be slanderous and unrealistic. So let us just… arrive together. Every Next Time and Last Time, the coincidence will be where we make our location. Be it on that aforementioned street corner or perhaps in the middle of the busy street. I will shake your gloved hand with my own gloved hand, and we shall walk, you lighting a pipe and me struggling to keep the biting cold off my wet lips.

As for the time, let us make that in similar with the place – coincidence. No longer will we have to worry and stress about seeing each other, let us just have it… happen. Six with the dawn, as you head out to fetch your morning paper and I am there walking on my slow way to work. I can spare the minutes I need with you. A few minutes late will be worth my words, a few minutes to let the ink dry on the paper for you. We can spare the time. Or maybe we’ll meet late at night, I outside shaking the dust off an old coat, you, in the middle of a procession of friends walking down my street. I’ll step out and call your name, don the coat, lock my door and perhaps join you. My words can be said in front of all others.

 

But, as I mentioned, let us not make assumptions as to Whens or Wheres. Or even Hows or Whys. Leave all I’ve said to imagination and don’t expect anything. After all, you may walk past my house and notice that I am home. But if you do, don’t knock.

 

Walk on. See to your business. Just as I see to mine inside, you will see to yours wherever it may be. Through the sleet, I might see your retreating back as you refrained from knocking on my door, as I come to it to let the cat out for the evening. But you’re on your way. I’ll not call you now.

 

These are my requests. So, if I was to leave my meeting and words up to chance, why, you must be begging me to tell you, am I sending you a letter to request your presence? Well, simply; it is a politeness. A gesture, an opportunity to call you friend. An open hand for you to take when the time comes.

 

But come looking for me and I will not say anything.

 

Nor will I say anything if we meet planned. At some social gathering we know we’re both invited to. Or a wedding of my best friend and your cousin. We will not speak regarding this issue then. Not until we bump into each other at the weekly market where you purchase your poppy seed bread and I sample the delights of oils.

I’m sure by now you have agreed to our lack of plan. However, if you have any issues, I will not hear them unless these conditions are met, by which time I will have expressed my news to you. I’m afraid there is no way to dodge this meeting. But I promise you, you do not want to.

 

Yours,

Hieronymus

Ever so Slightly Human – Part II of II

As a continuation, I’m astounded I wasn’t birthed sooner. I’ll enter into this world as blind as a shrew, unsure; whose continuation am I? I can stumble around in the darkness that is my world for as long as I have to, but what drives me? Heroism, thrust or something different? Desire, perhaps, or longing. Different but similar. I’m a continuation, I’m an echo of something written long ago.

Who is it though? Assume, momentarily, every story stands upright. Two legs, two arms, the boring human figurine. No wings, no snouts, no tusks.

The feet slink up from ankles, forming the curved swell of the calves, folding into knees at the front and still rising, thickening, spiralling around muscles to the hips, cascading down to form genitals and passing up again, a mid-line of the torso, and still the edges fold outwards, forwards and backwards, creating curves of breasts and soft spikes of collar-bones, switching perpendicular, falling down towards rippled elbows, over forearms and ending in the fingers. And no head or neck to be seen.

Is this what we all are?

Simple continuations, nothing ever thinking for itself. We live – our hearts beat softly beneath ribcages composed of backspacing and deletions. But it’s time for thinking that we’ve been here before.

We, the stories, are continuous continuations. Nothing new, I realise. The first episode of a saga stands a few metres away from me, headless, neckless. Not even that tall. The fantasy trope, I could imagine, redone and rehashed, made new, wringed out, tried again, but still a continuation, possibly, of another world. And unthinking and headless.

Episode two of the same saga stands to its left. Much smaller, missing the right arm. Missing both legs – but this is not why it’s short. Its body is much shorter than that of the first saga’s. And the third is nothing more than a torso, upright but unliving. I think I am starting to comprehend.

 

I search for the biggest body I can find. I want to discover what it is. I see it not too far off – black skin, a weak torso but strong legs, male, smooth and hairless. I stay below it, staring up, thinking nothing, mind quietly working. I stare at the place the body’s head should be.

And I see, I almost see a chin. It seems as though the neck extends – and it’s unusual there is a neck at all – into a chin. Nothing above, no face, no ear, no head, no brain. Just a neck, a chin and the rest of the heavy body, weight bearing down on itself. The feet are large, and I fully expect the white ground to crack and splinter beneath its form, but it remains stable. Supportive.

I wonder.

Is this figure the form of a story… or a continuation… that exceeded all limits? The types of stories some wonder why they ever got published or shelved. The types of stories some want to read but cannot dive into. The types of stories you feel envious that your friend understands.

I wonder.

Could this continuation be a book without a protagonist? Or written entirely without a full-stop? Or a book with no solid character at all? Or a story without an arc. Or a book devoid of all surrounding description. Or a story that uses the blankness of pages to enhance it. Or a book describing objects written by a blind man. Or a book filled with gibberish that becomes beautiful literature once you figure out how to read it. Or an event with no resolution.

Looking up at it, it is easy to think. But not so easy to consider a solution, an answer, to this. Who wrote this? Why is the figure of this book a huge, hairless black man? Why does this one have a neck and chin, an occurrence so rare I’ve not seen it before?

But alas the questions will remain floating in this emptiness, not one of them ever getting an answer. But I can understand this.

 

So I, a meagre and small continuation with no context to its birth, turn away. But still my blank mind rages with thoughts and I soon find myself still.

All around me, these stories, these continuations, these sagas and series and solos, stand as still as pillars. A storm could whisk the air around them, tsunamis could crash against their differing bodies, sledgehammers could buffet them, but they would not move. Any dents, or cracks, or chips would be minimal. But I, a moving version, would certainly get washed away. I am vulnerable, clearly.

And yet, another thought from my intangible soup of mind. I can see. I, unlike the tall and unthinking pillars, can not only move, but see. I can think. I can reason. I am small but different, very different. Nothing here can see me, though I am not hidden. These bodies are not dead, they live within their shaded shells, but they are senseless, motionless, invulnerable.

I am something very different.

 

I move on for some time, weaving, floating between each continuation. How am I different? What makes me a continuation worth eyes? What makes me worth movement? Numb feet that drag my body between lines and rows and columns and attentions. Are there more like me?

I pass bodies in the shape of women, some overweight, some slim, some missing limbs and some with extra. The same with the men, some have grotesque additions, body parts stuck on loosely, like a growth. And I remain silent through it all, letting my eyes take it in, letting my mind stay as silent and as cold as it needs to be. It works fast like this.

Some bodies are small, but not small like the 2nd and 3rd sagas I saw before. These are the head- and neckless bodies of children. Their tubby stomachs remain forever thrusted forward, elbows at their sides, and I wonder why some are smaller, some are bigger and some are missing limbs.

They are the same as the adult bodies in that way. The continuations of stories they are unlinked to, I suppose. Headless, thoughtless, but containing the heart and soul of something worthwhile. But yet, they see nothing, they think nothing, they are nothing.

I wonder about them.