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Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
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Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland

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Timestretch
John Heathcote
The Amen Corner: Theatre review by John Heathcote

The Sacred Cult of the Severed Head

Working for the Golden Cow

You've been in this box for fourteen hours.

There's something that they will never understand. We've been waiting all our life, on the platform of this bare station, with rails stretching out to nowhere, a small black point on an infinite horizon. Tumbleweed rolls down the dead tracks and we wait, poised, for the train to roll down those parallel lines and carry us far away from the silence, and the white light of the desert sun.

Some time, when we were children we had faith that the sleek engine would not pass us by; one day it would roll in, packed with bright eyes and smiling faces and take us off to the kaleidoscope of dreams, Armenia, Arizona, Albion, The land of eternal Summer.

From Oz to Ozymandis, defiant of the mortality of clocktime.

Gaze on this great ruined monument, and feel the scarlet sunjuice pump through your warm flesh. Touch the rough rock face and wonder at how the rain has worn these tracks which run from sightless eyes. How memory can ever cast such shadows, when it's substance is that of cloud-shapes tattered by the wind. Lost when words are forgotten, and re-emerging in shapes that deceive, changing within our dreams to the storyboard we devour. Wanting the cloud-shapes to coalesce into pictures that tell us a story, a story we can learn, a shape that repeats itself, a story about ourselves. Shows us the truth in a linear frame, make a meaning from the panorama of glittering polar light and the foul shapes that lie within the shadow. We are prisoners of the book, facing the drop.

And as night creeps up on us each and every time; as it always does when the morning's golden glow has turned to grey, our storyboard begins to devour us, eat away at the fabric of our being; tying us down to the dull earth, drawing dark forms around our angelic nebulous glow. Our hearts grow thick skins to stop the shock of laying soft and open, our eyes become the amber needles of wolves who cannot bear to look into the light.

 I used to feel a hand slipping into mine as I stood at on that brushblown platform far from home, in the dead street they call Desolation, but I never dared look to see if it was yours. The mind plays funny tricks when you live in a ghost town, and I guess that its better to be lonely than haunted.

 Of course I'd seen them all go past in my time, watching for the wagon train to some other star, to any place where things have not reached such seperation, where energy has not cooled to the slow mass. Closing my eyes I can still see them; wave after wave of optimistic imperial conquerors dressed to kill, marching down main street in the hot sun, great armies of dust who shake the Earth as they pass. They disappear like Sand Spirits, and all that remain are a discarded sandal, an old wine beaker cast aside by the road.

I want to run over and tell them to slow down, take a quick breather. I could ask them where they are going with such determined speed. I could ask them, too, which way does the train come from ? (I was told that there are in fact two tracks, running parallel to each other, with trains running each way; but I can only see one, and assume the other is buried beneath the sand.)

I know though, that if I ever leave the platform it will be at that moment the train comes tearing through; not bothering to stop at an empty station.To begin waiting again after that would be impossible. Anyway, I know that they would not stop to speak to me, for fear that they disintegrate in the face of my doubting eyes, wondering how I stand waiting in this dreadful quietness. not going anywhere. I lstand here though and watch them pass by, and they just gaze straight down the long road into the columns of dust, with dreams of the phoenix reflected in the sockets of their eyes. Its hard to see beyond the dust kicked up by your comrades and look within the nature of that strange bird's flame; to realise that this is a bright plumage spun of blood, dancing like a fire in a total eclipse.

I know this to be true you see, because I was a soldier in that lost legion, spear-carrier to general, and I know that no-one ever had a clue. It just got like we'd been marching forever, from one ghost town to the next; looking to capture the train, to take the shining city. No-one seemed to notice when I dropped behind on the way out of town, and sat down by the track to wait for the train.

 Sometimes it seems like I've been here an eternity. I know it can only be a few hours though. Twelve . . . fourteen . . . I'm sure that I'd remember the night, because the night is when I feel you by my side. I know that, because once the darkness takes me over, it's always the same. I know you're there, even though I do not dare to look. If I look, you'll become invisible again, and you know what I'm like in the darkness . . . on my own . . .

A

The evening light is a grey gauze, through which we see two men stretched out on iron beds set up against each wall. One of them writes a letter - every few moments he bites his pen, scratches his head, frowns.

 "Dear Mum, just to tell you everything's OK. I'm on the same wing as Uncle Charlie. He'll see I'm alright and he's promised to make sure that you're looked after as well. He sorted me out a good pair of shoes yesterday, and is getting me a job in the kitchen. Pity about the the Old bill, but truth's expensive now - and we know the truth. Two years ain't bad though - I thought I was going to be away for at least five to seven. If you could get a bit of money in so as I can buy some fags I'd be well pleased - you know me ! I hate poncing off my mates all the time. Oh yeah, tell Carol to bring in a little something for me.

I'll write the kids a letter tomorrow. Maybe you can give it to them when Marie drops them round next.

Say hello to Beastie for me. Try not to let him chase cars . Take care. Try and get down the bingo maybe.

Love ,

Smiler.

 He paused.

 "P.S. Ari I know your reading this, so its to you too. Don't sell my car."

He knew that the young turk would be around once he heard for how long Smiler was lying down, waving money, an offer his old mama couldn't afford to refuse.

Mind you, last time he was laid up in the flat, bit sick, you know; he'd watched a car disappear over three nights. First the wheels, fittings, motor, and then some cheeky bastard towed the chassis away in broad daylight. Probably reassembling the whole thing somewhere else. Well, good luck to the geezer.

He couldn't go near it again anyway, after the job with Andy going so wrong and all...Probably ended up in the suburbs somewhere, teenage racer...

Yeah, Ari's kid, shit, he could talk her into anything. Jeez, she'd nearly done two years herself last time, when Ari's idiot son had hidden the shooter under her bath. She'd woken up to find the house full of plod waving guns, and emerged screaming hysterically into the glare of the sodium lamps, like a tawny little sparrow muttering curses in some witches' tongue.

Ha ! it must have been ridiculous. Well, you could laugh now, but he took that little wanker out for a good kicking when he heard about it; and that's the way it had to be, even though he didn't like violence and would never hit the kids. People have to learn to show some respect, and if you didn't look after your own, who the fuck would in this stone and steel world,

Even old Ari had understood that. He'd gone down the hospital when his kid was getting patched up afterwards, and told him what was what; and whatever the old geezer said had got a result. Kid was out of there, and down the nick in no time, putting his hand up to the shooter, and the foolishness at the Seven Eleven. Never got asked about the wounds - they must have known they'd draw a blankon that one. Some things are a matter of honour . . . wouldn't be worth opening your mouth about that anyway . . . people always find out about those sort of things, and it will always catch up with you in the end. You 're gonna meet someone who knows you or knows your history, either out there in the runnings, or back inside.

Fact: The two things which have infinite worth are information and integrity; and if you had enough of one, and kept a hold of the other, you would always be alright. In that equation lies the wolfshead's infinite paradox.

Maybe not alright in the way that Don was alright. Big brother, one that got away. Got away from survival status, from the blocks, the pound shops, the sweet stink of industry; sweat smoke, and the thick poison of the combustion engine. Away from the warzone and the lost souls, left behind clinging to the rock.

 Left me behind with the junk and the guns, the short life, running down the tunnel punching glass.

Kept his head down, did school, got out. The old girl, Don never saw her much. Just a quick visit two or three times a year, a bit of money now and then, Not that it bothers me, man; its always been like that. Don needs his high walls to keep the world out and the tears in.Like all of us, every brother on the block who knows that high walls crumble at the touch of water. He's built his fortress by turning gold into bricks and mortar, Just a different way of dealing with the fear. The black hole of waking each morning and wondering who the fuck you are.

Don must have spotted the place he'd arrive at a lifetime ago, when the old girl would take him off to visit the old fella. Must have been during the long stretch he'd started about the time that I was born. I see the reluctant child being pulled down the trim antiquarian streets by the mother's hand; she would scurry along, looking like she was always walking into the wind. The boy gazes around in wonder at the near empty village streets and the green fields beyond. For him the journey is a bittersweet twist of freedom and imprisonment, the village a temporary paradise before the prison gates close like a jaw on the small family. Going back on the bus to the railway station, he watches the village rush by like a fast running film, wondering what happens to the people at night. Maybe they make this same sad journey back to the city lights . He sits there dwelling on this as the train rattles back through the dark country, rushing onwards to the whirlpool; the suburbs fleeting past, followed by the barrier estates along the river's dirty banks. the familiar smell of the dieseled brine, that rich fetid water wakes him from the warm press of his mother.

And as Don grows to understand the journey as more than a dream he realises that the prison walls do not start with the razor wire sharp against that grey open sky; but in the city, around the very block he lived in, and all those other islands of the lost. The longer you stayed within them, those high grey walls and forbidding barbed fences, the more solid they became; imprisoning your dreams and overshadowing all hope and ambition. Watching the other brothers surrender to that impersonal force, he could see them change; from childhood heroes, with their little victories against cornershop keepers and strangers from outside, to the young lags and sad old men watching their last pint, faces bitten by the despair of animals caught in the steel jaws of a trap. Instead of biting off their legs, they would eat their own souls, turning inwards in an inarticulate rage, often burning up slowly, leaving their children, in turn, fire-damaged and excluded, to continue the whole tragic cycle.

The village and places like that, they existed on some other dimension, outside of this world; and one day he would find the bridge, and the bridge would set him free. But as he saw his childhood friends slowly yield to the grey towers and razor wire which overshadowed and surrounded every thought, every exit slowly disappearing behind another impenetrable door; this brother cultivated a personal paradise with determination born of mortal fear; an island of open green, great skies and endless nights of silence

I know how my brother's dark eyes would have settled on some fancy house with its own front garden, and the two gleaming cars sitting outside the big bay windows. I can feel the click in my brother's head as the promise is made, the promise of possession. I know it only too well myself, that feeling one can never deny. Except that where I would only want to reach out and touch it, taste the stuff of dreams before I wake Don will always work to keep the object of his desire forever.

Therein is the difference.

 Even when he'd done a really good blag and ended up with a good bit of wedge in his pocket, he'd find some good way of getting rid of it within the twenty-four hours.

"Chicken on Sunday, feathers on Monday" - he could hear his old mum cackling away in the back of his head.

His mother loved Don for being so much of her, with that determination that is only born from desperation...

 And he knows she loves him for being his father returned. Not as some bloody corpse from that poxy civil war he had gone back to, fifteen years after being sensible enough to escape. She ever needed to ask why he'd been drawn back to that arid soil which ate up the people who loved it so much, devouring them from generation unto generation, father to son to babies not yet conceived. He was lost to that deep well of blood, but her son grew into the spirit of that man; a beautiful wild flaw in the heart of a crystal, pressed to transluscent purity by the pressure of those vast fractured mountains. He was, like her, a stranger in this town, and she loved him for his streetwise blindness to anything but the moment of life as it passes.

For Smiler this heartland is a memory. His father; holding up the boy in the restaurant at the homecoming party, smelling of sweat, sweet soap and alcohol, whilst men dance in shirt sleeves and women spin round the room in dresses the colour of flame.

His mother was transfigured forever that day. He and Don had never known a time when she was not dependent on them for their knowledge of how things were done in this, their country. All those brown envelope letters deciphered and the deadlines dealt with, what happened out in the neighbourhood; the real strings of survival. Just to keep business in hand and the social life of the antisocial ticking over like a timebomb; keep connected to the undercurrent.

And for Smiler, the estate is an island, the fisheye through which to view the Outside. From the first time he left the flat on his own, and could stretch up and press the button marked 'B' which takes him down to the subterranean kingdom of the garages. No-one ever used the area for parking, not unless they wanted to spend the evening watching the fire crews arrive, as the thick black smoke billowed from the air vents. When the flames lick the bottom floors of the blocks, and the windows start to crack and shatter, the children whoop with delight. The grey slabs light up like magic lanterns and the children dance to a long fogotten song.

It was better when Don had been at home. He'd been there before, when Dad was around. Don could always translate when the old girl started fussing. He knew enough of the language to keep their Mum happy, a reminder that her world still existed. What with her holding on through time to the old world, and his bro with his head in a book dreaming of escape, someone had to keep an eye on what went down. He saw that secret world transform her the day that Dada got parole, realised that sometimes a space only looked empty because you were looking for the wrong thing that filled it.

That day, for the first time ever, he was the lost soul on an alien planet. His Uncle's familiar restaurant shutting mundane life outside; curtains drawn to turn the room into an island set in a distant sea, recreating the memory of a memory.

It was only when his father picked him off the chair in the corner that he saw the shift stream through this plastic world, a reality beyond; which shines through if you twist yourself to look through the gaps. Brighter than the real thing, like the memories of torched cars in the underground shelters, and not a confusion of dreamshapes. His father, smelling of strong brandy, his eyes filled with the madness of freedom and the consequent ecstacy of expression, whirls him in a highspiral towards the ceiling, in a great arc towards the light; his voice rising in pitch and tempo until the strange language becomes a mantra chanted by bell-shaking buddhists, deep spells that begin to transfix him, seem to cast him into a trance. He remembers - like a taste - the feeling that he is floating, lighter than air, bobbing like a helium balloon above the heads of those strange people, who are not looking up towards him at all, but are bent over some catatonic child.

He can see the host of angels gathered round the shiny throne, splendid in robes and halos, great apocryphal beasts lying at their feet. They too are speaking the language of his father, and what is more he understands them, and in that endless moment he sings them a wish for life through death and the lightness of being.

Slowly he felt himself focussing on the face of one of the angels, a dark madonna whose golden halo slowly transforms itself into the sovereign eardrops of his sobbing mother. "Don't be lost to me, don't be lost" she repeated, again and again, rocking him out of the cold sweat of unconsciousnes..

He had tried to get Don to tell him what was going on. But Don just sat there, next to their father, his dark eyes taking it all in, unmoved, as Smiler told him of the angels and the heavenly choir, and what it was like to float halfway between the floor and God's own heaven. And how their mother had been transformed from spectre to angel, had thrown off the shroud of mourning she'd worn like a cloak of invisibility.

He had never seen her talk to a man who listened and did not look at her as if she was deranged - shit, sometimes her English was so bad that even he thought she was acting crazy. Well, he understood the crack now, how some sorts of silence can deny them the final victory, the loss of your soul, your memory. Denying it's possession by the brute force, the surrender of what she had left to the amorphous power.

What the fuck do they talk about, they both try to talk English, but I can't grab a thing that either of them are saying sometimes. He could see that the old girl was alright, as well. This place would kill her if they left her behind, with her only company that old Ari from the floor below, jabbering endlessly at each other.

Mind you, that had never stopped him understanding his mother, those tumbles of broken words, even if he had to feign a complete blank at certain opportune moments.

He laughs silently at the knowing that his mother always loved him to forgiveness, when he was arguing with her and he tried to curse her in their own language. Something they both shared which the world outside could never understand.

Don taught him how to swear like a native, but had sort of run out of steam when it came to the more conversational phrases. Still, if you knew how to swear properly in any language, you'd be alright.

The one thing he'd remembered from Don's lessons was that their people had never been defeated, even by Alexander, that Greek. It's probably because they were too busy fighting each other, Don told him. Still the brother would go back one day, he thought. He's got ambitions. And though he didn't see too much of him nowadays, he'd always promised to set Smiler up in business there one day; when Peace comes; and its safe for ambitious men to return, because all the others have killed each other.

Shit, if he drove his own car over, he'd be a rich man. The only cab in town. Wouldn't need insurance in a place like that - probably not worth it anyway, until they cleared all the land mines out.

No, better to just do one decent job and piss off to somewhere nice and hot. Have some little plot reserved in a place near to where Don ends up, Just in case it all comes on top. Even celebrity villains weren't safe nowadays - like the one in Brazil who made a record. No, that would be the time to check Don out.

He could get a job cabbing if nothing else. Everywhere needs cabs, and from the way his old man drove a motor, it couldn't take much to pass your test over there. What little he had seen of the place on t.v, the only vehicles on the road were lorries full of men, waving automatic rifles and muskets, screaming past burnt out cars and disappearing in clouds of dust. He always used to watch closely to see if any of the men was his father; and remembers thinking at the time that his mother's silent tears were for his disappointment.

Then all the men started to look like his father, especially the ones lying still and smouldering, draped over the charred out remains of those brave trucks; and his mother stopped him watching those reports at all. Se wanted him to hold that memory of someone full of the green sap of life, who could gorge himself on sweet brandy and freedom because he had spent so much of his life without it.

Even now he sees his old man riding a fleet-footed horseon some mountain, scarlet sash across his shoulder, silver cutlass high above his head, exulting and exalted in the white breath of the heavens.

He had been here, and then he'd gone, and left just that memory of the party in the bar, with the women in the blood red dresses spinning like flames, and the pictures of mountains reaching to heaven hanging over every table.

Maybe the dancers had been just pictures on the wall.

He only knew that as his father clutched him in the heady smell of brandy, pressing his face against the rough stubble, the pictures came alive.They engraved themselves within his soul like photographic plates etched by white light. He knows that this place has never made him feel at home, and maybe its because he needs the dream to carry himself back from the dark sleep of the anasthaetic, if there was only the blocks and the city sprawl, he'd leave this grey place for the soft golden flicker of the lantern's candle; set in the low prow of the small boat gliding through the dark waters . It might be worth coming back and grabbing the kids, taking them as well. At least that bastard Jimmy would have the smile wiped off his face for a moment. . .

Oh Marie, what have you done to me...what the fuck did I do to you.?

Looking down that way is like looking down a long dark tunnel . . . best not to let the mind wander.

There's only one thing in this world that's ever cured that pain; and I can't get that till tomorrow comes, the end of waiting for that sweet relief.

Up until that moment when he feels the first wave swallowing the centre of his brain. All the hours of waiting split into minutes, seconds, milliseconds; eggs of eternity. Count them down, eleven thirteen, fourteen hours and thirty seven minutes of waiting.

Waiting time, just Wasted time. Waiting to get wasted.

Wasted, weightless, lighter than air itself, so full of the minus sign that you can float out of this place on the thick foul breath of life turned in on itself, the stench of Time eating her own children; knowing that the less you move the more you can travel. It's a stuff which packs the punch and power of rocket fuel, the 21st. century packed in a paper bindle; space dust supreme, just made to take you further, further down, faster than the the speed of light, inverted and subliminal, drowning in the terminal. Swimming down in a grey swirl of passing faces, recovered memories twisting through the cortex, drawn down to the still lake.

The first time in that cell at Belmarsh . . . that was when I knew that I'd lost the soft skin of childhood, stepped off the path and been able to stand there and look at myself. It wasn't like the edge you reach after three cans of the purple liquid and a quarter bottle of wood spirit, posing as Vodka. Everything then just hangs round the centre, not letting you leave the small space between your skull or your ribs, whichever hurts the most, heart or mind.

No, this bitter powder sends you back along the tunnel; you float back down the dark river towards the source, the mystery. Its true, you do have to cross the palm of the blind ferryman with silver to make the trip. And you often gotta share that small boat with fellow travellers you might not want to step over in the light of day; but once you're down that tunnel, and the journey begins, you are, forever more, alone.

I'd been transformed into an empty space looking for the feeling of a vacuum. It took that smoky spiral snaking through my brain to make me realise what I'd lost on the way here, to this point, far beyond the last frontier. The trip of becoming nothing in some fragile leave-behind container, of seeing myself lying in a bare room, of feeling the flesh fall away, heavy and useless; legs. dick, arms, torso, anaethatised and superficial. As the body becomes deadweight, pinned immobile to the horizontal plane, first dimensions; my soul sucked back like the tide pulled by a different moon; drawn out into an endless sea as all those high walls of earth we throw up around ourselves slowly fall away. A fleet look before I go, at the skinny shell sprawled across the iron bed, a quick goodbye - or should I say Au revoir. I can feel the hands reaching out from within the dark world, reaching out to draw me in, hear the sounds of voices speaking primeval language. Falling past the faces of the four beasts, looking down on that small spinning rock suspended in a dark sky. Far from this stone container, this cage of dead dreams and live horrorshows.

Nothing ever seems to matter till the next day comes, and reality, their reality bites just that little bit harder, and you need to get back to the other place a little more desperately. Far down deep inside your head, further down than the stream of sorrow, the desert of disposession. And of course, once you know that place is there, it gets ever harder to stay here in this mundane, mad and murderous world, where travel is limited to the one dimension. And you don't just want the ticket, but the whole damn thing. Enough endless sleep to reach the other side and never have to float back on the pea - green boat.

When Nothing tastes better than a cheap cake. you can live on paper bags.

Shit! I've had dreams of finding sacks of the stuff so real that I've searched my room for it the next morning. Can't quite remember when the means became the end. Must have been when the pain became worse for the not having it.

When she left me the first time, and the loneliness kicked in; the empty flat overlooking the railway lines, watching the trains roll through the dark winter evenings, trails of light stuffed full of people; all going somewhere, with someone waiting at the other end. Talking to myself, talking to her empty space. Filled it up with a ten-pound bag. But the space got bigger, and the world got emptier, and before long it seemed like you could keep pouring the sand into this bottomless pit, always empty no matter how much sand the Sandman tips on down. But it makes it easier to wake up and feel a fat bag of powder waiting to work it's wondrous magic on you. Some things you can trust... More than that it makes you feel like you're wanted. . . By all the other lost souls turning up on your doorstep, wanting to share that bag of dreams.

Not that the pain's there anymore. The twitching and itching, aches, flushes, blackouts, sweating out the smell of heavy metal and sulphorous toxins.

Not in the body. Just the mind.

Gotta get kicked in the head by a Horse. A black stallion who brings darkness in a trail of smoke - borne dreams and shadow worlds.

Shut all those fucking words out. Words that betray feeling, but never touch true reason. Whirlpools of unreasoning rising to the surface like some poisonous sludge. Never dare look behind the wall to what it was like before. Before the stretch when I first hit it big time. But then it was easier. She was still there, outside those walls. Like some of me could never be totally locked away whilst she was out there, living for me, two waiting as one. But even then, he'd known as the judge had sent him down, and she'd looked over with that look of hopelessness and betrayal that the circle had become a noose, and she could see him swinging, his feet kicking high above the Earth, even as he could feel the choker tighten on his throat. . .

How the time before was the real sentence of death, suspended but inevitable. The taste of the moonflower, seducing him with the promise of a greater loyalty than any mortal. Bury the pain of one lost - behind love with the love of something that would never let him go.

Belmarsh, built on the gypsy land and sinking slowly back into the wet peat. More sacrifices now than were ever dug out of the soft earth by the hard hats who'd built the smooth grey walls.

She'd come across the river once or twice when the mood took her, and she could bear to be reminded of their whole sad, shared story. But when the first week had gone by, with every minute a sentence in itself, waiting for the intercom to call his name. . . That was three days of suffering, and the letter hadn't helped.

Well, she wasn't really into writing, but there was so much of it.

Wasn't that easy to agree on a visit a month, without the kids, but like she said - and he'd agreed - it didn't do any of them any good at all. At first the powder just helped to fill the black hole with dreams, but when the first big Drought had hit, round about Christmas time, that's when the dreams got all twisted up like the sweat-wet sheets, grotesque imaginings. Rushes brought on by the visions of the woman, the keeper of his soft internal soul, laying it out for one man after another, taking their flesh into hers to burn away the memory, the shadow of himself.

He couldn't love her then, so he hated her, and as the powder returned to bring peace to his tormented ghosts, he began to decide that no other way was possible. If she'd betrayed him, then she wouldn't care; and if she hadn't, well, one day she would, sure as the sun rises.

He'd suffered the worst now, and felt reborn for the last nine months of that little lie-down.

So do you choose to walk into this world of shadows, or do they reach out with long fingers and draw you in ? Sometimes there's only that temptation, to shut the tired eyes, leave behind the aching heart. If you can feel the depth beneath your feet; if the ground's already shifted, the sands of the dry seasons, long times of drought shifting the fragile foundation; or your feet never felt the hot beat of the earth's surface; then there is no surrender to the immortal force. It's already eaten your empty soul, your grieving heart. The only way to help is tread the thin ice with care, don't bring anyone along. This destination don't do party tickets and there's no cheap- day return.

The day the gates had shut behind him, and he stood waiting at the side of the river for the ferry back across to Silvertown, he realised there was no centre here any more, and that suddenly felt very strange.

He'd gone back to her end of town after dropping in on his old mum, and walked up and down the street, round the back of the block a couple of times, trying to catch sight of her through the kitchen window. But it was probably too late by then, she would have been down in the front room, or up in the bedroom...He tried to watch the lights in the house, track her movement from room to room, work out if she was alone, if her mother was there, if someone was with her, following up the stairs to share her dreams.

But pride wouldn't let him stay there once he could taste the salt on his lips. As the lights become a kaleidoscope of tears he turns and walks away, back down to the wrong end of town. He knows the way too well now; and can do it on automatic. When he gets there, no-ne notices a little bit of redeye.

Coming down or crying, its all the same really when you're in the rowboat on the River Styx

When he'd found out about...about...when he'd found out about that man moving into his place, his place in her heart, her bed, her mind. . . that day he'd seen her from the hill with him, that was when the hurting just bust through.

Six days he lay on that fucking mattress in the hostel, and he couldn't cry, 'cause the gear stopped up your tear ducts. But it was alright, that stuff had been the smoothest for as long as he could remember. He'd dreamt bloodbaths, cuddling up to the cold barrel of the automatic that he'd been holding for Madboy. If he'd left him any clips, he could have just as easily walked out into the busy street, picking off the mannequins one by one. Watching them fall away silently, their eyes fixed on his, drawing out the bile and transforming it into something holy; gold and scarlet, the colour of an angel's tears. Set against the grey silence which bound him up like steel wrapped cable; taut as a wires on a pylon

That was the wierdest thing of all. Never felt any love till much later, when the hating drew away, hanging like a dark mass over every horizon, and the hurting started. Before that it was just pure fuckin hatred, deep and bitter, an evil incendiary lodged within every conscious unconscious thought, a toxic stream running from the heart to the brain.

Shit, that hatred, pure and refined can keep you going better than any pink-powdered softboy love - story. All love is ever about is leaving people, losing people. Pretending that one plus one equal one, when life just shows me it equal two. Seperation, that's the sting. Maybe death's the only time when we get out, really get out of our heads, and leave behind the weight of the flesh, waste the weight and lift the anchor for a last voyage to some real homeland.

O.K. So they'd all told him, first time and every time, forget it all; you're better off alone; all there is to bother you brother, is the day-to-day.

That you can handle. It stops you thinking of the calendar burning away; all these young faces growing older, just waiting for something that will betray them, burn them, lose them in illusion...

Somewhere, in the East of the city, a woman stares out from behind a clear large window. She has cleaned it to the point of transparency. Outside, the wind carries the leaves in eddies around the little balcony; and down below in the bare treetops flutters a solitary plastic bag, like a flag of surrender. Down below lie little flat roofed blocks squeezed in between the roads and the railway lines. Electric blue sparks lighting up the grey skyline every time a train roars out of the city; towards the green hills that you can just see from the nineteenth floor. She sprays the white mist over the pane again, and begins to wipe it away, leaving the glass so transparent that it begins to disappear. As the sky outside begins to darken, and the cars move along the arteries of the town, red and white corpuscles moving in opposite directions, the glass starts to become a mirror. As the woman stares, unmoving now, with the rag limp in her hand, she is looking far beyond her own reflection, far beyond the city, the hills, or the skyline beyond.

The man across the aisle is lying on his back on the skimpy tattered mattress. His eyes are shut and his body is completely still. Even his chest does not rise and fall, and one arm is flung over the edge of the bed. In his other hand is the burnt out filter from a cigarette, and it is possible that his fingers are also burnt.

He does not care though, because he is in the great salt-marshes. He can feel his brother just behind him;, no ghost, but vibrant in the electric air. As they race towards the mound which rises out of the green waves of rushes. their bare feet pound the warm sand, and salt-spray from the sea fills their nostrils. As they start to climb the spiral path that leads to the stone at the top of the Tor, they gain speed and tumbling over each other, slap their hands on the great silver rock. Catching their breath, they throw themselves down on the warm turf.

Is that gentle rhythm the thump of the North Sea's waves, which whip the shoreline behind the high sand seawall; or the blood rushing through their brains?

Beyond the great shadow of the stone they see the forest's spiky Northern darkness; above which hangs the silver sickle moon, eagerly anticipating her reign, even before the scarlet blaze of the sun sinks beneath the sea.

As they lie there, overcome by the silence of nature poised, they see the first birds descending from the sky. What seemed like dots against the clear blue become great flocks wheeling and diving around them in vast geometric patterns. The sound of their cries are barely audible above the beating of their wings. The boys lie pressed up against the rock, feeling the air rushing past their faces, as yet more flocks swarm in to celebrate the dance.

From the phalanxes of wild geese to the swarms of chattering sea-martens the birds become one flock, one ecstatic rush of power, one mind of a million parts; curling, weaving dreamshapes into the clouds, which swirl and spin like the dragon's tail. That disappear in a sudden vortex, and reappear in some other shape, like the twist of a kaleidoscope. Spirals, convex, concave, whirling cyclones which flash between turns. Then faster than they arrived, the birds are gone, and the brothers lie trembling against the great silver stone, hearing just the wind's whisper through the rushes, as the last red stain sinks beneath the sea.

He can't make out whether the dull thunder of a distant drum is the roll of the surf crashing on the shore, or the blood pumping through his heart.

 © 1998

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