Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mountain Bears

Interlude II: Mountain Bears, A Sample Chapter from The White Owl

Mountain Bears

Where we live there are mountains. Not far from where people drive and sit in their houses eating dinner. In those same mountains are bears. They don’t come down very often. When they do they are sickly or old, or just confused. They make messes, they eat dogs, sometimes they are shot or poisoned.

There is a boy on our street who is very afraid of bears. We tell him a bear has come down from its mountain and he cries and won’t come out. We tell him it’s not a bear like that, and that we didn’t really see it anyway.

One day the boy goes to the end of the street where the back yard of a house they tore down five years ago when the boy wasn’t even a boy but some other thing - a thing that crawls and pees on itself and can’t play any games - has become a jungle.

A small one, full of trees and sometimes, we tell him, bears which have come down from the mountains. He doesn’t like it when we tell him this, even though he has learned not to be afraid. Learned that we are not always entirely truthful about these rumours.

But he’s a fat boy, perhaps because he is afraid of bears and does not join us on those walks and hikes between the town and the forest which covers up the base of the mountains like two green hands. We have baked him a pie. It’s not very good, but he eats it anyway because it is very sweet.

We don’t join him. It is too sweet for us and not very big, we explain. And there is poison in it. Not that we say anything about the poison because we’re too excited about the tracks we’ve found, about the strange markings and the ursine scent we think we’ve noticed hanging thick and heavy.

Someone’s dog is missing, but likely it ran away or was run over by a truck. We mention all this, only after he’s had the pie and is feeling sleepy and his stomach isn’t so good - but he’s sleepy most of all, and just a little bit afraid now.

You can smell it, like a memory of those piss-stained days when he wasn’t a boy but a thing that couldn’t play. We take him to the place where we saw the bits of fur and a half-chewed collar. He doesn’t want to go, but we show him.

He cries and now he has peed down his leg like a dog. We laugh though we’re sad because he knows there isn’t any bear. Just this hole in the foundations full of broken bottles and trash and used tires. But he falls down a few times, and cuts his face so we run away.

Later that night we hear the boy’s mother calling. The boy hasn’t returned for his dinner. Have we seen him? No. There’s an old man with a red pebbly nose like a strawberry that’s gone rotten and a baseball cap with a grizzly on it, putting up LOST DOG flyers.

We explain, carefully, having cleaned up all evidence of our baking, and hidden the bottles of poison where the homeless teenagers sleep in the bushes, that we haven’t.

The next week there is a story in the local paper about how a bear came down from the mountains and ate a boy. This is sad but we live near the mountains, and sometimes, bears come down and eat boys.

We could move away but then we’d miss the mountains.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Signal

An Interlude: The Signal - A Short Story

With thanks to Berit Ellingsen for the idea.

The Signal.

The shape wanders through the night, one spectral hand held high, searching for the signal. Moans rise from the alleyway below where other ghosts have congregated. Pleas for an RT or a final like whisper forth from throats that haven't the cartilage to form words.

As Stephen lies in bed, he can hear them pacing the landing, going up and down the hallway, bony digits clicking, clicking, endlessly through the night. They've lost the signal, the one they think will lead them back to life.

But it's gone and so are they. Only static and the long grass and poplar trees which buzz with hidden insectile life.

He rolls over and tries to ignore their airy cries. It's only an afterimage, Yvonne says. A magnetized echo. Like the shadows they left behind on the walls when they blew up Hiroshima.

Only our shadows, Stephen always says, are mobile ones. They make noises, they move things.

Doesn't matter, is her reply. Like everything else, they're just fading. Another season, I bet you, and they'll be gone. Rust and ruin, like all the rest. Soon we won't even notice them.

I'm not so sure. There are so many. So many still searching for the signal.

Shush, little one. Be quiet and rest. We've got to keep moving now that the well is gone off. We'll pack the vans in the morning. There's not enough fodder around here to keep the horses alive through winter anyhow.

I know, I just wish someone could tell them - could turn them off. Especially at night, Stephen says trying hard not to look.

They will, dove, she says, softer now. Over time they'll ...fade out. It's just that their implants were self-sustaining. It takes a long time for that to wind down. They've a lot of half-lives still to go through, poor things. I bet they didn't guess they'd spend their lives in the loop and still be just as disconnected at the end.

Stephen doesn't say anything more. In the closet there is a luminescent presence hunched over a broken desk, eyes that are just deeper pits locked on something that isn't there. Not for them, or anyone else. A paw moves rapidly back and forth, leaving tiny trails of light that cling to the rotten wood as if they were insects.

I just wish they'd rest sometimes, at night. His voice has grown heavy with sleep despite his claim to never close his eyes when they're around.

Poor dove, I know. But they didn't rest much then, why should they now?

Closing his eyes Stephen thinks for a moment that he can hear a humming coming from the closet, from the street below, from the dead wires on which only crows and starlings move back and forth anymore. But that's just a phantom, his imagination he knows.

Because there's a part of him, of all of us Yvonne has told him, that keeps searching for the signal even if we've never known it before. In time that too will fade, she says, and leave the world quiet once more.

Just the insects you and me, little dove, and the starlings and the crows.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Rainy Season

In the trickle whole and immaculate is the flood.