Archive for November 2nd, 2022


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Three

The cars are the wheels of the city. The city is the body of the car. Smoke and steam are air and water, air and water and fire and thoughts of time and distance and speed.

The streets talk to the windows, and the windows are the words of the streets. Behind the windows are drums, and phones, and the drivers of cars, dictionaries and old photos of the rowing team. I want to take you away from here, but you are in the car, and the cars wheels are your wheels, and the breath of the smoke is your breath.

Come to the club tonight, you say, and the club forms in my mind, accretes around the sand-grit of your cigarette ash; the club is smooth and pearlescent, and slides through my mind like a child’s toy fallen into the foaming rush of the river.

The car is long and thick, and inside it you bring a world of smoke and liquor and dancing, and the street talks to the windows of the buildings that pass by, shop-fronts and apartments, the precinct house and the pillory, the Church of Our Lady of the Distant Fields, where the statues weep for our sins, and we sin while weeping, all the world sinning and weeping together on this holiest of Saturday nights.

Dangle me like a fishhook, baby, the singer commands, as smoke dangles in the air, and the fishhooks of the police watch from the high balconies far above the roof, the searchlights searching, the voices raised in song, joyful sinners kissing weeping saints, my long circle arcing finally back around to you, you the golden child, the proud stuff of dreams there in your seat by the window, louche and relaxed and pouring yourself another two fingers of Oban Single Malt from the car’s very own bar, Simon the driver whistling softly a tune that his mother used to sing him at bed time, because he knows that you don’t mind when he whistles.

The cars are the wheels of the city, they hold it up and move it along, they have bags of money in the trunk, in the boot, stuffed under the back seat, and money talks, money talks to the street, and the street talks to the windows, and the windows give their light generously to the air, smoke curling and coiling, and for all of the talking and shouting and singing and cries of anger or joyful release, for all the growling of engines and screeching of tires, the city is silent in the night by the river.

“Look at the lights on the water,” you say, or you said on some other night. Your sweet red cloche hat cradles the city’s soul in its arms, and I think of the smooth surface of the water, and what might be under it, and how far down the water goes, down down down from the air and the piers and the docks and the water-stairs, down forever into the depths where there is no air, but there is water and mud and debris, and centuries of forgotten things.

A penny for your thoughts, you might say, but you don’t, as the patterns of the windows and the headlights and the neon signs reflect from the surfaces of your eyes. Your eyes take in the patterns of light, eagerly welcoming them as new examples of familiar things, allowing the carefully-shaped glowing tubes to deliver their photons directly to your hidden intimate retinas, forming shapes and signs and letters that pop in your brain, and whisper to your mind, Budweiser, Open, Hotel, Eat, Open, Restaurant, Delicatessen, Music, Drugs, Radio City.

The words whispering into your mind from the neon signs are words chosen, planned, by people in the past, people who are alive or dead, present or absent, but have left their mark on the city, and now the city whispers their words into your mind as you sip your scotch, and the rich peaty memory of time slides burning down your mortal organic throat.

The cars are the wheels of the city, the night is oil, the smoke is gasoline, and everything is flammable, every neon sign and every breath and every steakhouse catching an efflorescent fire from the thoughts of children, from the cries and the ambitions of adults, the skittering of rats under the streets, in the old tunnels and the new tunnels, bright with subterranean dew, where mushrooms grow small and stunted, closely huddled to the cement and the iron rails.

Sharp metal softly pierces and separates tissue, could softly pierce and separate the membranes of the tires of the wheels of the cars of the city, letting the air out in grateful sighs.

Thoughts of sharp metal turn themselves in the neon light, reflecting in curving patterns on the metal panels of the moving cars and the doors of the club. Men and women come and go, men in dark suits and women in bright dresses, wool and felt, cotton and silk, the whisper of cloth against cloth and cloth against skin.

Is this where we have come to, is this what we have come to? When the dark stone blocks are arranged in the old way, they spell the secret name of God, and if the name is spoken the doors will unlock, and all will be revealed, and ancient things will be released. What would the rough beast, slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, make of the city and its neon, the club and its busty cigarette girls, the insouciant blues sliding sleek into the foggy night without visible regard for the depths of time and the need for salvation?

Save me, honey, hold me, baby, oh what you do to me. Only a worshiper can understand, only on our knees are we gifted with that final revelation (“now you can drink it or you can nurse it, it don’t matter how you worship, as long as you’re down on your knees,” like the man said), that final gift that comes whether or not we ask for it, whether or not we want it.

“I’ll never understand you,” you said, with your lips and tongue and your throat, spoken from somewhere in the pulsing depths of your body, your brain, your tenuous connection to Mind, and when you said it it shook the air, and the air shook membranes within me, and my brain pinged and my Mind changed, and I thought you that thought that you would never, in fact, understand me. Who am I, and who are you? When the blocks align, all questions will be answered, and we will know the will of God.

The cars are the wheels of the city, the city is the heart of the nation, the nation is the skin of the world. Beneath the skin lie the bones, the muscles, the blood. The blues sing sweetly of the blood, how it pulses and how it sings, and the smoke gathers in the upper corners of the big room, a woman laughs, a chair scrapes, someone cries out something unintelligible, drinks are served, and slide down so many tender throats.

I feel the dawn coming. I feel the dawn coming, I feel the dawn. Coming.

Fling Four


NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Two

By the side of a high healthy stem that stretched tall into the verdant air, perhaps slightly thicker and more full of life, perhaps even higher and stronger than the other stems that rose from that patch of dark rich ground (or, realistically, perhaps much like them and not especially unusual), lived a small semi-transparent woman named Alissa.

Alissa, like most of her friends and neighbors on the dark rich ground, had four thin graceful legs, and two supple arms ending in agile many-fingered hands. People of varied shapes and sizes, ages and species, would come to the dark ground, offering seeds and fragrant rich earth-daubs and other precious things in exchange for the stories that Alissa and her friends and neighbors would tell them, taken from the vast store of stories that they had received from earlier inhabitants of the ground, who had received them in turn from earlier inhabitants, and so on back into times that were only stories themselves.

The stories that Alissa and her friends and neighbors told were unique and valuable, as different from the ordinary stories that ordinary people told each other in the root-sinks and on the leaf-ways of ordinary commerce, as the dawn is from the twilight, or a stone from a raindrop.

A shiny red leaf-sculptor would come to Alissa’s right-hand neighbor and present an earth-daub scented with jasmine, blue with promise and history. In return, her neighbor would tell the visitor a day-long story about the first blossoming stem, or the way the ancients used rain-water to outwit a tribe of (now thankfully extinct) mammals.

A semi-transparent wanderer, like Alissa and her friends and neighbors but with an extra pair of arms and a few extra eyes, would bring a rare and novel seed from somewhere beyond the running water, and one of Alissa’s friends would give in return a riveting story about the various ways of moving from place to place far above the earth, and how each one was discovered in a far-off forgotten time.

Alissa herself, because of the dear vanished individual from whom most of her stories came, and also because of some virtue or fault somewhere within herself (as she thought, looking at her curved reflection in an especially large dew-drop under the light of a full moon) had primarily stories that were themselves about stories. She could describe how the first story came to be, how stories are passed along from one person to another, how stories correspond to motions within the bodies of the various tellers and hearers. She could weave a memory of two ancients sitting far above the ground, discussing the difference between a story-teller exchanging a story for an acorn, and one generation passing a story along to the next.

“Both are tellings,” she would describe one ancient saying to another, “but one manner of telling comes from the head of the teller, and goes to the head of the hearer; whereas the other comes from the abdomen, and goes to the abdomen of the other, where it takes a different kind of root.”

Alissa knew that her stories were not in the same demand as those of some of her friends and neighbors, but in general she was content enough. Nectar and oils flowed through the stem by which she lived, seeds and root-fibers of the ordinary kinds were exchanged and enjoyed every evening as the twilight deepened, and if she did not acquire and pile up, or otherwise appreciate as many rare and unusual seeds and daubs as some others, she had just as much of the dawn and the twilight, and at least as much of the nectar and raindrop, as anyone else.

Then one day there came to the dark rich ground an ancient twelve-legged person, whose outer layers were all dry and peeling and grey-white, and the person was looking for Alissa.

“Thank you,” he said in a thin and reedy voice when her eastward neighbor brought him to her, “you are very kind, very kind.”

The ancient person, dry and peeling though he was, was also unusually large, and carrying on his back a leaf-roll in which something, or some things, was or were rolled up like a bud. Alissa generously helped him ease the burden from his back (although, small as she was, she was in fact only a small amount of assistance to him), and he immediately slumped down beside it, thin and perhaps worrying sounds coming from his mouths and spiracles.

“Would you like a story while you rest?” Alissa asked him, but he shook his head and topmost arms in a negative way.

“Thank you for offering,” he wheezed, “but I need no more stories; I know too many already.”

Alissa began to ask him why he had come looking for her then, if he did not want one of her stories, but he again made negative motions, and slumped even more heavily to the rich dark ground in a worrying way. So Alissa did not try again to speak, but went into her indentation and fetched a droplet of nectar, which the ancient dry person accepted with a motion of gratitude, applying to his upper mouth, and also around some of the driest and most distressed-looking parts of his carapace, and then appeared to fall into a daze, or even sleep, with soft and irregular sounds coming from his spiracles.

He remained there unmoving as the day slowly progressed. A much more ordinary traveler came, with a fine if ordinary seed, and Alissa went aside with her, to another indentation up her stem where they would not disturb the dazed or sleeping being, and gave her in return a long story about the first time stories were exchanged for seeds.

Her story finished and the visitor bade farewell, Alissa went again into her indentation, trying to move especially softly, and stored away her new seed. It was brown and symmetrical, matte and intact, and she enjoyed the feeling of possessing it. Outside, beside her stem, the large ancient stranger still lay, and beside him on the brown earth was his burden, lying half-unrolled. A few odd curling things showed within it, and Alissa moved her upper body and eyes back and forth, but could discern nothing familiar or certain about them. Not wanting to disturb the exhausted visitor, she slipped off among the stems.

Twilight began to deepen, and Alissa took a couple of ordinary root-fiber lengths that she had found that day, and went to the center of the dark ground where people had begun to gather. It was an especially fair night, and Alissa contributed her fibers to the pile and later satisfied her body’s hunger with a thick half-seed that someone else had brought, and sang songs and told jokes with the others, and reflected upon the ways that the sounds in the air took part in her experience, and how her experience molded the sounds that she contributed to the air, the way that her root fibers had contributed to the pile.

Her particular sounds, Alissa thought, were unusually valuable to the experience of the whole, and that more than balanced the possibility that her root fibers were slightly less valuable than average.

When Alissa came back to her stem and her indentation from the slowly-dispersing twilight gathering, the large peeling ancient was gone. His bundle, now even more unrolled, still lay on the rich dark earth, but aside from a shallow dip pressed into that earth by his slumped body, there was no sign of the enigmatic visitor. Alissa waved an antenna over the dip, and then circled around the area and nearby paths between the stems in search, but came upon no scent trails, intentional or even accidental, that might mark the way that he had gone.

Alissa moved her arms and legs in a puzzled and frustrated pattern, then moved the awkward bundle into her indentation, and curled in the inner corner for the night.

When the next dawn was in its second brightness, she uncurled herself and then carefully unrolled the bundle, using her arms and her two front legs, and spread the contents out on the dark soil at the base of her towering stem. The wrapping of the bundle was some extremely tough but pliable leaf, treated she thought in some mysterious way so as to keep its flexibility over time, as it seemed both old and new. She put it carefully to one side, and considered the few things that had been wrapped up in it.

There were only four things within the wrapping, when Alissa had the bundle entirely spread out: two flat curved fragments of leaf, or what seemed to be fragments of leaf although they were quite odd, one remarkable-looking seed, and a small hard stone.

The oddness about the two curved maybe-fragments of maybe-leaf came from the patterns upon them. Different kinds of leaves have different patterns, but they all have in common that they come from the need to channel nectar from the stem out to every tiny chamber of the leaf, to attract or repel leaf-eaters, and to combine with the colors and patterns of other sibling leaves to make a harmonious pattern for the totality of the plant. But these patterns seemed to Alissa to do none of these things. They had differences where there was no need for difference, and repetitions where repetitions made no sense. There were small delicate patterns, disconnected from each other and turning back on themselves, in some parts of the fragments, and in other parts were lines and curves of difference that also led nowhere. She could just make out a more normal pattern of nectar-tunnels, indistinct under the very bold darknesses of these patterns, but it was as though the normal patterns were hidden behind a layer of spider silk or the thinnest wax.

Alissa looked in stillness and puzzlement at the odd dark patterns until her head began to itch, and then she put them to the side, under the supple wrapping-leaf, up against her familiar green stem.

The seed was more ordinary, but not ordinary at all. It was brown, but brown with an iridescence like a beetle’s outer wing. It was plump and round, but also light, and it smelled less like a seed than like nothing at all. Alissa had not seen a seed like it before, and although it was not uncommon for new kinds of seeds to arrive at the rich dark earth with travelers from afar, this one struck her in some way as more different than most, and she put it also to the side.

Lastly, the stone, which was technically a pebble, seemed reassuringly unremarkable. It was relatively smooth, and ordinarily small, not in a particularly disturbing way. It was perhaps unusually round and flat, but pebbles came in all kinds of shapes, and Alissa had never paid much attention to them; not many of her stories involved pebbles. She squinted a bit at the pattern of light and dark on the flat surface of the pebble, but having had enough of patterns for the morning, she put it with the seed and the leaf-fragments, wrapped them roughly up again in the pliable leaf, and pushed the bundle into the farthest corner of her indentation, happy not to bother herself with them any further.

Fling Three