Friday, 21 November 2008

The strength of the sea

In my regular trips to the beach, I am often impressed by the power of those creatures that depend upon the sea for their lives.
It seems to me that such creatures have an overwhelming capacity for survival. I could go into numerous examples; the great spawnings that help defeat predation, and also the swarming of fish and the flashing of their scales to confuse those creatures higher in the food chain and help them to keep surviving. Still, nature often finds a way to break them down, no matter how well they protect themselves. It’s all quite inevitable, I suppose, but no less remarkable and fascinating.
It is, perhaps, the ability that many smaller, very simple creatures have developed to defend and protect themselves from the world that impresses me most. Take those creatures who reside within shells, for example. What miraculous creatures they are. They protect themselves from attack by coating their soft invertebrate bodies with a shield of their own creation. They manufacture crystals of calcium carbonate and add them in layers to create a protective exoskeleton. How amazing is that?
And then, they latch onto a rock. They hold fast and steady in the face of turbulent tides and the worst of storms. They wait in the baking sun for the sea to rise once more and cover them, and allow them to feed. And they just sit there, in the face of chaos, safe in their armour.
Anne agreed to pick me up from the hospital after my procedure. Heck, she even offered to come with me. That was nice of her. I’d quite forgotten she could be nice.
When she dropped me back home she asked if she should come in to make sure I was alright. Sylvie was at work, but I said no. ‘It wouldn’t be right’, I thought, but I didn’t say it.
I thanked Anne, and she told me to look after myself. I couldn’t help chuckling a little as I got out of the car. ‘Look after myself!’ I think it’s a little late for that.
I spent the next couple of days in bed. I told Sylvie I had a cold or flu or something. She brought me tea and sympathy, but she’s none the wiser. I’ll get the full results soon and then we’ll know.
Today I felt better. Today I have been to the beach and walked on the sand. I saw the mussels clinging to the grey rocks, just waiting, prone but secure enough, until the waters returned.
And then I watched the gulls, wheeling overhead. They held stones in their beaks and they dropped them from a height onto the mussels, smashing their proud shells and brittle bodies. Then the gulls descended and feasted.
It’s impressive. Nature; its capacity to survive and to devour. So magnificent.

This tale is part of a series. To read all the stories in this series search the blog for the keyword 'Anne', or click on the word 'Anne' in the 'Labels' tab below.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Liquorice Man

Everyone in San Pedro remembers the strange events of November 20, 1998. How could they not? That was the day the Liquorice Man came to stay.
He came in broad daylight; the morning, seeping from the pavement like thick black oil. Commuters spotted his birth and pointed and shrieked, like maybe they could claim this gusher and become rich.
Soon though, the liquid pooled and formed in ways that physics ordinarily would not allow. Then the people were startled and moved back; stepped away from the black phenomenon.
As the pool grew bigger, so the liquid seemed to suck up the blacks and greys of the tarmac and the pavement. The liquid swirled and flowed along atop itself, forming tubes of whirling slick that began to extend in arms, up, away from the pavement.
People where now visibly and audibly frightened. What started off as a magical natural phenomenon had soon turned into a biblical nightmare. With cries of ‘El Diablo’ filling the air, terrified shoppers and businessmen ran in all directions from the scene. And, as if in response to their screams, the strange arms began to thrash about, pulling down cables and smashing signposts and lampposts.
And, just as before with the pavement and the road, when the thing came into contact with these random objects of the street – the ephemera of daily life that it was haplessly trashing – it took hold of the different colours, of signs and posters and lampposts and screens, and added them to itself. Soon this Liquorice Man had grown into a strange kaleidoscopic swirl of colour, rotating and hurtling across its growing form with abandon.
Inevitably, though perhaps strange that it took over five minutes of mayhem before it occurred, the Liquorice Man smacked his whirling arm into a person. A woman, it was, named Maria Angelina Reyes. She passed away that day, her body sucked up into the vacuum arm of the thing and never seen again.
But the addition of Maria’s form to that of the Liquorice Man’s caused a strange thing to happen to him. His swirling arms began to slow their rotation, his colours separated, he began to crawl and curl less. People watching said that it took around three minutes but eventually, at seven minutes past nine o’clock, the strange entity that became known as Liquorice Man was completely frozen, there on the street that had spat him forth.
In the days and weeks that followed, many attempts were made to destroy the remains of this unholy creature and rid the street of its stain. But, no matter which tools were tried upon its arms, nor which priests were called to its exorcism, the creature’s corpse stood firm.
And so, it was the mayor of the town, Poncio Guadalupe, who proclaimed that the Liquorice Man should stay there on the street for all time, as a reminder to the people of San Pedro of the strange works of the Lord, and how it was a human spirit which defeated this awful being.
People – tourists – who walk by now see only a marvellous multi-coloured artwork; and they stop to take a picture there. But if you ever go, to the small town of San Pedro, stop there in silence and awe and remember that this thing is a creature, escaped from the dark places of this world and that it took the life of a young woman named Maria to bring it to peace.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Through the strange grass

Confidence is a strange thing.
Jonas learnt that the hard way in the strange grass near Loch Kilder.
Climbing the lower boughs with less angular friends, he sought to reach and stretch as high as they could.
See, Kelvin can shimmy so high, he’s out of sight in the thick branches. And there’s Liam, holding on to the overhanging limb with one arm, already so strong and limber. On a hot day he would allow himself to fall, plunging into the cool waters to shatter its clarity with sweat and fizzing bubbles. But today, when the temperature was niggly and the vegetation retained the water from the night before, Liam just held on as long as he could, staring down at the damp ground below as if it were the strangest thing he ever saw, before climbing back up and sitting straight upon the branch, like a bishop.
They called to Jonas, “Come higher, come and sit with us; you can do it,” and he tried to stretch and climb; and though you know what happened after that, it doesn’t make it any less sad.
The two boys, strong and able, ready for anything, looked down through the leaves and through the strange grass, to a sight they’d truly never seen before.
Little Jonas’s flickering eyes, looked away from them. He wanted to shiver but he didn’t feel he could. All he felt was ashamed and he looked away from the strong and able boys, through the long wet grass. The grass seemed like it was bigger than him and he felt so ashamed.
He felt ashamed until he felt nothing more.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

In that other realm

I will not be there
In the phone book of your mind,
No, I’ve waited too long;
All those unliving
People in your eyes
Make me long to be dead.

I will not see
The phone book of your mind,
Only the Lord could take me there;
Still, I will not get there
Even if I’m blind,
But I could see you…

In that other realm,
Where you find yourself sleeping in the day;
You are not living there
And I am visiting your bed.

You will not fight it
Even in a lie,
Cos you will be coming too;
And I will not leave you
On into the day,
As long as you don’t ask me too.

Then, on into your loving
Evening time,
Knowing hours with you;
We’ll keep on loving
Even ‘til the light
Of the dawning.

Oh, and you’ll ask me to
Leave yourself just sleeping through the day;
And when you rise next time,
Find yourself escaping from the lie.

But I’ll keep on loving,
Even through the day,
Knowing you’ll never love me again;
I will not give this
Feeling to the night
Although grown men will ask me why.

Always to see you
Just dig into my mind
There, all of my senses, divine;
I would not give in
Even if you asked
‘Cos I would just ask you back.

And even if you held me
Know that I would not be there;
Because I’d be running wild
In the fragrance of your hair.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The morality bubble

It was a long walk, in the drizzle, from Heather’s hotel room. I’m not sure why I stayed so long, lost in myths aroused by the sweet touches of her soft, warm lips.
Whatever, I stayed until the trains and buses had all gone to bed, and I had to follow the lights of streetlamps and shop windows back home.
Heather was of a curious morality. She had no fears in inviting me back to her hotel life; this little bubble she’d constructed which consisted of four walls, a bed and room service. It seemed that, within this bubble we could do what we wanted; say what we’d always wanted to.
But after minutes turned to hours, and kissing to caressing, and clothes started to be discarded and entangled upon the floor; suddenly the bubble that Heather had constructed around the room, retracted quite violently so that it seemed to cover only her body. Her hands removed my hands from the edges of the bubble and we were soon staring at each other from different sides of an iridescent film.
Heather said she didn’t want to cheat on her man, Jules. It seemed that kissing was one thing, quite separate to cheating, and as long as things didn’t get too wild inside her bubble then the moral equilibrium was preserved. Presumably, in some hotel room in Kent, Jules was ‘just kissing’ someone too.
I thought about pointing out how ridiculous this whole situation was. Pointing out that she obviously didn’t feel that much for Jules, otherwise she wouldn’t be here with me. But for some reason I simply acquiesced. We kissed a little more and then we replaced the few clothes we’d shed and I stood and pondered the night, from her hotel window, and how dreadful it would be to leave here and make my way home.
Still, I had to leave.
It’s funny; I don’t remember seeing another soul on the dank journey of that night. No other loser sloshing through puddles, his mind muddled by such curious morality.
I do remember halting, though, in front of a strange shop; its one window illuminated to show its strange display. And there I smiled grimly to see a troupe of hands, severed from myriad shop dummies, and all covered with beautiful and expensive leather gloves.
Perhaps, I mused, had my own hands been encased in such delightful bubbles, they would not have been so easily turned away.
I stood for a moment, grinning incredulously at the strange window, before turning on my heels towards home. And I think I kicked the stars out of every puddle more, I saw that night.