Friday, 8 February 2008

Strolling before the city became shiny (2)

Or perhaps he almost lost control and almost ploughed into me.
Hitting an undulation in the tarmac, it seemed his attempt at turning the car followed the road perfectly – just as if his wheels were on tracks. Maybe there never was any danger? I mused on this as I walked on.
Rounding the pavement, the road snaked back about the rear of the tower. I crossed over to get a better view and the wind howled in my brain. The block, more impressive it now seemed, was desolate. Work on the higher levels had apparently ceased, perhaps due to the gale.
Old Hall Street itself was scarcely populated and as I watched the ramparts of the half finished tower, plastic bags floated mockingly in the breeze – like some Scooby-Doo ghost that would later be inevitably unmasked.
Two skate-punks scraped around a side street. An infamous city apparition, they quickly vanished. Their gothy apparitions fading, like their short-sleeve shirts.
There are side streets. So many side streets in the city. Places people barely seem to go. They’re not out of bounds. It’s not like you’d get stabbed for going into the wrong street.
People just ignore them, they either don’t notice they are there or they don’t care.
I noticed them only six months ago. This was about the time of my awakening. A time when I noticed a world I had ignored before, just like everyone else still seemed to be doing. It was about this time that I first needed to see my own blood.
So the side streets, yes. Essential, visit every quiet city centre street in Liverpool. So much more interesting than the beaten track. Side streets off Old Hall Street can lead to views of abandoned old Liverpool. Broken glass gives way to warehouses; dark, dusty, haunted by bustling dreams of life.
That life, that real life, now gone - all but for the tattered cobwebs and splintered floorboards that we can’t even touch anymore.
Someone touched them though, so imagine them. Stand in the street, quiet, no traffic, no access to anywhere, except the past. Anywhere you can get away from the people and see the true heart of the city then do so.
The people are now merely blood cells, pumping further and further from the heart that once sent them forth. But we’ve got to get back to the heart.

“This dream represented my situation at the time. I can still see the greyish-yellow raincoats, glistening with the wetness of the rain. Everything was extremely unpleasant, black and opaque - just as I felt then.
But I had had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that was why I was able to live at all. Liverpool is the ‘pool of life’. The ‘liver’, according to an old view, is the seat of life - that which ‘makes to live’.” - Carl Gustav Jung

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Strolling before the city became shiny (1)

I passed several women with umbrellas as I left the building. They had thought ahead this morning and heeded the weatherman’s threat of rain, although the rain had not come, thus far.
No rain, but wind. A strong gust that rattled the teeth and singed the ears but, if wrapped in a half-decent coat, wouldn’t cut through the bones. I braced myself and gazed toward the water, visible at the bottom of the street, over the carriageway and beyond. Not too busy, the ferry was in view and a ship was moored on the far bank of the river.
I continued on down the hill, the pavement not too cracked as I advanced towards the on-coming traffic. A one way street with a church on the left, a hotel at the bottom shaped like a steam iron and two red post boxes. There was so much more to the street, but on this journey little more was noticed.
The post boxes were salient as I had twice trekked to more far flung pillars to deposit mail in the last few weeks. Had these two beauties sprung up over night? I realised I was far less observant at street level than I was with the skyline above. I was angry with myself, angry for noticing and, then again, for not noticing. I imagined kicking the post boxes and then moved on.
I was walking for the sake of it. I had never before rounded the front of the Atlantic Tower Hotel and travelled against the flow of Albert Dock bound traffic. I did it today. Maybe I’d been missing out on something amazing? I doubted it almost completely, but intuitively realised it was worth doing. Experience is everything to a man, to this man at least.
Surprised as I was to learn that one of the road tunnels under the River Mersey exited beneath the body of the hotel, I almost walked out into tunnel traffic. At first the tunnel appeared to me a mouth, a wondrous cavern into the depths of the city and later the planet. Yet it became immediately unwelcoming as it spat uncomfortable vehicles towards me.
The stream was not continuous. Indeed, for small periods, the mouth lay empty and invited my consideration to walk inside, arms ready to embrace whatever I should find within. Of course, I expected to be embracing a warm bonnet if I should venture into this particular Aladdin’s Cave. The experience gained would likely be my last.
This degree of empirical data was, I felt, at this time unnecessary and I had seen the likely results in an UNKLE video on MTV2 recently.
I instead waited for a safe opportunity to cross the forked-tongue-road that allowed traffic out onto the main carriageway. My legs skipped across the tarmac with some urgency.
Ahead lay the near side of a new development. To be the tallest building on the Liverpool skyline, I needed to see the fa├žade from beneath. A tune, recognisable as coming from the obtuse stable of DJ Paul Oakenfold, was annoying my mind – some fool had it blaring from their car-stereo. These sensual beats, along with a Holsten Pills billboard, distracted me sufficiently from the fact I was already standing beneath the new tower. I looked up and it seemed small.
Unimpressed as I, perhaps, some joker in an Audi lost control and ploughed into me.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Kraken Sleeps

“Only time shakes the Kraken.” That’s what Franks always told me. But I never really understood it until a few days after Pierrot died.
The museum was a lonely place after that, let me tell you. Pierrot was larger than everybody in there. A frothing personality, a trembling soul, his shrieking laughter filled your bones with vitality and your chest with warmth. He was like fruit for the soul. Everyone tried to get their five-a-day of Pierrot.
Pierrot once lifted me up onto his shoulders. It was a sad day for me. I’d broken up with my girlfriend - a week before - and then my grandma died. Pierrot caught me crying in the storeroom. He didn’t check a step when he saw the tears rolling. Instead, barging right into me and then picking me up as if I were a piece of bread that he was going to slam in the toaster and make warm, he carried me high, high about the room so that I could see those dusty shelves that usually I wasn‘t able to reach.
And he knew I wasn’t allowed to use the stepladder ‘cos my balance is poor, but he put me up there - left me right on the shelf and said: “Stay up there, stay high until you feel like coming down. Give me a call when you know you’re done.”
Just then he walked away, whistling. I heard his footsteps walk down the hall some way and then he got out the whizzer and started polishing the corridor, so that even if I wanted to get down I couldn’t, not for the moment.
I sat up there for two hours while Pierrot finished the work, and I sat and thought about grandma and my life up to that point and my life to come.
Later Pierrot came back and helped me down. We both handed in our time cards and went home and Pierrot never said anything to me about the time I’d sat up on the highest shelf while he did all the work.
Pierrot scared you, but he made you feel like you could fulfil something in your life.
So why did Franks call Pierrot the Kraken? Hell, I didn’t even know what a kraken was until two days after Pierrot's funeral.
I was in the library and I was enjoying a book about strange creatures that this kid had left on the reading bench. Mermaids, Selkies and Samiads - all interesting parts of the chapter on sea-creatures (did you know that selkies were able to take human form and, if caught, had to live as the betrothed of their human captor, unless they found their selkie skin?) - but the kraken…
The kraken was a massive creature, a many tentacled beast related to tales of colossal squid attacking the boats of merchants crossing the various trade oceans of this world. The open ocean is a barren place - “more devoid of life, perhaps, than the great land deserts of this world” - but was it devoid enough for a creature to want to attempt to chew on a large galleon? Well, maybe, and that’s the kraken. Nothing is too big for the kraken to tackle.
I guess that’s it. I think that must be why. That Franks is a succinct fellow. I’m glad he never gave a eulogy at Pierrot's funeral, though.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The hands of Mitch Gregory

For two weeks Mitch Gregory’s hands had been slowly swelling.
He felt it at first like a numbness in his extremities, such as when the circulation of blood seems poor. Later in the first week came the cold, his hands and fingers were in the grip of some glacial freeze.
Careful observation produced no sign of colour change: the skin wasn’t particularly white or even blue, there was no bruising or rash appearing upon the epidermis. Mitch asked his friend, an oncologist, to take a look, describing the strange symptoms. The friend’s reaction was one of simple time-wasting or hypochondria. He suggested applying some sort of gel used in nerve pain.
The gel was useless and by the middle of the second week the phenomenon had caused a visible change in the size of Mitch’s hands. It was most remarkable in the fingers which gave the appearance of uncooked sausages. Mitch became rather concerned by this development and, on the Thursday, visited his GP who decided the cause of the swelling to be caused either by an inflammation of the tendons in the hand (perhaps stress-related) or due to some prior blow to the arm resulting in a delayed swelling.
In either case, rest and an ice-pack, along with anti-inflammatory medication, was the best course of action. So Mitch took the remainder of the week off and prepared to relax.
Things seemed well and his hands had reduced in size, returning almost to a recognisable constant. By the weekend, however, friends were dismayed to witness a downturn in his general health.
A vicious fever gripped him and he was unable to sleep without delirium upsetting him and the close friends who watched over his dreams. His hands, let it be noted, had returned to their usual size and state, yet Mitch would cry out in his sleep that the big hands were with him; that the big hands were crushing his world.
The fever broke by Wednesday and his friends were relieved. One close friend, Maria, in her fear for Mitch’s life during this period, had realised that her feelings for him were stronger than mere friendship and she asked to stay with him, alone, that night.
The events of that night from the moment Maria shut the door on the last of the well-wishers are clouded. Apparently they went straight to bed where they made love. Maria mentions being aware of an immense grip upon her body that pinned her to the bed during the intercourse. Later inspection of her body by doctors suggest she was held down, about the shoulders, by a man twice the size of Mitch Gregory.
The couple fell asleep, holding hands as far as Maria can remember. At 3am she awoke in great pain and distress. Stumbling into the bathroom she struggled to switch on the light. Her right hand hung limply and ragged at her side. All the bones had been crushed and the muscles torn. The appendage was later amputated.
When police entered Mr Gregory’s apartment at around 7.30 that morning they found that all the door handles had been destroyed and several items of furniture showed signs of tearing and clawing. The television set, microwave and home computer had all been crushed “like scrap metal”.
According to the report, Miss Maria Derwent was found unconscious in the bath tub and was taken by ambulance to Ford’s Hill Hospital.
The body of Mr Mitch Gregory, was meanwhile discovered laid out on the floor of his lounge, his hands covering his face. Cause of death was recorded as strangulation, possibly self-inflicted.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Becoming night

It took him many years to realise how to command the night.
The day was no good; the day was chaotic. But once the sun died, and the only light came from tiny tears in the sky’s canvas, then he could have dominion.
He had slept at first for he didn’t even know that he wished this, wished to fly at night. Then one day, one summer’s evening some sixteen years after his birth, he stayed up through the night and saw the dawn giving birth to light.
An awesome sight for any to see, but it was the feeling of the night that surprised him most. It seemed so still, but frightening. In the rampant chaos of the day it seems everything happens, but there is a concurrent pattern to every action. Little happens that is not planned. It occurred to him, to this growing man, that the company of so many other human beings, so many throbbing lives, was a restriction, was the restriction against the infinity that life promised.
Perhaps that is why religion is held sacred in the day; it is the only glimpse into infinity we are allowed to see with the sun’s light in our eyes. Once these other redundant, copying minds are allowed to rest, there is space for individual consciousness to breathe.
So he would sit up for hours, his apartment lit only by the light of candles, and converse with his soul. Great journeys would be taken across strange voids of thought, now that he was unfettered by other minds.
By his 41st birthday, Alaric has started to leave the house only after the hour of midnight. He would walk about the skulking streets watching the lives of the neighbourhood cats. He observed their societies with the interest of a god. Sometimes he would throw stones into their midst like thunderbolts, other times he might throw fish.
In the darkness, bright long roads become strange tangential avenues to untold groping pits of despair. Oftentimes his mind would ascend while journeying a once familiar street, and he would lose himself to the infinite and awake with the sun, weeping naked in a garden pond or a forgotten brook.
It was on a thick autumn night upon the dunes I met him. He was howling and incandescent as the hailstones pelted his bare body. I understood that he hadn’t registered my presence. It was as if angels were the only sight he expected to see on the beach that night; only a divine mind did he wish to converse with.
The time was roughly 3am and thunder tumbled atop waves that swept up the beach. I climbed to the top of the highest dune peak and tore at my shirt until the buttons burst and my skin was exposed, like his, to the ice bristles that crashed down upon us.
The sky fizzed grey above and I was transfigured before him - my shirt floating wings about my arms.
In that instance the scales fell from his eyes and he saw the world to be translucent. He had witnessed the presence of the divine mind and it had burned his retina sorely.
Once the storm passed I went to Alaric, blinded but penitent, and helped him to his feet. He told me he now knew everything, that he had tasted the fire of heaven and survived its draught.
I took him home and asked him to teach me all he had learnt on his journeys. I feigned awe often but siphoned much from his babblings. Truly this man was insane, but his methods were sound for I had come to the same conclusions as he, as to the power of the night.
After many months, when I had learnt all that he had encountered throughout those 25 years since he shunned the light, I took him back to the beach where we had first met and bade him walk across the boiling seas until he find the maker of his near perfect mind.
I’m sure he journeyed with a bright smile even as the wintry waters tugged at his flesh. Whether the divine mind lay above or below the waves, he wouldn’t have known or cared.
Now I am alone, able to continue this experiment in solitude and silence. I am the true hermit, the true holy man. I have survived in the dark wilderness for more years than any but Alaric, and with his insights I will grope even further. I will have mastery over the black alleyways and dank canals, I will walk where shadows even fade away. I will transcend the body and will inhabit only mind.
I will become the night, for the night offers nothing more than the light it takes.