A slender white arm descended down a deep black hole in the ground. Amidst a pile of toppled stones, ankle deep in grass four boys stood by patiently.

‘Can you feel anything Felix?’ enquired Tòmas. Felix didn’t respond, he just lowered himself further to the ground and sent his thin arm even deeper down the hole.

‘Anything at all, like a lever or a rope or latch or something’, Felix ignored Tòmas again, pressing his pale cheek against the wet grass gaining a few more inches. The boys that stood around could hear him straining with effort, though he lay fixed to ground completely still. Until, like a bottle-rocket Felix let out an almighty screech, flew up onto his knees and then leapt backwards howling. Knocking Tòmas over in the process out of sheer fright and sending the rest of the boys into hysterical fits of laughter.

Scrambling to his feet Tòmas rushed over to Felix, who was currently rolling around on the grass with his hand pressed between one arm and his eyes clenched tight holding back tears.

‘What was it, what happened, was it a trap?’ Felix didn’t respond, Tòmas looked around expectantly at the other boys all of them much older than him. Gareth knelt down and began peering into the black hole in the ground.

‘I think it was a rat, this is a rat hole’ Gareth turned to the twins sharing with them a look of amusement. The twins immediately started laughing again, their fat bellies barely contained within thick cotton jumpers jiggled from left to right, then up and down. Tòmas stared at them, he wondered why they were laughing. Felix stormed past Tòmas making his way back to the hole, knocking him over again in the process.

‘Maybe we should set a trap, and catch it? How big do you think it was Felix? I dare say we could eat six rats between the two of us. Do you think there are more down there?’ The twins chirped and chattered. Felix ignored them and knelt down on the ground before the hole, calmly he let his bloody hand descend into the dark. Tòmas was still kneeling on the grass where Felix had been tossing and turning. Gareth sat atop a fallen stone pillar. The twins waited in anticipation for the next bout of laughter. Felix all at once clenched his eyes shut, drove his forehead into the ground and in complete silence tore from the hole a large grey rat, which he promptly dashed across a pale white masonry stone. The rat let out a distorted squeak as it was crushed by the impact and loosed a streak of fresh red blood across the stone.

They stayed amongst the ruins that night. Tòmas sat beside Felix facing away from the blood stained rock and towards the open fire. Gareth sat with the twins who stared longingly at the squired rat cooking slowly amidst the flames.

‘Where should we look tomorrow Felix?’ Tòmas was sitting beneath a thick blanket, though the night wasn’t cold and the fire would keep them warm even through the chill of the morning should they all choose to sleep under the stars.

‘Back to the wall, we will start from the beginning.’ Felix threw into the fire a handful of twigs that he had been tossing into a heap on the grass where he sat. He would throw the sticks, watch where they fell, then scribble something into his warn black journal and toss the sticks into a heap again. Tòmas watched him the whole time without the faintest understanding.

‘Back, why back. Back he said. Why would we go back? There is nothing back there. We have checked, we told you there is bound to be an entrance out here. And if not at least it’s nice out here. That’s right, nice green grass, nice friendly forest full of fat lovely rats.’ The twins broke their eye contact with the squired rat for long enough to turn and nod in agreement with one another. Their hands plump and pink, sat propped under their chins as they resumed staring. The squired rat licked by tongues of flame was reflected in each one of their four fixed eyes.

‘You’re right, it’s been weeks and we haven’t found a single trace of a tunnel.’ Gareth stood up and inspected the rat with a small knife, pulling away some of the flesh to check the colour of the meat.

‘Better to have it burnt than raw, you never know what these things have been eating. How is your hand feeling?’ Gareth sat down next to Felix who showed him his wounded hand.

‘I think it will be fine, just hurt like all hell at the time.’ Felix held his hand up to the light and revealed a mess of coagulated blood and two large but shallow gashes. Gareth laughed and looked over towards Tòmas with a warm smile. It was the same smile that he always shared with the twins; Tòmas never understood what Gareth was smiling about. He had been searching with Felix for three months, Gareth and the twins had joined them only one month prior.

Their meeting had been abrupt. Tòmas had woken one morning to find their camp site occupied by strangers. The twins had been busy picking over his belongings while Gareth sat by the fire next to Felix. Gareth was smiling broadly, while Felix gazed down at the dyeing fire. Tòmas had sprung up and tried to shoo the twins away from his bags. But they had simply turned, snorted, and returned to their pilfering.

‘Felix!’ Tòmas had cried. Felix had remained sitting by the dying fire and Gareth with a familiar glance had called out to Tòmas, asking him to join them. One twin was holding Tòmas’ clothes out at arms length and shaking them as if to dislodge something or other, the other twin was attempting to thrust his bare swollen foot into one of Tòmas’ boots.

From that day on, Gareth and the twins had haunted every moment of their search. Tòmas had not dared speak to Felix about his discomfort. Indeed Felix had with every passing day withdrawn further and further within himself. For days on end the only person he would speak to would be Gareth. Each discourse ending in a terrible grin by Gareth and the further decent into solitude by Felix.

News that they would be heading back to the wall had in an instant filled Tòmas with a low sense of hope. Perhaps a return to the wall would also return Felix to how he was before. But Gareth’s support for the idea spoke to Tòmas in unequivocal language that this was not the case. That this return to that terrible wall was in fact a symptom of this odd malaise that had descended upon his friend Felix.

On the following morning the twins had woken Tòmas with gnashing teeth and dragged him before Gareth. Gareth was sitting on top of a large stone with his usual grin, tapping Felix’s warn black journal against his chin thoughtfully.

‘Where did he go?’, Gareth asked inquisitively. ‘Put the boy down, you two. Please Tòmas, where did he go?’ Gareth continued tapping the journal against his chin rhythmically.

to be continued…


The Infinite Mountain & Other Creation Myths

I spent five years up a mountain that roared perpetually with metallic whining and the rhythmic clapping of printing presses. Silence was the shrill gliding of print-heads, the rustling of paper, scrapping of screens and the hum of conveyor belts. For five years my hands were dipped in and out of streams of glorious colour, acid, alcohol, resin and blood.

The inhabitants of the mountain are all Printers. Each one lives in the silence that exists within the endless roar of print. They live their entire lives on a vast plateau at the top of the mountain. Many of the printers lose their sight, are blighted by toxicity or maimed by machinery. Those that are unable to work are consumed by the others. Some simply fade away as they work, translucent grey figures speckled with vibrant coloured ink. New men arrive every night. They fall from the sky like evening rain and each morning fill the places of the men the mountain has lost the previous day. At the beginning of each new day, the discarded clothes and bare bones are thrown from the edge of the mountain along with the fruits of the previous day’s labour. The materials they require for their work fall from the sky like men. The cycle is endless and perfect like the mountain itself.

I don’t remember how I came to be there. The men who land are like new born fawns. We stagger and take tender steps at first, but exuberance in our work is as natural to us as fear of a wolf is to that new born fawn. The young work with a ferocious fear. There are no trees on the plateau, only thick, low bushes that skirt the far side of the mountain just beyond the slight rise where the men wake after the rain. There are no known animals that inhabit the mountain, although some young men swear that after the fall, rising in dull dawn light, they glimpsed a creature. It has a fine amber coat, slick long ears, is always panting with it’s mouth agape, its teeth are like phosphorescent chalk. As it moves it becomes indistinguishable from the bushes and grass. Its long brush like tail looks to be made of soft and delicate fibres ,they ripple with the still morning air and spark with static energy.

On the mountain, the memories of the Printers are short. Few who see the creature remember it long after their first day of work. Fewer still beyond their second. The Printers simply wake each morning slightly older, frailer and fainter. Their dreams are only of work. In my dreams, I would reach out to grasp the delicate tale of that half imagined creature, chasing it, being lead by it to the edge of the mountain. Each night the dream would end with me falling, hands outstretched grasping through half-lengths of air. The creature fading in and out of sight, it’s tail sparking.
Until one night as I slept, the veil of verisimilitude was swept from my eye by the whistle of rushing air and violent vertigo of actually falling. Had I been thrown over or had I jumped, I will never know. But as a fell, there was no creature, no sparking tail, no way to tell how long I had been falling. Eventually I began to see the dense black outline of another plateau, my decent was rapid and like before I rained down only to wake again to an amber morning. But where I woke was not at all like before. There was no grass, no hill, no men or machines. Just a monstrous layer of books covering the entire plateau.
I reached down to pick one up, it was titles ‘The Infinite Mountain & Other Creation Myths Volume MMMDCCCLXXXVIII’, a seeming early volume as compared to the next copy I was to pick up. I had only to look at a couple more to realise that they were all volumes of the same book. I sat amongst them stunned, not even thinking to look inside. When all at once, on the other side of the plateau, from the sky there poured a torrent of books. They thundered down and spread like a wave shifting the books under my feet towards the edge of the mountain side where countless volumes were being swept over the side. I stumbled on my hands and feet and became all at once submerged. By the time the downpour and finished I had freed myself and clambered atop a large bolder around which the books continued for a moment to seethe and rumble before finally coming to rest.

Should this record become confused with the words of that book, I fear that is not only due to my being forced to write this testament within the pages of that grotesque epic. It is because somewhere in here it has been written before, even as I write this now. Within the blank spaces between the lines of type, I read what I have written and cannot distinguish a break in the narrative from one to the other. Everything I write here is absorbed into the whole in an instant and that terrifies me.

The Art of Spinning Webs a.k.a. Culture

The national anthem sounds, the audience stands to attention. A serial case of folie à deux handed down from parent to child and shared in fraternity, each generation reinforcing and fuelling a mass hallucination. That I am, and that you are “Australian”.

“The Congress of the World began the instant the world itself began, and it will go on when we are dust. There is no place it is not. The Congress is the books we have burned. It is the Caledonians who defeated Cæsars’ legions. It is Job on the dunghill and Christ on the Cross. The Congress is even that worthless young man who is squandering my fortune on whores.”

If you were to say to me that I was Australian, you would in fact, be saying nothing more than a geographic fact about my person. If you were to say that I was culturally Australian, you would in fact, be saying nothing at all. The sum of subjective sentiment does not equate to a culture.  Culture being a term antecedent to itself can only be defined retrospectively, though it is said to exist in the current instant. Given that culture exists in actuality as a mere historical record and in the general human understanding as a nebulous state of being. This concept is one that can be used to exploit others.

Through the blending of innocent sentiment, with the bonds forged by group solidarity. Countless people throughout human history have in innumerable ways driven a wedge between you, me and The Congress of the World.

Jorge Luis Borges, 2001. The Book of Sand (Penguin Modern Classics). Edition. Penguin Books, Limited (UK).