A miscellany of words and stories from the Way-Back-When and the Come-What-May.
Byng Marshall knew the promise of a landlocked sea had been yet another VoteOne lie. There had never been an Outback expanse of a size to warrant such a name; it had been a folly in the barrage of uncertainty that had flowed from war. We are a land between seas, the propaganda trumpeted, a sanctuary between vast unknowns. But the so-called Inland Sea on which the former doctor from Psych Hospital #7 now gazed, was little more than an insipid lake. Actually, it was a string of them connected by a sluggish river, besmirched with forests of water-logged dead things, eucalypts mainly, on which black birds wailed as if summoning up supper from the brown and yellow depths.
From across the communal yard I can hear the children singing, can hear the rhythm of the punishment cane as it marks the beat for their song of hope and Motherland. So this is how the Intendænce stores them, this is how they love their children; how fucking dare they presume to call it home.
Some words we are destined to forget until required to relive them: Vaporetto, Farang, Cajun, Winter; travel words. Sometimes we hear of special words but never know them. Here are words with which to invoke memory, someone says; and these will win us love or intimacy. Greetings, you say, these whispered sounds will unlock my soul, if you want. Some, the keys to anguish, we dare not speak. And on other words we place far too great a burden. For example, Hello, I am Danny Ebling. Is it reasonable to expect so few words to do so much work?
From my cell, I have been an eyewitness and more. I have heard my friends confess quietly to their god for squandered lives and then, spent of remorse and with little to offer their heathen Inquisitors, die in grace but unrepentant. I have visions of my bloodied friends mingling around the gates of heaven with nothing left to say.
The flat polished top of the hexagon moved above the level of their vision, up, up, until there was no notion as to the height of the structure. The pure black rock grew steadily out of the earth, a primitive rocket booster, its plume as steady and sure as obsidian, its odour that of old men and electricity, its presence beyond doubt. Kym saw beauty in this desecration but it did not lure him; he felt joy in the impossibility before him. He yearned to touch it. So this is how the Fratis Silincuru imagine themselves? He had no argument to repel them, no counter to the baffling logic they presented.
A screech from without penetrated the cathedral and as one, the witnesses filed quickly from the four gates of heaven to see what had caused such distress. In truth, all needed to be away from that place for was it not also a deep sin to witness a blasphemy as to enact it? The lock against magic had been broken, that was the dreadful truth of it, and no deed could deny what would follow. They needed the comfort of their homes and loved ones, and quclkly, to await another Wresting, another end of the world.
Tina called again today. It was the third or fourth time this week. I should correct that. Tina's phone called me. It belongs to Fezza or Coolie, maybe Jake who took over her room when she moved out, about two months, two weeks and three days before we declared her dead. We did that last week. Whoever has her phone is simply ropable, okay, seriously pissed off, that we up and done that, just killed her off, but then, that's what Tina did, just up and done knowing any of us. We — well — Allie put the death notice on the Accommodation board up the street: Hear ye, hear ye. You don't just skip out on us ya dag, or words like that, and a bunch of telephone numbers, including her own on account of her having given her mobile away. It's been months and not a word. You were right, eh. People can abduct themselves.
'Take your hand off me!'
'It's comfortable right where it is.'
'Remove it or I will break your fingers.'
'I suppose anything is possible.'
'Or maybe your nose. No, your fingers. Tell you what. I'm a considerate kind of girl. Which is your naughty hand? I'll just break the other one. Deal?'
Toby was born fourteen and a bit months before me but while the family awaited my arrival, shit happened. The Fallows family tree had already been ringbarked when I joined the world and it took a couple of years for it to die completely. The fault was mine, I convinced myself. Given the timing, no other cause made sense, the me-child believed. To separate siblings so close in age compounded the tragedy. Toby went with our mother, from what I understood she was a mystical woman of means; me with Dad, a man who struggled with single-parenting and found life bewildering. Did our parents believe Toby and I would mimic the malice that had divided them and so deny us a bond of our own? I once overheard Dad tell an acquaintance that I had no siblings. It was the moment I learned how to become grey.
On the night of the leave-taking, a hot moonless night, Aggie summoned him to the Say-so and when he said hello to it her voice sounded conspiratorial. Meet me outside the bookshop, twenty minutes, was all she said.