nice project. see more here
A car pulled back into the garage, rousing her, and two figures emerged instead of the one she had expected. She glimpsed them in section through the half-closed door, Edward securing his belt buckle, his dark shirt open beneath his jacket while Lilian closed her coat about herself. Neither spoke, but ascended the stairs in the thick of the goad that had driven them back to the house.
Another hour had passed before the presence at the French doors registered on the back of her neck, declaring itself officially with a scratchy little knock. Susan recognized the caller through the glass and slowed her approach, raising her hands to her hips and stopping short. Siobhan’s smirk left no exhalation on the glass, but it perceived her intransigence and crouched lower, chuckling through the keyhole.
“William's not here.” she muttered. “But the other one is, so bugger off before he gets wind of you. He's not in a good mood.” The vampyre shook its little head in mockery of her warning.
“Do ah look like a fuckin stranger t’ tragedy?"
"I told you he's not here."
"Ah cal-clate ye precious petal’s downtown en-dearin himself t’ th’ fuckin populashun as per usual, an ol Ed’s up there, makin Streetwalker Barbie wish she weren’t never fuckin born. Ah know that hoe bah repu-tashun, an she’s wern nasty fuckin glass a bad news. Word is she durn shot out a pimp's brains, but, so she kint beh all bad, heh heh heh... ah’d a payed handsome ta git a peep at that shit. Bitches venta’latin bawds... s’what fuckin Jesus woulda wanned if he'd stuck around. Anyweys... it aint them ah durn peddl’d out t' see.”
She frowned, skeptical as she attempted to digest its discourse.
“You're here to see... me?”
“Ye ketch on quick.”
“Well hell, ah got mah reasons, but if ye sweeter on critter dick then ye are on th' fuckin tea ah got fer ye, don’t let me tear ye away fr’m sittin on ye lonesome cooch suckin down crispeh cremes!” Siobhan sneered, clutching its glittering shoulder cape to its chin and turning to shuffle off. The gibbous moon glared like a spotlight, arranging the garden into layers of funereal colour; the dead wood that William had massed at the foot of the house lay like sticks of giant kindling in their lazy pile. She rubbed her arms while the visitor trundled on over the cold grass toward the orchard, the coruscations playing across its beaded black cape drawing the lines and hollows of its bony shoulders with ruthless precision, the corpse beneath the doleful finery never more wasted or pathetic.
“If you’ve got something to say, let’s just be having it.” Susan advised, closing the door behind herself and standing with her arms folded. Siobhan swung in a U-turn and came back toward her in one conjoined motion.
“Item... ah deal credit where it’s fuckin due. Ah fuckin seen ye, frontin 's well as any homely piece a pink with a taste fer strange'n nasty... got meh thinkin... she don't look too fuckin crazy bout goin down fer th’ count when th’ tahme comes round. An whah shud ye? Aint no fuckin shame in shiftin fer ye’self.” Its features lost something of their pinch as it satisfied itself that they were not overlooked from any window.
“You came all the way out here to tell me I’m a minger and I’m going to die?” she laughed.
“Ah weren’t fixin t’ put it on th’ table without a fuckin ribbon on it. Truth is, ahm comin down hard on th' bitches comin cryin t’meh fer it, thinkin it’s gonna git em outta saggy paps n’ hot flashes... there aint much worse in th’ whole fuckin world then some dead hoe whinin bout how she jest kint suck no more.” Siobhan reassured itself of her attention before continuing. “But that aint yew now, is it? Ye got what ah lahk t’ fuckin call po-tenshul.”
From somewhere on its repellant person it produced a gold-tone tube of lipstick and circled its sunken mouth in the strangely compulsive gesture Susan had already come to revile, looking so much like a Reformation caricature that she almost expected flames to gush from its mouth and ears. Despite the moonlight’s unflattering clarity, whoever the vampyre had once been remained completely imperceptible, buried as surely as an ember under a yard of mud. Susan shuffled her feet against the sudden sense of lassitude that had settled on her, weighting her clothes like dew as she complained.
"I cannot understand a word you're saying."
“Well ye aint hangin off meh lahk a ten buck slut cause ye lahk mah fuckin per-fume.” Siobhan chuckled, reaching under its cape and slipping the catch loose. “But seein as ye are...”
Susan had barely moved before the vampyre was on her like something lunging out of water, securing handfuls of her hair and clothing even as they crashed backward onto the wet grass. She lay winded; its thin arm prised her head back from her shoulder when she hunched against it and opened her mouth to scream, clamping her windpipe closed until she could neither breathe nor utter sound. Kicking and twisting in its grasp, she saw the stars and moon swim thickly on blurred white tails, knowing the coldness of the ground and rage at the hand sealing her throat as suddenly distant forces while the dead face watched her struggle fade. With its knees stamping its bedstone weight into her stomach, the vampyre fastened its gape on her neck, punching teeth so deeply into her flesh that their dry gums bruised the skin between them. It shook its head to worry the wounds open, the hot taste of her blood shot against the roof of its mouth by the pounding of her heart.
A vacuum scoured her brain, licking at her spine and organs like low flame creeping over liquor. The grip on her neck slackened slowly as the vampyre gorged, greedily ingesting throatfulls of her blood until it sputtered and ran from its ragged nostrils and she sucked a single choking breath, the air like acid in her starving lungs, her ear cupping the stream from her throat as her head fell back. The creature snarled against her skin, cursing her ruined vein and forming words that rattled in her windpipe, pushing the arc of her neck so far that she heard her small bones shriek and grind against each other as it tore at her again. Pain slapped at her, shaking her awake and she lifted her hands, fumbling for purchase and digging her heels into the grass, pitching herself toward the house until they fell together against the woodpile and were struck by toppling branches. She rolled free of the tangled wrack, blood draining away into her dress, rising again to swing at the vampyre with one of the broken branches and catching its shoulder as it swayed in crapulous disorder. The creature staggered as hopelessly as she did, unused to the uncontaminated potency of the blood rolling in its gut, cackling brokenly and pawing the air as it lay like the cape it had abandoned. Still clutching her neck, Susan went down on one knee, then keeled onto the grass, the scents of damp earth and broken green departing on the tails of consciousness.
It was in this attitude that Petrouchka discovered her, the cloying stink of Susan's wounds rising as though fuming from a brazier, bending the vampyre like a charmed serpent. She knelt and rolled the girl onto her back, hissing exclamations; Susan opened her eyes, accepting the agony of being dragged by a single arm to the house and propped against the plaster as a disinterested observer. The white linen of the vampyre’s peignoir exposed both the delicacy of her limbs and the caruncular scars that encircled both her knees and elbows where someone had long ago used a thick blade in a rough attempt to partition her. She turned quickly from the supple crimson pooling in the hollows formed by Susan's flesh and took up the length of red-greased timber she had abandoned, towing it toward Siobhan and using it to batter the stirring predator's prone form into a gratifying silence.
"Kala'amātya...” she entreated, returning to its victim. "Biyastra!" Bending low, the latter pressed his fingers beneath Susan's jaw in search of her pulse, studying the volume of blood still coursing from her injuries. Siobhan had vanished, leaving a dark trail of its own upon the grass. Susan brought a hand up to her neck.
“Go away.” she murmured hoarsely, beginning to cry as the pain closed its fist, her sobs squeezing more blood between her fingers. “I’m cold...”
"Get my phone." he told the vampyre.
"Ni khuya sebe! Pozhalujsta... do what you must, I beg you..." Petrouchka entreated, her arms held laxly before her as though they were not her own. "Finish this... think of your brother..."
Despite the vampyre's despairing appeals Edward leant forward and lifted Susan from the ground, shaking her briefly when her eyes rolled up behind their lids.
“Stay awake.” he instructed. Her head lolled in the curve of his elbow, allowing her a blurred glimpse of Petrouchka hunched over her own hands, sobbing to herself as she sucked the blood from her fingers.
When her eyes opened again it was into flame-lit darkness thick with the stench of sweat, burning flesh and hair, and her own clotting injuries. Over her head swung the struggling form of a fowl grasped by its scaled legs, the royal lustre of its wildly flailing wings flashing black and blue and green as they struck her face, its lifeblood streaming from the stump of its headless, dripping ruff. When she moved she felt cold clinging to her, and her hands closed against black plastic, the rustle growing around her legs when she remembered them, even beneath the twinned chant of the women, one white-haired, the other brunette, naked to the waist and daubed in black; they passed the headless bird between them, lifting it to their mouths, the draughts they took from its severed neck swelling their cheeks. Leaning over with their blank black eyes they spat down hard onto her body, the blood swinging from their chins in thick wattles as they roared out the names of the invoked and slapped the smoking flames in their hands over her skin, dousing her with searing embers. Red-stained saliva flooded the back of her throat and she choked on it until someone, stationed at her head, lifted her shoulders from the ground onto their knees. Her gaze fell backward and she saw that it was Edward who knelt behind her. Her blood had dried in wide, crazed streaks upon his white skin, on his side and on his bare arms; they were riven with a dense and plaid-like hatching that seemed to blur and mingle as it crept back toward his body from something approaching order at his wrists. A painted line divided and consecrated his features as he looked down at her, embers falling slowly from his shoulders. He brushed the brands from her hair.
The rhythm of the chant pulsed through the dead oak and the white floor of the bathroom overhead, through Lilian's bare feet, along the bones of her legs and into the depths of her body. She lay down to meet the sound, hands and ribs and hips pressed to the glassy, ice-like tiles, her cheek sliding as she stroked her face against them.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
We complain about the shit sandwich we're still eating as women in the West, but read this very pertinent piece in the NYT by Mona Eltahawy and spare a thought for our KSA sisters. Even in privilege they are slaves, acknowledged or not.
As both she and Atwood point out, everything in THT has happened to us somewhere in actuality and much of it is still womens' daily, lifelong reality.
Why does it suck to be women? I feel as though we are perpetually waving away the mud from the bottom of the lake in our investigative dive into the human psyche, only to find yet more mud.
Sometimes I don't know if I really want to know.
I stumbled over this shit on some other totally unrelated website. For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon, Primitive Technology is a nameless Australian guy running through various practical experiments in the bush with well, primitive technology, to achieve basic levels of anthropoid comfort and functionality. He makes a kiln, simple forge, baskets, prawn trap, pottery and various huts etc. from the modest resources of his northern Queensland bush setting and if that doesn't sound especially riveting it's because you've never experienced his delivery.
It is minimal. Silent. Unsmiling. Largely devoid of eye contact or indeed any of the extraneous and highly execrable elements now sadly synonymous with Youtube presentations.
There is no calculated self-aggrandisement; no desperately studied tattoos, no chicken dos, no notice-me piercings, no branded items. Primitive Technology man wears crap board shorts and a series of inexpensive haircuts to get shit done. The episodic demonstrations are like plunging one's face into clean meltwater after extrication from the synthetic ooze that is the rest of the internet (by and large, present company excluded). His delivery rides the line between meditative and ruthlessly purposeful and I find myself watching the episodes over and over in bed late at night. R doesn't even mind. I think he's a little bit in love with him too.
Having grown up in Arnhem Land, I guessed where he was from the eastward shift in the otherwise similar birdsong, especially the Peaceful Doves warbling away in the background as is their charming/fucking incessant wont. I've lit friction fires. Whittled poky things from those white-wood saplings, constructed coil pots from the slippy clay gouged out of riverbanks, made bush cubbies and hardly ever worn shoes. All this is tremendously significant and formative and Primitive Technology really plucks that atavistic string. If you've never done any of this stuff you have never really contacted your inner feral. It's my contention this constitutes an important deficit that many more people should concern themselves with. In the absence of other, more explicit causation, it might just be why you're having those panic attacks and eating your feelings. I'm not joking.
Against all those nobler considerations I will admit to finding Primitive Technology more enjoyable for being shirtless and well-made, because I am a hopeless voyeuristic hobag.
The sight of a semi-naked idiosyncratic sort of person glowing roseate in the light of a hand-built forge or mutely treading clay in the middle of nowhere moves me deeply. There is something oddly fetching and completely un-gratuitous about that stoic, rain-shaped thatch of possum-coloured hair, silty fingernails and robust architectural pallor, especially whilst demonstrating that most erotic and beguiling of all personal qualities: competence. Together they are a slutty primal bush-pig banquet. I don't know how Primitive Tech man would feel about my unseemly objectification but that just sprinkles his sexy mystery with more sexy mystery.
Primitive Technology: would, hard, repeatedly. Highly recommended.
Kgomotso Neto for S Mag
speaking on behalf of all my no-neck homies and ugly skull-havers everywhere: extreme jealousy.
Sparks flew from the fire that William rearranged compulsively with his bare foot, kicking back the brands that slithered from the overflowing grate while he stood with an elbow on the mantlepiece and a phone pressed to his ear. Susan scowled up from her hunch in the chair at the restive shadow commanding half the drawing room around them; the polyglot intensity of his curses increased with every interrogative phone call, interspersed with the random shotgun crack of pyrotechnic sap. Petrouchka roosted alongside her in a heavy fur like a child burdened by some oversized theatrical costume. The vampyre's interest in the slow decline of her patience rasped like measured breathing in Susan's ear and she hissed an exasperated sigh.
"If you’re that bothered about Bede, just go into town and find him."
William shook his head.
"I’m not leaving you alone here.”
“I'm not alone."
He punched another number, muttering again to himself.
"Christabel, you can't count the psychopaths you've angered recently as company."
"Will you please either go and look for him, or leave it.” she snapped. Sparks flew past his legs and settled on the carpet behind him. She pressed a hand to her forehead.
“Sachiin...” Petrouchka purred. “We need balshoy box of vodka... go in your car for this, then maybe we talk.”
He swore at the battery warning beeping in his hand before setting off with his phone still to his ear, keeping an injunctive finger pointed at the vampyre and almost walking into his brother. Edward had descended the stairs before Lilian and Susan was surprised to see them through the doorway in their coats. She leant back out of sight as he held out his hand; without interrupting his call, William dug the latter’s keys from his pockets and tossed them at him, preceding him into the garage.
When both vehicles had pulled out through the gates Susan withdrew the two small books she had concealed beneath her skirt, sighing to herself and easing one open in the firelight, striving once more to disregard the attention of her remaining companion.
“You want to push Sachiin into fire?” the vampyre speculated.
“It’s lucky I didn’t think of that while he was standing there.”
"Sometime I feel him in my bones, like I am old man."
“At least you don't have Edward staring at you with his lizard eyes... that's like being in a room with something that’s going to bite you if you blink." she muttered, glancing sideways at her own unfortunate simile though Petrouchka's stare expressed no offence. The ensuing silence was punctuated by the complaints of the damp wood chewed over by the flames while the creature observed her, eyes grown narrow.
“You take this book?” she asked, stroking her own hair thoughtfully as she peered down into the lampblack text and deeply-graven woodcuts in Susan's lap.
“I think a bit of research is well overdue.”
“I could not steal from Kala'amātya when he is happy...”
“Yes, well... he should have killed me when he had the chance.” The soft, dusty smell of the vampyre's fur lay heavily on them both, the warmth from the fire holding no sway in the depths of her ash-grey gaze; from studying the flamed-flushed length of the complainant's neck, Petrouchka nodded downward once again.
“Die Kinder der Hölle... ugly stupid book, but we think amuse to have. Is like Jew, having Nazi book.” Susan decided not to express her opinion of the comparison and relented, giving over the shabby volume to the vampyre's covetous, bird-boned hands. They let the pages fall open, then swept them over slowly to expose the title and its blurred, quill-penned inscription. The whipping characters of Helaine de Marchand's signature resolved themselves before Susan was prepared for them.
"Imagine being Lilian and finding this..." she whispered. "I’m going mental and it’s not even me.”
“What is mental?”
"I think she is crazy, to want Kala'amātya, but Helaine was crazy also. I tell her... two bad thing don’t make a good one, but she have no ears." The vampyre gazed down into the hearth. "She was my great friend... such a witch as you will never see these day... she break the ground, and call the blood out of your bone until it pour from your mouth onto your feet..." Petrouchka's voice sank with the shade of her expression. "I don’t like him, for only watching her die. Is not fair she did not see these times... you, you are too lucky. You don't deserve." A disturbing smile moved her features from their slough; her little hands arched and came together in her lap as she found something to relish in her own account. “In our time, if you were woman, you could be slave and live in cage, or escape régime, be free, and have nishto... nothing. Helaine and I, we were queens of this nishto... it was our own. Sometime men would come from town, to put chain on us... we wait for them, and catch, drink their blood and give them to the moon... chase and beat them, screaming, through the woods, and call to the alujha... I hear them still sometime, begging for their life, weeping, like orphan... their terror is a feast for you, you can take breath from it...” Her account was lopped by a belated discretion that tempered the atrocious brilliance of her grin. Petrouchka lifted the book in both hands. “Priest write this book... chush' sobach'ya... you don't find the children of hell from a man who believe heaven. We speak with our own tongue." She turned the volume over slowly. "When Kala'amātya put his gun on you, he speak. And when he let you go, he speak again. Is good to listen.”
“All I do is listen." Susan muttered.
“You don't like to be told? No, I don't like either. But you don't know, so someone must tell you." Leaning forward to set another piece of wood onto the sagging coals, Susan spied a predatory motion of intent that seized the vampyre within the slim, unwitting opportunity her inattention had presented, collared as quickly as it emerged, the culprit sitting back in her chair and sliding her hands into her thick sleeves. Helaine's book remained in her lap. “You like Gideon?” she inquired as though artless. “I like. Dark, but still so séduisant. I know him from Sachiin... four hundred year now. Four hundred, and still we go to restaurant and laugh and curse en Provençal. I think sometime he is tired and maybe want to leave us, but then I see him drink champagne and chase the flesh like he still have heat in his bones... I hope is true... I think is possible... he is twice as old as I, and Kala'amātya, three time as old as that, and we know he is not a buddha.” Petrouchka reached across to pat the volume that Susan had reserved. “This is good book. You read. I think I will go for bath, if there is water. You don't know in this place.”
Her bloodlust departed with the flesh that it commanded. Susan relaxed, avoiding the dead witch’s relic in favour of the other book, a translation from a French work, its worried cotton binding alluding to rough usage. Given Petrouchka’s recommendation, it came as no surprise to see that it was crowded with the vampyres of most known lands, strutting, leering, spilling forth on their crepuscular offensives. They were accompanied by those creatures supposed to haunt the wastes and forests, lissome nymphs reveling in treacherous, indelible beauty, werebeasts devoured by the needs of a binary flesh, sharing the tongue of their witch sisters and consorts, addicted to ecstatic, shameless rites and trances. Other bogies of less certain character rejoiced in lengthy pseudoscientific epithets, but were left largely to the obscurity they most probably desired. The text dripped with sly, admiring apologia, granting the undead the power of flight, the ability to profit from the ages, growing more vital with each passing year, evolving ever toward some remote, transcendent perfection. She set aside perfection as superfluous, but was moved to ponder transcendence, finding an allegory in the flames that worked the dully inert wood into the light that coloured her face and hands.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Full-spectrum goodness @ the Tracy Arm Fjord.
See the rest here: it's great.
And it is ironic that illiterate, often marginalised women leading lives severely circumscribed by culture and religion have produced some of the most universally appreciated works of material expression. There is hardly a society in existence that has not valued personal adornment as a pillar of its collective representation; these textiles articulate the fundamentals of human existence- our immersion in natural chaos and our desire for order and distinction. That they are so often relegated in favour of 'higher' art speaks unflattering volumes about the perceptions and motivations of conventional curatorial practise.
* Ethnographica * Our Photography * Photoessays *
The label on the prescription vial in Lilian's hand felt like close-shaved suede, blankly white and uninformative beneath her thumb. The mist that had retreated from the park before the dawn began a stealthy reprise, full of the brindle smell of aging, dew-soaked verdure while far above the sky was glimpsed in powder-blue vignette. It cast her reflection on the surface of the pool, the image looking back at her in defiance of the suspicion she had always accorded it. The pheasants shook out their wings and planed down together from the balcony behind her, joining the wild birds in quartering the lawn.
William walked through them toward her, hands deep inside the pockets of his black coat while she shook a flotilla of particoloured capsules into the water. They stood in stony dissociation, her refusal pushing his failures and deficiencies back at him as though he had grasped a handful of thorns while the birds chimed all around, urging them toward the use of their own voices.
"At least I'm not fucking crazy." she observed bitterly, glancing down at the bottle in her hand. "How long have you known?"
"I saw you with him by the gate, when you were first here... I knew then."
Lilian took a while to accept his despondent candour.
“So were you just like, shit... it’ll be more fun if no one tells her?” She watched him drag his hands down over his face and let them fall to his sides where they hung like dead white animals, wrung of all their customary expression.
"I didn't know what to say or when to say it, and I was too scared..."
"You told Susan though, right?"
She barely acknowledged the attention he paid to the pair of associate shapes she had left on the grass, her handbag and the little black gun that seemed to gestate within its private confines.
"All this time, you were my boy... you never did me wrong. I felt like such a judge of fucking character..." Lilian took the weapon from his hand and put it to her temple, depressing the trigger three times and smiling darkly before lifting it to his face and working the jammed mechanism again. "You know how this shit goes. When you're born to hang, you can't fucking drown."
Susan shrank from the spluttering shower rose, then forced herself beneath it, rubbing the frigid water over her hair and skin and hoping the white flowers in the soap would kill the stink of the Black Moth and all the cigarettes that she had smoked in William's car. She glanced up in surprise as the head scurled loudly and issued rust-stained warmth, like blood flushed from an open wound, the colour streaming from her nose and hair and ponding in her open palms. William returned as she stepped into her robe, shrugging off his clothing in an abject expression of his mood and taking her place beneath the shower. Lowering the toilet lid and slumping down on it, she sat in silence, watching the water pour from his chin as he stood with his eyes closed.
"Lilian hates us." she sighed.
“She doesn’t hate you, she hates me.”
"Whoever Nyāti is, she hates me..."
"She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth... it stunts your fucking growth. Susan..." She looked up warily at the sound of her name. "I said I would buy you a ticket out of here and I meant it. Take the car, my cards... whatever you need to get clear.”
Her hands closed on her knees as the offer settled around her. It was a while before she could trust herself to speak.
“I don't want to go, William. Do you... want me to?”
They gazed at one another until he relented, exclaiming softly as he wound a towel around his waist.
"Fuck, no, I'll have a breakdown." She dropped her face into her hands and cursed his reticence. "I'm sorry... I'm not trying to push you out the door, cloudcheeks, but what I want is the last fucking thing you should worry about."
"All I can think about is Caleb and Annick. Every time I blink I see the pictures."
William looked back at her from the speckled glass.
"My brother didn't have anything to do with that." He could not answer the dread she so plainly attached to the absentee and did not attempt to. "Those dogs at the Moth refuckulated half my baby teeth though, so er... jungle orthodontics... its not really a spectator sport..." he added, clapping the veterinary pliers together.
"Isn't that what you call the ones you lose?"
Susan shook her head wearily as she stood up and came to look at him more closely.
"You've got monster eye."
"Have you ever wanted me more?" he inquired dryly.
"If you ask me to leave you again, I will refuckulate you." she promised, the sweet taste of his blood prompting her to step back from kissing him and pick something from her lip, finding a gleaming point of white upon her finger. “A while ago, I would have rated finding pieces of your teeth in my mouth as very to extremely disgusting, but now it's just... moderately unsatisfactory, and I don't even know if that's good or bad.”
At his request she handed him the knife from his coat pocket and remained, deeply engrossed, at his side while William closed the pliers on a tooth and wrenched it free with a violent downward motion. He used the tip of the blade to prise shards of broken enamel from its vacant socket; the glassy, grating sound of the procedure caused her shoulders to contract though she remained transfixed, and he fumbled, rode the blade over his gum and expressed a string of rueful expletives, glancing sideways at her scrutiny. Susan relented, returning to the bedroom where she pulled a jersey over her damp shoulders and unlocked the doors, stepping out to stare along the hall in both directions. A low, droning hum made her look to the ceiling and a dark mass of bees crawling against the cornice, streaming in from a crack in the water-stained molding.
Dregs of mist clung about the trees leaning over the boundary wall where Edward studied the mud and torn grass of the verge, their details almost dissolved by the overnight downpour; a vehicle had backed off the seal and spun its wheels on the sticky ground before heading back toward the city, but the rest was lost, even to his learned eye. He followed the wall toward the gates before which he stood silently, examining the house through the iron bars. Turning, he eased his body between two black uprights, conforming briefly to their slight diagonal and sliding through without disturbing the heavy chain.
From inside the garage he could hear Lilian lie down on his bed through the intervening timbers, the smell, both sharp and darkly rounded, of burning opium fading with the cooling of the pipe she had abandoned. Susan had left the Jaguar's passenger door ajar in her haste the night before. From beneath the oil-stained bench alongside it he took a small cache bundled in black kid leather and laid it on the bonnet, rolling it out with one hand and selecting components with the other, fitting them together with an efficiency drawn from the carbon-dark machinery of his unconscious.
Susan waved a hand across her face against the bees that dripped from the lath in William’s grasp and filled the air around them with noisy disaffection. The young day still vacillated between cloud and open sky, favouring one and then the other.
"Where's Petrouchka?" she asked, picking fumitory burrs from the legs of her tights.
"Making herself scarce with Auberjonois... not that a dead Russian cupcake's going to make Kala'amātya roll the acid barrels back into the garage." William mused. She sat down on the trunk of a fallen pear amid the long grass.
"I feel like I'm waiting to be run over by a train."
"Avai'sahdi, please don't say that. I know I didn’t see Rana coming, and I punch myself in the head for that daily, but I've got my shitstorm goggles on now."
"I'd almost forgotten about her." The grass decanted its tissue-weight seeds into her lap as she plucked the stems and wound them into a wreath. "Did she not go mad at you for Gideon?” He shrugged.
“No competitive vagina. And like you said... crazy, not stupid.” Confident he had secured the lath amid the branches of an apricot, he began to blow the bees from his hands.
"Where did you find him?"
"Auberjonois? Acre... three in the morning, top of the north wall during a siege. I was climbing in, he was bugging out. He looked at me, fixed his hair and said... tu m'impressionnes."
She shook her head again.
“God, how easy are you?”
“I think we both know."
"How long were you with him?"
William reckoned briefly.
"A long time when I think about it... he kicked me out eventually, but we've been cool... except when he's being a gros con d... a macho cockhead. I rode with his crew right up til the Crimea.”
She allowed his voice to lead her from her more troubling idée fixe.
"I don't think you were born a troublemaker." she said quietly, frowning up at him. "Why did you have to be doing that all the time?"
"It paid, poupée."
"Could you not have opened a fruit stall or something?"
"The crusades were like an ATM jizzing hundred dollar bills onto the footpath... all the alujha cartels were into it, running crews down to Palestine and Granada, up to the Baltic... the first few were fucking disasters, no logistics, no nothing, but after that they started bringing in mercenaries to do passagium particulaire. The cartels would finance your trip and take half of whatever you ripped off, so it behoved you to be first through whichever door was getting kicked down. It wasn't political or anything, and I am sorry if I accidentally, er... slaughtered your ancestors for financial gain... but it was just ce qui se fait... everyone was doing it." He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke onto the bees. "Ed came in sometimes, but he drinks alone and hates splitting the take, so he was always a per diem bitch. We wintered in Alexandria, or Shiraz... I love Shiraz... hit Outrémer in March, then on to Florence for May Eve with enough money to party for the rest of the year. C'est super... ça déchire."
“People are still blowing each other up over that.”
“You and your neocolonialistic propaganda.”
“You don’t know what neocolonialism is... it's not the right word anyway. If all that was so amazing, why aren’t you doing it now?”
“Because of that fucking horrible time where everyone started using artillery but hadn’t stopped using horses." William closed his eyes. "I love horses.” he admitted. “Auberjonois fell out with the Catalans anyway... some alujha shit... they're always chewing one another. He bought a place in Gévaudan and started a home for difficult, furry young men. Back in the day when you started hearing the woods... hahdri á ijhun... you found a cartel, they jumped you in and you served for your keep. Now all they do is kick the shit out of each other, and they’re all in the pocket of that fucking bloodsack in Prague anyway." For a moment she suspected that he was distracted by sound and watched him intently, but he continued. “Gideon hung up his spurs and started ripping off high-end antiquities, selling it on, distribution. You probably weren’t even born, but there was this thing where some French archaeologists found a temple in Laos... really early Buddhist stuff, just before the war. As soon as they packed up, Auberjonois went in with a team and yoinked the whole fucking building out from behind the facade. It paid out so hard they could afford my brother for six months, to keep the American black op arseholes off their backs. If the local juntas had walked into them, it would have been bamboo slivers for everyone. That's balls of steel."
"You could do what he does." Susan contended, without looking up from the grass.
“Five fingers good, six fingers bad... he can put on a suit and eat canapés and not freak people out of a deal twenty five days a month. I’m always the big spooky gook who couldn’t look corporate if he wore a fucking suit made out of CEOs. That, and I can’t fucking work with vampyres. If you’re fencing their old shit, you need to be able to ignore a lot of holocaust jokes and sobbing from wall cavities.”
"There's something about him that's strange... that makes me feel... odd."
“C’est le loup. You might be talking to Auberjonois, but you’re never just talking to Auberjonois.” He reached up and slid his hand carefully into the busy, crawling swarm, withdrawing it with equal circumspection to reveal an errant queen, darkly blonde and smoky black, her slender length resting on the back of his palm. "La Reine." he smiled, watching her lean over her knees and study the miniature sovereign for herself, enjoying the moment of pleasure it granted her before replacing the pristine principal amongst her amazonian retainers, murmuring a slow chant to settle them around her.
“You were doing that when I first saw you... right here, I think.” she told him, to which William shook his head
“It was by the Du Comice.”
He nodded down the row to an older tree, laden with ripening, copper-blushed fruit. She waded backward in her head, gratified that his memory was more faithful than her own, then stood and walked between the trees toward the venerable pear. Choosing one from the branches, she turned it in her hand and watched its bloom dusting her fingers, her voice losing something of its melancholy tenor.
“I thought you were the strangest thing I’d ever seen. For some reason, this thing my granddad used to say came into my head, something about always costing the taxpayer money. I think it was my brain trying to warn me... I bet it's nutting itself against a wall somewhere now, the poor thing.” The soft flesh dissolved between her teeth like a spoonful of nectar while wandering, mutable thoughts of him painted her face a telling, sunlit colour.
“So... when I’m meeting people for the first time, I should make more of an effort to look less... what’s the word? Starts with D...”
Susan regarded the pear with an expression that blossomed behind her hand.
"Oh... I was thinking déshabillé..."
"And that. I think, if you’re going to be meeting girls, you should definitely wear more clothes... and never let them smell you... or do that thing with your eyes. The opposite of monster eye. Angel eye...” Her own smile vanished again suddenly, falling from her face with the hand that dropped to her side, and she turned toward the end of the row, the strange sound of his laughter drifting over her shoulder. “If we stay together, one day I'll have to watch someone else look at you like that, when I'm old... and you'll want them, not me...” Her hands fell to her skirt and she stood, staring down at the ground. “Whoever it is... they might not be born, but I hate them. I don’t know if I can hand you over. That just.. it feels like dying twice.”
“Christabel, I’m not something you'll have to give up.” Her throat closed as she swallowed air in a small, dark, half-choked exclamation; Susan bent and pushed her way through the pleached trees, stumbling over a branch buried in the grass and walking in a circling daze toward the house. He called to her once, but let her go.
She stooped under the dripping clematis depending from the door frame and stood for a moment inside the drawing room, hardly able to see past her own burning eyes. Despite them, she knew in the time it took to blink that she had walked in her incaution into a bind, as surely as if her foot had tripped a wire. Locked in airless immobility, her instincts cast around her for the source, the sinister discrepancy between its power and obscurity finally united in the shadow by the door. Kala'amātya sat in the darkness on a kitchen chair, looking back at her through eyes she barely recognized, full of golden absence, the lidless stare of a Hindu demon. A pistol lay in the hand upon his knee, the inelegant shape of its suppressor lending it a dreadful specificity. She looked back up into his gaze; its naked, transfixing radiance was gorgonian, destined for the same fatal obscurity as its victims. Inwardly, he felt his finger work the cold slope of the trigger and saw her head fall sideways against her shoulder, her death little more than a shiver under skin that slowly whitened until her gaze burned through the frames of that familiar sequence. The twining shadow of the vine that lay against the window drew its blue and violet cursive on her features; he regarded her from somewhere distant in the vastness of his own terrain, moved or unmoved, resolute or undecided, her fear of tempting him across its nameless divide conquered by exigencies of her own.
"Caleb and Annick are dead." she told him. "Everyone thinks it was you." She did not hear his brother step in through the doors behind her or feel his hand closing on her arm. When he could not persuade her toward him, William slowly interposed himself between them, offering his back to the judgement chambered in the weapon. "Did you do it?" Susan insisted, incited by Edward's ascent from the chair and towing William after her as she pursued him toward the hall, repeating her demand to his impermeable silence.
Finally impressed by its futility, she submitted to her companion's direction, saying nothing as he swept her back into the drawing room and out into the white glare of the morning, around the corner of the house into the damp shade of the elms. William kept hold of her wrist as he recovered, heaping whispered admonitions upon himself as she stared toward the placid waters of the swimming pool.
"I walked right into him... he could have done it, a hundred times." she murmured.
"He let you go."
Susan frowned at the unlikely nature of the assertion and looked to him finally as he straightened up from leaning on his knee.
"What does that mean?"
He shook his head, face still brightly fraught.
"I have no idea."
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Uninspired, yo. Drawing a big blank recently. Probably because it's still warm enough to do boring perfunctory outside shizniz and this is keeping my brain in end-of-summer-fry mode rather than letting it slide naturally into magic winter swamp-consciousness.
Hate it when that happens, and I know it's boring for anyone reading this so I apologise. I'm even having a hard time listening to music and had to force myself to throw a Björk mixtape out of sheer fucking bloody-mindedness; the effect was startlingly somatic, like someone pumped my veins full of lemonade and the bubbles were crawling along my interior walls. Hormones? Moon phase? Mental illness? Ticks all boxes, rolls up questionnaire, inserts into nostril, lights end on fire.
Also: politics. Le Pen face-planted in France which is fantastic and perhaps signals that the world's trifling ho voting bloc is actually seeing the Trump novelty presidency for the defective carny trinket that it is. But I've learned never to underestimate the global net volume of stupid and with all this greasy right wing tonnage (feels like squid guts, smells like Kardashian bum cleft) dumped on our unsuspecting doorsteps by various leagues of petulant morons, I'm starting to share their confusion re the political spectrum and where my fat arse sits on that lateral.
All that has always felt like liberality to me. I've gotten even more that way with mileage, in inverse to the usual hardening of the ideological arteries into supposedly inevitable conservatism. But am I liberal? I ask that lately because I do actually judge the living shit out of a lot of stuff and some of my most strongly-held convictions aren't very fluffy.
Examples: I'm absolutely, 100% fine with the death penalty, for homicide and other violent crime involving cruelty, premeditation and long-term offending. Enthusiastic, even. Fuck forgiveness and empathy. There's no robust ethical case for feeding and housing recidivist scumbags (especially when their victims receive no such consideration) and I'd lose bugger-all sleep flipping any number of kill switches on a volunteer basis. It's true that I cannot actually support a death penalty implemented by a State and adversarial justice system skewed into the ground against the non-rich and non-white, but my objections are purely, utterly practical. How do you like me now?
Then there's my loathing of negligent breeders (all genders). In countries with access to birth control and abortion, people who have more than one whoopsies kid without the means or inclination to support their brats to a reasonable standard really, really piss me off. Not because of their reliance on welfare or tax subsidies, to which their blameless children are certainly entitled, but because they have voluntarily disadvantaged their offspring, dumped a shit bucket of consequences on the rest of us and that is demonstrably fucked up. I feel like a lot of people should care enough about kids to not have any. Sometimes I'm even fairly sure I could be entrusted with the codification of those restrictions. As did Hitler. Don't get me started on the arse-whipping I'd like to hand out to environmental rapists and their gold digging collaborators (all of whom could be gainfully employed elsewhere. I know this because I know plenty of you.) Twenty to life, sluicing out mercury-tainted tailings dams in jandals for those bastards. Good behaviour doubles your sentence because it just proves you knew better all along. I'm not joking.
Then there's the flatulent elephant in every fucking room at the moment: immigration. The idea of unrestricted or even poorly-administered immigration appals me for a lot of reasons, and this is possibly something I struggle with most in my distaste for state-imposed sanctions against personal freedom.
As a relatively (on a planetary scale) privileged individual born into a western democracy, the stinking NIMBYist hypocrisy of all this is like something pulsing, pink and tentacular wrapped around my forehead, but I just can't with the prospect of ten million more people filing into the country of my birth. I'm not talking about refugees; sneaky conflation of the two entirely separate issues is grotesquely sleazy and pointless. And it's not a race thing; I dislike everyone pretty equitably. It's just that we're already up to our tits in the kind of greedy denialists who make a humane existence for everyone else here an impossibility. There's no room for more.
It's an icky slope, isn't it? You can dress up your personal disinclinations in specificities- for instance, I don't consider not loving the idea of hundreds of thousands of socio-religious conservatives turning up on the doorstep quite as gross as slack-jawed racist objections, but the effect is largely the same. Would I support a wall if we didn't already have the Pacific? Shit, I don't know. Have you, in the privacy of your own conscience, asked yourself that one yet?
This is one of the great contemporary failings of liberal philosophy. Many of the people who claim to regard everyone as manifestly equal and march against immigration restrictions are also the people who selfishly gentrify and benefit from segregationist policies whilst calling wall-supporters nazis. That's just the herpes-crusted, donut-loving truth. I've never met a liberal who could articulate a solution to the global demographic clusterfuck. They're like me; they don't want xenophobic restrictions on immigration, but nor do they want to find themselves another bobbing mass in a dangerously crowded stew of incompossible anthropoid elements.
What the fuck are we going to do and why is the honest/humane answer so obscure in comparison to the nasty/stupid one? What's the pokable difference between me and your average low-functioning triple-chinned conservative anyway?
* The Ravings are Selected: just saying what you've been thinking for 4 long years now *
see more here
Lilian’s hands were as cold as the night outside the hotel, fugitives in the pockets of her trench as it settled against her in the aureate warmth of the elevator. Edward had framed his absence as he did every lie, devoid of reassuring ornamentation, but she was pleased to be absolved from explaining her own. Her prospective client had offset his anonymity with the size of the engagement fee transferred to her account, the promise of more exerting its terrible weight on all other concerns. Its plastic, golden possibilities smoothed the disapproval of the concierge accompanying her, the brushed silver of his name tag holding a softly-hatched stripe of her reflection. He informed her dutifully of their arrival on the third floor of executive suites, but did not wish her a pleasant evening.
Panes of limed wood and flaxen limestone lined the hall outside, their bland blonde matte palliative to the weary eye. Her heels made no sound upon the carpet as she glanced at passing door plates and found herself five rooms short of her destination; though there was nothing startling in the discovery, Lilian slowed and came to a gradual halt in the midst of the passage. In the outer corner of her left eye the wall began to shimmer, the stone trembling, its substance loosened as though lofted forth in dust, birthing a myriad of tiny, phosphor-white motes, like dandelion seeds before a lazy drift of sun-warmed air. They wandered out before her, forming an encircling cascade that was not only silent in itself, but drained the volume from the surrounding world until sound no longer existed. Inhaling the brightly-glowing influence of the idling scintilla, she took a hand from her pocket at its whispered invitation and passed into the fall, the motes treating her flesh as a permeable fiction; closing her fist, she watched them drift on through its shape, unchecked, then pushed her hand into the empty air beyond.
It was struck by fulminant agony, as though a length of steel had swung across her knuckles. She dragged her hand back and clasped it in the spinning eye of pain, lips parting in a silent exclamation. At the end of the corridor a maid’s cart emerged from a utility room as a muted and indefinite shape; Lilian straightened slowly though pain still pealed along her bones, watching the cart trundle toward her from the shadowless distance. A door to her right opened inward, admitting a tall woman in a drab suit to the passage, the eyes in her hard, tanned face coming too quickly upon her own while the wall beside her head began to shimmer, its substance loosened as though lofted forth in dust. Tiny phosphor-white motes drifted in a veil between them; Lilian felt them glowing in her eyes, combusting and dividing, and pushed her pale gaze through the idling scintilla, beyond the stranger's stare and deep into the intent that it protected, finding shapes in black and olive drab lettered with shifting glyphs with hot, portentous scarlet. Satisfied, she allowed the incandescent apparition to dissuade her, and to walk her back toward the elevator where its open doors awaited her return.
Shaw leaned into the clammy ivy at the foot of the wall it had overrun, ignoring its sour bronze smell and clearing a narrow gap in the fallen stone. The street on the other side glowed dirty orange through the foliate vignette, crossed only by the nocturnal insects that favoured the lamp post for the amatory and predacious sorties consuming the last weeks of their lives. Looking back over his shoulder, he searched the windows through the lattice of branches and shoulder-high weeds that sheltered his position, bringing his phone to his ear.
“House and grounds are clear.” he confided. “It’s good.”
Josephine sat in the darkness of the rented suite, watching the woman wheel the maid’s cart alongside the bed and strip her secreted equipment from it, stuffing it into a gym bag, her mood related in the rough, clipped timbre of her actions. O'Connor darkened the doorway.
“She came right to my station, Mercer started her run and then it nose-dived... I don’t know what it was... it felt like I was made.” Josephine related. The operative zipped her bags. “We need to check her out. She’s not standard.”
“Ms Frost is on her way to the house.” he replied. “Traffic’s loose downtown, it’s a fifty minute ride at most, so the second team will pick her up.”
“Inoprophenol won’t drop a lab rat. She’ll fight it.”
"I'm happy with what the Interlaken teams have achieved so far."
Josephine watched his face assume a smirk as they recalled the hahdri massacre photostream; she wondered how he could smile amid the disastrous scope of its dissemination, then remembered his lack of affection for the culprit.
"Have they found Bateman yet?" she inquired.
"They pulled him out of business class at LAX."
The woman behind them looked up from packing her equipment.
"Bateman's gone?" she asked, glancing out the door.
"Interlaken took the bambis out and cut them loose on some lycanthropes upstate... it went bad. They ended up having to toast the whole site. Bateman lost it, posted darknet jpegs and fled with his hard drives."
"Damn... I don't think I even want to know what a bambi fail looks like. Those gross things were his babies."
"I think the change of focus was overdue." O'Connor remarked, consulting his watch. "Wipe this down before you leave."
A downpour swept over the crest of the hill, hissing across the tarmac and beading on Shaw's head, misting the glass of his night vision visor. Distant headlights already shimmered in the water clinging to the roadside growth; he leant out as far as he dared through the vine-swathed crevice, pulling the windscreen into focus. To his amazement, one of the black-clad operatives planted at the foot of the hill broke cover and walked out onto the seal, forcing the taxi to a halt on wet brakes. Shaw pushed along the wall until he drew parallel with the stop.
A burst of muzzle flash threw the thicket of figures closing on the car into cartoon silhouette, the rain swallowing the silenced rounds and the sound of the glass trickling from the driver’s door onto the road. They dragged a smoking body from behind the wheel, leaving it lying on the tarmac while the passenger was surrounded in the rear seat, though Shaw could see nothing of Lilian Frost until the door was pushed slowly outward from within. The figure that rose from it and stood beside the cab explained the desperate expediency of the ambush without uttering a syllable, male instead of female, emerald flash meeting the torch beam directed into its eyes. While it stared into the light, a figure stepped up and fired twice into its neck, then again into its shoulder, shrinking back to the verge to reload as quickly as wet fingers would allow.
The armed party retracted, leaving their victim to grasp the stainless darts and tear them free, gazing blankly through the crimson spatter driven onto his face by the murderous burst of fire. He tossed them away and looked down at the body of the driver; even from the top of the wall Shaw saw the deliberation that persisted in the creature’s stance, the absence of the slow and reassuring tilt that was the first sign of meaningful intoxication. The squad stood, hunched and transfixed, steam rising from their shoulders and their laboured breathing while Shaw climbed down. Beside him the commanding figure snarled an order, prompting the foremost trio to creep forward, rain streaming from their chins. The creature gazed over the wall toward the distant house even as they closed on him, his apathy explicitly fatalistic. As one the squad burst forward and swallowed up the figure, like a fist of swarming insects.
Shaw wiped at his face with his hand as he walked around to the rear of the collection van to perceive the result of their endeavours, a prostrated abstract lying on the churned grass, strapped with closely-coupled bonds of woven alloy to a steel stretcher. The drug gunner stepped forward and fired another three doses into the flesh of its leg; he trained his torch upon the captive's profile, examining the deep golden bale of the gaze that slid toward him before a mesh hood was dragged down over its head. A single command extinguished their torches, sent a pair of men to drag the taxi driver's corpse into the boot of his idling car and signaled the others to hoist their trussed objective from the ground, in pursuit of a swift and wordless dispersal.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Underlying lip colour supports Spice It Up to be all it can be; the combination of these naturally-derived shades becomes more than the sum of its parts. You may not get the same agreeable visual payday if you're one of those ghost-lipped types who have trouble persuading lipstick to look anything but garish and unsympathetic... then again, SIU can supply a subdued dead-petal stain to light/cool lips and that sort of low-key journée gothique result can be tremendously alluring. I'm hard-pressed to think of someone who really, fully could not wear this shade under any circumstances. Maybe give it a miss if you're pale and yellow-toned?
Nars Golshan pencil is probably Spice It Up's closest tonal relation in my collection, comparatively speaking, despite the latter being darker and more intense. Together they form a beautiful and effortlessly flattering ombre. MAC Brick-O-La is way pinker. MAC Taupe and Mocha are a far more explicitly sandy tan. Retro holds a lot more dirty mauve and its heavier pigmentation gives a completely different effect, so I don't particularly associate them.
I think SIU looks best patted on and/or finger-smudged which yields a nice, slightly autumnal tweak, oddly more toffeeish than the pinkish hand swatch, plus a modest sheen. You get 50% opacity from one swipe and while that's perfectly sufficient to make an impact even on darker lips, SIU is buildable to around 80% before it veers into slippy patchiness; that's a great result for this sort of finish. When patted on it's got a sweet little density which settles well on the mouth and lasts (in the absence of serious assault) for around half a day before needing maintenance with that bonus gentle fade that characterises all the worthwhile Lustres. I don't experience wrinkle bleeds or that slimy de-emulsification effect that can strike down some MAC Cremesheens as well as the lesser shades in this category
Unusually, I have nothing bad to say about Spice It Up. It's a nice change from all those hard neutral mattes when you don't want too much look. I don't even begrudge the fact that it won't stick around til dinnertime- it doesn't even outstay its damn welcome. You can't claim that about very much these days.
L2R (MAC unless stated): Russian Red, Del Rio, Spice It Up, Nars Golshan, Taupe, Verve, Retro
a range of natural in+outdoor natural light
In darkly-shadowed abeyance lay the sere and undulant land encircling the two great lakes, their water lying upon the plain like lovers in sated repose. The proud head of the sentinel peak to the south wore the first snow of the season on those narrow, serried strata still favoured by the rosewater rays of the departing sun. As she walked alone over the isthmus between the water, Nyāti strove to conceal her struggle with the lowly altitude, though its influence clutched at her chest and dragged on her long, cloaked limbs.
She gained the summit of the rise and was confronted by the object of her journey. Two score figures clad in wind-worn, cinder-coloured homespun employed the shelter of the hill to assort the grim tools of their trade in preparation for winter, discarding those stolen knives and short bronze swords that had dulled and retaining those fit for the campaign that would resume in spring. Such were the sole conveniences claimed by the bai'issātva; neither hearth, nor tents nor even slaves enlivened their bivouac, all such considerations superfluous to their dour mandate. The dust ground from the mountains by their heavy robes of ice had settled impartially upon them, conspiring with their unvarying stature and aspect so they seemed a raft of sullen corvids grounded by the very misfortune they embodied. A length of horsehair line, strung across the hollow between pikes, sagged under gruesome, flapping festoons of sunbleached brown and shining black, scalps stripped from the heads of their victims. Nyāti was grateful that the scudding wind took their smell toward the west.
Loot from overtaken caravans and campsites lay in disarray upon the ground; robes and bales of silk, items of virtu and adornment contrived from polished turquoise, ivory and brand-like corals, the dowery silver so favoured by the doyennes of her own high order, small chests of precious woods and banded agate vials of scent beguiled from flowers that bloomed beyond the mountains to the rumoured south. With her betters she would select those items most suited to sacerdotal dignity, the bai'issātva themselves being wholly ignorant of such criteria. She could discern those newly consigned by the ire still brightening their gazes, the veterans having given themselves over to the conduct expected of them in triturating perpetuity, wearing disgrace as they did the dust of the plain. They were wary of the crocus-yellow shroud she wore as mufti over the snowy robes of her rank.
“I am come for Kala'amātya.” she informed them; they spoke amongst themselves in the glances that were their silent argot until one of the elders lifted a directing hand.
A string of horses stood drinking from the dark edge of the lake. The moon had risen, vast and blindly white and rolling on the low waves toward the shore. Kala'amātya swept a felt over the back of one of his mounts and tied it fast. The rude habiliment that sufficed his companions smoked upon the fire he had kindled for the comfort of his horses; he had bathed in the lake, tied his hair and donned a blue silk tunic purloined from the nomads he had executed. Alongside those weapons he had stowed the luxuries looted during the sorties under his direction lay bound in four neat bundles, readied for the backs of his animal train and not the discretion of the Sthali'sātva, so profound a transgression that she could not recall its punishment. That he was not preparing for removal to the furthest station of his corps' orbit was obvious, even to her assaulted sensibilities.
“You do not go north?” she asked.
“You do not keep avai’sha?” he replied over his shoulder, in reference to the robe concealing the compulsory garb of her order.
She looked over the horses.
“Why do you imprison these beasts when it is against the first words of the Mother?”
He enjoined the equine contingent to stay close to the fire before turning finally toward her.
“It is my evil nature.” His mood admitted no further equivocation.
“Ana'siām'ilye requires that you walk with me.”
“Tomorrow I ride for a day in one direction and then two weeks in another.” Kala'amātya muttered before she could elaborate. "I walk nowhere tonight."
"You go to speak with Sachiin before the snow..." She watched him reserve his glance from her, though she could see well that her knowledge of the rendezvous surprised him.
“Ana'siām'ilye has two good legs of her own.”
“Why should she trouble them on your account?”
“Why should I trouble mine on hers?”
She lifted her hands to the white-daubed hair at her temples.
“Come with me, or do not.” At his silence, she turned into the wind and wound the yellow scarf around her head, departing over the rise that sheltered his encampment.
Nyāti was forced to look back more than once to reassure herself that Kala'amātya had indeed set out after her, though whether he satisfied curiosity or some other perverse precept was as obscure as his distant person. The moon climbed to its apex and had begun its descent into the west by the time she paused upon a eminence and waited for him.
“If not north, where do you go?” He said nothing, drawing a hand across his nape and turning his head slowly in sympathy with flesh worked hard since the first days of an early spring. “When you meet Sachiin, speak of me to him.” she murmured, reminding him of those ironic debarments preventing her from conversing with his brother while saying nothing on his own lowly account.
The moon met the serrate horizon as they came to a line of abraded cliffs, its dry, fluted, wind-carved divagations an echoing maze for the unwary. As a discreet conduit to the bai'issātvas' northernmost theatre of operation, it had been favoured by the priestesses for millennia despite being haunted by the cackling, esurient shaitani cast down from the mountains. Nyāti led him into a crevice barely wider than his shoulders and far darker than the night outside, their footfalls rasping softly in the sand. It expanded sinuously into a slim ravine, banded walls dimly limned in charcoal grey and violet; at its widest point the sky was glimpsed once more between the overhanging stone, the stars like macula on the black skin of some cosmic archetype. He examined their familiar arrangements in preference to the tall, swathed figure awaiting them beside a boss of sandstone, its textural qualities reiterated in the plain weave of her mantle. The glowing pallor of the robes beneath were scarcely distinguishable from the person of the wearer, their hands transfigured into emblems of her station by the symbols scarred into the backs of their palms. They impressed Kala'amātya blackly, stamped over the earliest of his conscious memories, and he felt himself once more a reviled subject. Nyāti left him to receive instruction from her mentor, spanning the distance between the parties in a sanitary measure, between the sacred and the walking depths of desecration.
“Ana'siām'ilye would know if the foremost among bai'issātva can tell us something of this past season.” she told him.
“I am foremost?” he asked.
Nyāti turned to hear her sovereign’s reply.
“Is it not harmonious that something born to transgress might excel all others in such matters?” she related.
“The rain has failed to the south and east. We have had hard work to clear these southern i'ss’it, even from the driest places. They bring their litters and their animals, and they mean to stay.”
“And it is true that you kill more than you ever have? And though you leave their heads and skins as warning, still more i'ss’it will come as soon as the snows permit?”
“You seem already satisfied of this.”
Nyāti strove to uphold the formality her position required, raising her hand in a careful gesture that regained his attention. Ana'siām'ilye overruled her tact by folding back her veil and looking to him directly, her distaste for the measure related in its execution.
“What would you say of your time as bai'issātva?” she asked.
“No one has ever asked if I did like or dislike anything, and I can offer no opinion.”
His reply seemed to delight her.
“Kala'amātya... was I not wise, to know you for what you were? When you left your mother’s body and lay upon the ground it was your silence, as much as any sign, that apprised me of your nature.” the priestess admitted, watching him receive the news with familiar impassivity. “With all I know of you... and I know more than you imagine... I greatly regret that you would not accept reform... in you, there is so much that is lost to us.” Between them, Nyāti listened with the discretion in which she had been so stringently instructed. “Are you not weary of execration? If you could walk again beside your brother, your mother... be promised to a high-born wife and know her children will regard you as worthy of their mother... if you could be known by the name that you were given, and not that which was hung about your neck... would you not think yourself favoured? Out of my great love for our people, and of harmony, I have chosen our daughter Nyāti as a wife for you. Under her auspices, you will be guided and reconciled.”
Even in his armoured heart her words burned like stone under the summer sun. The sight of Nyāti standing without interceding only intensified his disbelief; though they were the same age, the brilliance of her youth was barely cowled by the austerity required of her.
"You would have me?" he asked her, deeply disquieted, looking back to Ana'siām'ilye's implacable features.
“She would set aside a great deal more than vanity to please us.” the priestess replied on Nyāti's behalf; still the naked elements of the proposal encircled him, no more real for the reiteration.
“I thought my sins as certain as your judgement.”
“Who are we to cherish or abhor an absolute? In entailing your birth so heavily, the Fates were tempering you for a long-intended purpose, merely obscure until now.” From within her robe the priestess drew a piece of fraying bronze silk, roughly cut and tied. She lay the object on the sand, returning her hands to her garments while Nyāti bore the bundle to Kala'amātya, in keeping with his threat to consecration; a smell rose from its depths, a murky, burnt and writhing green assault from which he turned his head. “There are three places where the water rises on the plain. Divide this compound between them.” He glanced down into the fabric and examined the substance for himself. It was shifting and dully farinaceous, molded by the silk then falling open with the movement of his hand beneath it, exhaling another taste of its appalling potency.
“Everything that draws breath lives by these wells.” Kala'amātya reminded them.
“As do these i'ss’it, who will whelm us in the summers counted on a single hand. We could not keep them at bay if we were all to pass our lives in putting them to death. Do this thing… they will not return, and you will be reborn to us.”
Kala'amātya considered the two women with equal emphasis, his wonder at Nyāti's abnegation balanced by the pedagogue's consummate cynicism, its shape reared like a tulpa, faceless and commanded.
"Ana'siām'ilye... if you wish me to poison the wells, ask it of me plainly." he told her. When she demurred, he set the poison at her feet and turned to leave. The elder priestess turned to her remaining companion.
"The Mother smiles on you today, as ever." she promised. "Had you been bound to that worthless, soulless waste of skin, I would have thought us all accursed." She began her slate-black anathema, ensuring he could not depart without its sonorous commencement in his ears. “Anamān, called Kala'amātya, you are nameless and forgotten. Give up your life and on your dead feet walk into the South until you meet the water from which you may not return...”
Nyāti went swiftly after him in her determination that no rash impulse would prevail.
“The poison will find the wells without you...” she whispered at his shoulder, keeping pace with him. “Your family cannot speak to this... it will fall on them as surely as it falls on you.”
If her entreaties gave him pause there was no sign of it.
“When you become Sthali'sātva, these things will no longer trouble you.” he told her.
Kala'amātya found his horses watered and in harness by the time he walked back into camp, the neat brown features of his erstwhile partner regarding him from behind a narrow pipe loaded with hashish, her dry white hair tied in a plait over her spotted brow. His train had been redoubled by the ancient bandit's thickly-hirsute camels and piebald dzo, all heavily laden, bells chiming on collars of red leather and woven hair. I’Tiang-na heaved herself onto her feet from the hearth and began to douse it with sand, her few remaining teeth, carefully blackened, emerging with the deep squint that she turned on him.
“Kala'amātya...” she began, taking a contemplative tone. “Should I think now that you have finished with this foolishness?”
He threw a water skin over the neck of his red horse and climbed up into the saddle.
“It has finished with me.” he muttered. “You have water for two days?” She nodded briefly from her own horse. “Take nothing from the wells. I will meet you by the Kali ford.”
She took the pipe from her teeth and leant over the pommel.
“With all this new wisdom, you must have a mind to take a house in Paršvãb for the winter!” she called after him.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
So don't be put off getting things started if you don't have some sort of grand baronial vision.
Just let what's there remain and add some more stuff as you go. This is the best way to
maintain a love relationship with a large bit of ground and not come to resent the slavish
efforts that whack notions of perfection will require from you.
That's not to say that our garden is a disgusting place to be; on the contrary, it has the sort of faineant, deshabille charm that can only come from a genuine lack of consideration, experience and forethought. I am never as bonelessly relaxed in a neat, deliberate garden as I am in our own shambolic tract of half-arsed wilderness. Hopefully the other inhabitants are similarly contented.
The only horticultural talents I can claim are the ability to spot the half-priced gold buried
amongst the shrivelled dross at nursery sales (an acquired skill) and to instinctively know which shit's worth getting out of bed for as far as species and variety are concerned.
But we don't have a lot of undue concern for vistas or harmonies. My rose collection looks
like it was sharted out of a My Little Pony- if it's vulgar or stripy or pink and stinky you'll
probably find it clashing violently with a neighbour at our place. It's safe to say that
Winchester Cathedral, posing so demurely directly below, is not completely representative.
If you're starting your own garden with few to no clues under your belt, or if, like me, you have been blessed with vulgar sensibilities but would like to present a more cultivated face to the world, my first and most important advice would be to stick with the older plant varieties.
I wish someone had told me that twenty bloody years ago.
I was going to start a rose review series this summer but the weather was so foul we barely
had any bloody material. Hopefully I'll have time over winter to cook up some notes with
the few decent shots we did manage and kick that shit off, because I've personally had it up to
my tits with being duped by shady breeder and nursery descriptions.
Thanks again to the Lovely R for his lovely pics.
This is the first thing I ever posted to this blog and that was four years and three days ago.
Which is a fairly long time. Blogs are like companion animals in that you have to feed and look after them and generally give a shit if you want them to live, though it's hard to decide what constitutes a vital sign.
Is it the size of your audience? I get, on average, about a thousand looks a day; I think my biggest day was over three thousand. That feels sort of alright for an non-promoted, noncommercial site that won't fuck for clicks, but whatever; maybe it's pathetic and all the cool people on snapchat have trilliony billions of views and this blog is a sad little bitch sitting at home licking the last ice-cream off the lid because nobody loves it. You decide. The only time I was ever particularly surprised or chuffed by my figures was back when R proudly announced at I'd had fifty clicks a day for a whole week. I still think of it in allegories like the whole open mike night in a shitty club thing- you'd be happy and in all honesty stoked to the tits with fifty people not leaving and even making the effort to look up from burning their names into the tables with their cigarettes or privately reviling their companions.
Blogularly, the impact of net neutrality circling the drain in the US looms large. Of course it's repulsive corporate piracy and will possibly relegate sites like this to cobwebby oblivion. But both R and I view this site as more than just a flea market table for our most presentable ideations; sharing knowledge and observations is a responsibility that falls to the people who have the time and ability to do so, and we take that seriously, given the cesspit of stinky mental garbage we're all forced to wade through online. Neither of us would have made it this far into our lives without all the many people who have cared enough to share their private commonalities, both homely and exotic, and shit they learned to do the hard way, whether through music, text or visuals.
The internet should not be the exclusive domain of ratchet narcissists, neckless racists (who should study that familial group shot in good light before wanking on about endogamy) and unsavoury Youtube cat maniacs (it does something cute, or it gets the hose again). We might be a wee bit ratchet, somewhat neckless and quite unsavoury, but we don't trowel our eyebrows on in the morning*, fuck our cousins** or pimp our associate animals for likes***.
The Blackthorn Orphans. Dripping homemade syrup on a world of shit since 2013. It's black so it might not show up very well, but we hope you can taste it.
* any more
** to the best of our knowledge
*** Felix is all like say my name, bitch. It's his idea.
Still love this album. And this is the perfect version of this song only it has to be a lot louder than your device will probably allow.
Nasty nostalgia ne plus ultra. Inspiration, going forward.