Oscar Sancho Nin
from the Cardinal series & Red Pope
Oscar Sancho Nin
Ever seen a total lunar eclipse in the flesh before? Neither of us had either, so we decided to add that sucker to our list of notable experiences.
Here in southern New Zealand it was scheduled to begin at 9 something pm. or other hurm hurm errr wasn't paying attention. Well, that was our understanding; as it turns out, astronomers were talking about that being when the umbra getting sort of near the moon a wee bit, rather than actual celestial conjugation. Three hours is a long arse time to be standing out in slightly too cold weather waiting for something very gradual to happen.
The occasional van full of dope smoke weaved past us on the way to the beach to view the thing there. They probably fell asleep before it happened and all have cricks in their necks this morning, which should be a lesson to them.
The night was clear, the wind blew gently from the southwest, the moon was obligingly huge and the colour of pear flesh as it slid from behind the hill along the road from our house. We busted out the tripod and some warm clothing and settled on the verge amongst the freshly-mown hay.
It's amazing how thoroughly you can convince yourself of a phenomenon that is not happening just yet. This applies to so many things in general life that waiting for this shit to appear turned into a bit of comprehensive existential revelation. The more we stared at the moon, the more we were certain it was becoming eclipsed. It wasn't, but we needed to look at 20 frames of the same darn thing in sequence to chastise our presumption.
So we waited.
- A wee bit later: Bored, definitively. I commandeer the camera, turn it toward the northwest and take this pic of Mussel Bay, the railway line and hill below Scott Memorial.
- Circa 10pm: The rabbit's arse is looking a tiny bit shady! Cue Carmina Burana.
A bit after 10: It's definitely happening. I knock the top from a bottle of vintage Cristal and lave my naked breasts with its glistening effusion. The Lovely R is aroused by the wanton nature of my response and we throw off our clothes, those dull emblems of munera and civitas, and revert to the bestial.
(No we don't) .
- A bit more after 10: It's happening, but it's fucking slow and there's no hint of the promised redness. We exchange significant glances and wander back to the house. We were as disappointed in ourselves as you are.
- Some time after that: We come back out again. Exposure troubles strike. We bitch at one another in our dressing gowns under a streetlight.
- More time after that: The moon goes a bit orange, in exactly the same as it does at any other time when you screw up your eyes and look at it through your lashes. Exposure challenges are somewhat resolved, but then the wind comes up and starts juddering the tripod.
- And a bit later still: Behold, mud, sorry- blood moon. Alright, so it's about quarter of an hour off a full, technical blood moon but you get the idea. It was cold, we were sleepy and grumpy and our gear limitations made further observation a little bit moot.
Possibly the eeriest part of this entire galactic procedure was the slow dimming of the night around us, which began with a typical bright blue-silvered glow, full of day-style shadows, in which you can virtually read a book without assistance, to the kind of inarticulate murk that occurs at the bum-end of the lunar cycle. The seabirds, including the roosting herons garking in the pines behind us went quiet and the ocean itself fell into sunken, sheenless blackness.
It was that greatest of mysteries- the beauty of silence and reduction. Of absence.
No one can fast-forward a lunar eclipse and I am glad that the moon made us wait.
We needed reminding.
Susan's face held a sick shade of pale as she returned between the tables, her progress halted by the shadow framed in the glass of the entrance; Gideon gave no sign of surprise at the arrival though he sighed an expression of regret at its timing. "Your cousin... he want very much to speak with you. I thought it would do no harm." he confessed, raising a hand in a gesture of resignation as William shoved back his chair.
Bede retreated from the door that was dragged from his hand; both Gideon and Susan caught hold of William from behind, preventing him from lunging at the new arrival only by committing their last pound of weight to the effort.
"Stop it!" she shouted. "Let him speak at least!" For a moment William looked as though he might concede, but no sooner had they let him go than he seized Bede's shirt and threw him along the footpath toward the Jaguar, shoving him over the door into the back seat. Bede bore the treatment passively, petitioning him in their own language as he righted himself; William slumped down behind the wheel while Susan broke with Gideon, bidding him a hasty farewell.
"Sachiin..." Bede began.
"Sit there and shut the fuck up, Avi'ashān." his companion snarled, sparking the ignition as the final member of their party took her seat beside him.
Their guest fulfilled his narrow mandate with all the mute impersonality that he could have wished. Demanding directions along the freeway, William drove them into the darkness of an affluent hinterland stretching away from the city and its northern hills, where the night grew cooler, scented with the discarded foliage of roadside trees and freshly-clipped lawns. Bede confided the fact of their imminent arrival quietly, Susan glancing up at his melancholy profile in the rear view mirror as the Jaguar left the seal for a neat gravel drive, the half-naked crowns of lissome silver birches meeting overhead. It widened out into a turning circle before the terraced steps and chalk-white porch of a mighty neoclassical facade, sky-bound columns sheltering a glossy black door and lampless fanlight. She leant forward, gazing at its immensity through the windscreen.
“Christabel, please stay here." William entreated. "You don’t want to get into this.”
"No, I don't." she agreed heartily, folding her arms as he kicked open the door. "Don't start anything..." she called after him.
Having laid her head against the rest, Susan opened her eyes when darkness proved too encouraging to the images from Gideon's telephone, looking once more to Bede with the aid of the mirror.
"He thinks you knew about Rana." she told him presently, the remark reflected back at her by the windscreen and sounding slightly more accusatory than she had intended. He looked down at his legs.
"I can only apologise... I had no idea that she... I mean, that you..."
"Just... never mind." she sighed, passing the pendant at her neck through her fingers and staring up at the portico into which William had disappeared. Certain subtle alterations to Bede's expression were relayed by the mirror; his features possessed a curious cast, intensively familiar and yet estranged, its difference from his remaining kin as small as those between her own two hands. She glanced back at him. "Can you hear them?"
"How bad is it?"
He surprised her by allowing the impetus that troubled them both to remove him from the vehicle. Susan dragged herself out after him and they climbed the steps together, Bede pausing beneath the fanlight to consult her.
“I can assure you that this is likely to be neither attractive nor prolonged, so perhaps you'd prefer to stay inside.... I'll send him back for you.”
She nodded, and he made his way alone across the steppe of black and white tessellation flooring the enormous formal hall. It confronted her with naked and remorseless scale in lieu of furnishings; she looked up into the chandelier, its alien, lead-crystal galaxy chiming softly in the midst of the ivory vault with the breeze that had accompanied her inside. Walking forward, she aligned herself with its nadir so that the tear-shaped terminal would have crashed into her forehead had it fallen from its chain, its arrangements' occult perspective filling her stomach with a swooping, silver-hued nausea, her eyes with clades of artful stars that were replacement at least for the broken, streaming horrors of the hahdri. Wandering on, she found the rear doors opened to another glowing stone terrace and a plain, elongate acre of new-mown meadow that immersed her in its ponded ether, the colossal tulip trees on either side casting off their canopies of clear, untroubled gold where they depended over the field. A table and chairs had been set at the edge of the drift and Susan found their almost abstract remove immediately familiar.
In William’s first language the sound of anger was as fluent and uninhibited as the emotion itself, his voice relating grievance with the speed and address that his hands might have conveyed a more tangible offensive. Bede sat at the table with his back to the trees beside the target of his invective, the latter standing before the chair she had vacated. The stranger enjoyed the same stature as her accuser, the same lengthy composition, though still more elegantly made and as luminously indifferent as if she had been wrought of relict ice. She wore a fall of loose black hair, sleekly reflective like blackened plate, and a tunic dress of Japanese red; the colour gained such drenched, electric intensity beside the bare skin of her arm that the contrast shifted Susan’s eyes to the objects on the table, a black phone and a tumulus of knuckle bones, from which a soft gilt had been worn away.
William seemed to see nothing in her but the genesis of his objections. The stranger replied, apparently unmoved, the words glittering in her voice like the hueless crystal of the chandelier, the conflict escalating until its incisive syllables prompted Susan to press her hands to her ears, drawing William’s gaze and returning him to English.
“Nyāti... you have known me my whole life... you know Rana better than I do! She is a violent fucking lunatic... she's the worst shit that's ever come down on us... what did you think she was going to do? Talk it over?"
Despite the fervent nature of his objection it was Susan’s stare that turned Nyāti around.
“What is this?” she inquired, after a cursorial inspection. She imparted scorn with eyes of spotless yellow, set too far distant from each other in a face so full of harrowing, animal extremity that Susan wondered how discretion or apparel or even secluded privilege could have protected her; beside her, William represented drift from the ideal that she embodied to such a daunting degree of perfection. She wore no jewel, no superfluous token of the distinction that was more native to her flesh than even the black totems begun at the base of her throat, their tattooed figures disappearing beneath her dress. “Your companion animal, I presume? Avi'ashān has also acquired one... he would keep it in his sleeve if it would fit, but it does not. If I had told you of Rana, you would have run from her.” she said finally.
"Kali'niyah.... I've earned the right to run from her!”
“This entitlement of yours... is it license to disavow any of us? Your brother, for instance, should he challenge you too persistently? Or does it only repudiate inconvenient spouses once you’ve expended their last atom of regard? Help me grasp the intricacies of your argument.”
William laughed bitterly.
“If this was a fucking argument I would have won by now.”
"Your failings are not my concern, Sachiin. Or they would not be, if you did not leave them standing on my lawn.” Nyāti drew her chair and sat back down. "We have nothing, if not each other." Bede looked as though he might address them, but William leapt on the visible impulse.
“Now you want to talk? Too fucking late. Just sit there like a little bitch.”
Nyāti looked up at his remark, visibly offended.
“I have never cared for that term.”
“It would piss me off too if I had to wake up to it every fucking day.”
“I object to the notion that Avi'ashān has been overly deferential... on the contrary. He's busied himself with the kind of indiscriminate promiscuity of which you might be proud."
"So now he's my bitch..."
"Do not presume to stand and speak to me. You may sit, or you may leave."
When Susan refused the seat he offered her, William dropped into the chair before their hostess and leant heavily on his elbow, the posture claiming almost half the table top and defeating the deference she had sought to exact.
"If my brother gets hold of Rana he will kill her all over again."
"I could accuse Kala'amātya of many things, but he appears at least to have learned from his own unfortunate experimentation. I regret you could not absorb the lesson yourself."
Susan and William looked to one another ruefully.
"Ny, I think I should stop you right there..."
"I'm certain you would like nothing more." she snapped, the two recommencing their unintelligible arraignment until Susan lifted her own voice to surmount it.
“Just stop gobbing at each other!” she exclaimed. “Whatever this is, really... I don't care..." William opened his mouth and she silenced him with a gesture. "But Edward's not as sorted as you think he is, believe me. And if you knew about Rana and didn't say anything, for god's sake... were you being evil or stupid? She's a nutter!" She lit one of William's cigarettes, drawing deeply as she rubbed at the bruise on her forehead. "We had a right to know she was here."
"I myself have a right to privacy and anonymity, as do Avi'ashān and Kala'amātya." Nyāti assured her.
"If Rana hadn't tried to take her arm off, you'd still have your fucking privacy!" William hissed. "But thank you for forcing my hand. Christabel..." he called, leaning back in his chair toward her as she walked away, muttering to herself.
"I've had enough rubbish for one night. I'll be out in the car.”
"I want you to hear this."
"William, I told you, I really do not care..."
“I'm perfectly aware that your discretion has gone the way of most things you’re entrusted with.” muttered Nyāti.
“I just want you to hear it from me. Yes, I've jumped Susan in, and yes, I've told her everything, pretty much. Every time something drops into my head, boom, out it comes in triple X detail... sha'a'inii'tra. It feels... stupéfiant, incroyable... and no, I’m not sorry. She's already picking up the language and yesterday, I touched my eyeball with my tongue right in front of her.” He smiled at Susan, who reciprocated faintly; Nyāti too gazed at her, his anecdote bleaching her stare until its inhumanity became a nauseous, almost chemical imposition.
"Why not douse yourself in kerosine and declare yourself the messiah?" she suggested blackly. His expression altered slowly from the smile that Susan understood into something more subtly articulate, though still guileless as it was directed at his adversary, remaining brilliantly persuasive.
"Il kama sai'inae..." he sighed. "I am so happy, Nyāti... and I am still your favourite, so be happy for me. I promise not to tell anyone."
Nyāti's reply seemed so measured that Susan almost forgot to take offence, even when the latter looked back at her as though she were completely insensible
"She seems such a childish gesture, Sachiin... like a bad tattoo. When you’ve forgotten her name and she’s ceased even to decompose, witless girl number twenty-six will stand there, baffled by my hostility while you carp in this same manner. And what can she expect from you? Eighteen months of your undying devotion, until someone drags her into a van, if she doesn't go to the authorities of her own accord. And who could blame her? If she devoted her last breath to you, you would still belong to us." She watched his attention extend across the park toward the house and through its empty fastness. “I can only add that in your need to disseminate this wonder, you neglected to inform your brother.”
Susan's arms fell from their folded guard.
"I'm glad we've not been introduced, because I've just got horrible bitch stuck in my head now." she told William, tossing a hand at their hostess; he rose from the table and murmured a distracted reply. "Lovely to meet you..." she called over her shoulder, scowling questioningly at him as he walked her back toward the bank of moon-white steps and Anakim columns, a breeze raining spent leaves from the trees onto the turf as they strode past. "What?" Susan demanded, the inquiry echoing about them in the enormous hall as she struggled to keep pace. They sat down together in the car before he replied, pausing in engaging the ignition wires to hand her the phone from his pocket.
"If anything happens, don't go home... call Auberjonois..." William advised gravely, speaking as though they might be overheard; she looked up at the sound of a vehicle coming at speed toward them along the birch-girt way, black and lampless as it took shape between the pale boles, whispering profanities as she recognized it.
She threw herself across the console and stamped his foot down on the accelerator with her own. Their undercarriage collided with the lowest step and sparked as it dragged free, the Jaguar forcing the incoming sedan from the curve of the drive and pelting it with gravel as they sped past.
Out in the park, Bede rose to intercept their latest guest; Edward's aspect was dragged closer to Nyāti's by unexpurgated wrath, his anger bearing him across the lawn like something she had summoned from an underworld.
"Avi'ashān." she called, recalling the latter's attention. “When you told of Sachiin’s indiscretion, you neglected to detail your own, which astonishes me less than his fidelity to you, given the circumstances. I renounce you, with Kala'amātya as my witness.” Edward sat down in his vacated chair. “Enjoy your liberty.” she added. Bede looked back at her in the wordlessness that remained to him, then departed in accordance with her will.
“I'd repudiate Sachiin, but I would rather beat him with a tyre iron.” Edward told her, voice full of vicious qualities as he pushed a hand back over his hair; he gazed at her with unmodified intent. "Rana." he said simply, forcing it on them both.
"She barely knows the sound of her own name. But doubtless, you will serve her now as you once did."
"As she did de Marchand."
“Your witch is dead, and the dead require nothing more from us, which is why we cherish them so unreasonably." Nyāti informed him. "Sachiin claims full disclosure to this girl. Given your own history of calculated transgression, I find your failure to perceive his difficult to accept.”
“We don’t answer to each other.”
"And now we must all enjoy the exhilarating fruit of this laissez-faire approach. If he is not forced to watch her die on the side of a road, she will have succeeded only in enduring long enough to be abandoned. Kala'amātya...” she sighed. “You live still with your own loss... keep him from the same, while there is time. There is nothing he would not forgive you.”
He looked into the trees behind her.
“Forgiveness is far more complex than it appears from a distance.”
“Will he forgive himself when someone is beating everything she knows from her?” His own experience laid out all she had described, bringing the elements forth like votaries to the god of possibility, faceless and infinite and bitterly familiar. She drew the gilded bones into her hand and turned it over, letting them spill back onto the table in a new arrangement. “One day he will be grateful to you for taking her death from his shoulders. If it were not for the times, I would say that it falls to your honour.” If Edward did not feign deference, he at least received her arguments with something resembling stoicism. “You are bai'issātva, and death is your gift... to those who fall to you, and those that survive them.”
“They are never grateful.” he observed. “He’ll hate the both of us, and have no one. So sit there and ask me to kill her.” The words turned like a hidden blade, drawn unseen in the shadow of her argument; he watched her recall them from elsewhere, satisfied that they had served him.
“It is the lesser evil.” she asserted. "But, do as you please. You know nothing else."
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Sigh. Those obligatory Oscar watches, eh? Dallas Buyers Club isn't something I was gagging to wrap my corneas around. I'd already formed an opinion, scraped like gilt with my magic mental teaspoon (I trust that thing implicitly) from the reactions of others and let's just say the result hadn't frogmarched me to the cinema. But in the interests of this review I swept the old intellectual desktop clean and gave it a chance.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a skanky electrician rolling round Texas rodeos in the mid-eighties. He contracts AIDS, is given a month to live and sets about obtaining alternative treatments for himself and others with the help of the transgendered Rayon (Jared Leto), who gives him entrée to the queer community he despises. His entrepreneurial efforts set him against the medical establishment and more importantly the American Food and Drug Administration, who prosecute and sanction him at every turn. A simple, cogent premise that could travel in a dozen riveting directions, right?
I'll speak first to my fellow beady hypercriticals and say depleted palette. Because a lot of you will know what that means- code brown, my friends. Arthouse lite. Fincher institutional colours/take my secretive genius seriously filter. It's such a Pavlovian cue now and fucking everyone's doing it, so note to filmmakers everywhere; enough with the backed-off sepia and faux-polaroid anachronistic foolishness. It's played out, mmmokay?
Overworked stylistic flourishes do have a value in that they refer, perversely and rather ruthlessly, to both narrative deficits and dodgy performances. Dallas Buyers Club features both. While Woodroof's persistence and native resourcefulness are explored, the story is undercooked and overlong; in a word, flabby. Sometimes boring, and without even using that grind to put us into his skin or really serving the matter to hand. There is at least some laudable ambiguity around the morality of Woodroof's modus, but I felt that was something dumped in front of me and left to languish, bereft of the examination it possibly deserved.
At the heart of the film's problems is the division of attention. Too much was/is lavished upon the two leads, who can't really reward or sustain that scrutiny while everyone else is reduced to walk-on cardboard, including token chick Dr Saks (Jennifer Garner). She bangs a wall with a hammer in frustration (I shit you not), but then I've yet to see Garner even come close to transcending the mediocre material that seems to be her lot.
McConaughey's performance is adequate, if you accept that you're only going to get the very few things he can do, regardless of what is actually required (exhibit A: True Detective). Leto is typically, terribly thirsty, tooth-achingly self-conscious, running out of stunt queen moves halfway through his role and just tapping out and going limp when shit gets real. That he could not rise to the dramatic opportunities posed by parental confrontation and pointy-end mortality tells you... well, everything you need to know.
It's not all his fault; as a character, Rayon is superficially recognisable, but also a sloppy pastiche of workhorse clichés and lazy framing, a microcosm of this thing in the round and here's where I go into mini-rant mode. No one would argue that clichés are without value or even authenticity; they are one of the founding structures of any subcultural expression after all. But in the game of militant personal identity, attendant clichés are also knowingly subverted, kicked around and punted into the stands rather than regarded as the kind of gospel suggested by these hamfisted depictions. So many extrinsic observers of otherness miss this glaring subtext. Let loose without an ounce of subtlety or irony between them, McConaughey and Leto look like the mugging goons they are. Two fucking Oscars, my arse.
Anyone with even a passing interest in the AIDS crisis and the establishment's response knows the FDA and successive political/medical administrations have been major villains in the tragedy that is still unfolding. Dallas Buyers Club could have gone a lot further into those still trackless woods and profited greatly from the telling of such dreadful and complicated things. But it's just not that kind of film. After all the hype and oversaucing, DBC is still a B-, and that's only because I'm in a good mood.
Pulp; wasn't really a fan back in the day and that hasn't changed, ephemeral nostalgia notwithstanding.
That doesn't mean I don't shake my shit to Common People. I like Hardcore for the video more than anything (have seriously considered installing mirror tiles just so I can throw a drink at my own reflection) and ripped off some of the imagery for an upcoming passage in The Blackthorn Orphans. You'll know it when you see it, lol. The Lovely R is much more of a fan and he shakes his shit to Different Class when I'm out shopping. Jarvis's sweaty ingrown snobbery/bossy bottom leg-humping gets on my last fucking nerve after about three songs. I don't know why they let him go on like that. It's nothing a studded paddle wouldn't fix.
Still, it was good to see the recent Pulp documentary A film about Life, Death and Supermarkets by my fellow New Zullander Florian Habicht on the weekend, and I recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in music or the 90s per se. So much joy in listening to the cross-dressing Sheffieldian and his dysmorphic paramour; mad love is a wonderful thing and it does my heart good to know it is just as it ever was. It's also good to get baked and watch Trollhunter, another way to piss away a Saturday evening that I thoroughly recommend. We've been squaring our eyes lately watching so much new stuff that I haven't got around to reviewing any of it, so I might do one big post with a bunch of mini reviews just to tip you off to a few things worth your time.
Speaking of mad love, I was reading the paper the other day and discovered that really stupid book The Light Between Oceans is being partly filmed here in Port Chalmers. I haven't actually read it, but the synopsis... it does not please me and I wasted thirty damn seconds of my life being escorted to that conclusion by the prospect of a fucking shipwrecked baby. But: what dark magic spirits one of my celluloid husbands Mr Michael Fassbender hence, just when I'd become resigned to the idea of incorporating a dart gun and a large sack into our courtship? (It rubs the lotion on its skin.) I'd love to be able to promise footage of my hurdling set barriers and screaming "I named my fucking quail after you!" as Michael breaks character and bolts for his trailer, but when it comes down to it, I can never really be bothered crossing the road to piss on and/or frighten a celebrity. They're always shorter than you want to believe. And preoccupied, god. The selfish pricks. If I asked Rachel Weisz and Alicia Vikander for a three-way, they'd pretend to be in serious relationships just to make me feel bad.
> This isn't Michael Fassbender, it's Napolean, our Chinese Painted quail, enjoying excellent relations with Lightning Bolt and Hilary, his two Japanese girlfriends on a cold and windy day. He likes big butts and he can not lie.
The site had another record weekend so cheers for that. If you're reading and liking, tell a friend. Or an enemy.
No bouncers impeded their entrance to the Black Moth and Siobhan herded them past the doors and into the sticky, incorporated darkness, where Susan’s eyes took a while to interpret the sulky shades of sucking purple and swampy, decaying blue before she ceased to trip and stumble on the uneven floor and discarded glasses. Leaning on their skeleton elbows, the habitués that propped the bar turned their hooded eyes on them; she glanced at William, then frowned up at the line of doubtful-looking spirits on offer overhead, settling uneasily onto a stool.
“It all looks like it comes out of a dirty bath somewhere.” she muttered. Her perspicacity wrung a smile from him that he turned to her in gratitude.
“How do you know this stuff, Christabel?”
“I used to think I was paranoid, but it turns out I'm not.”
Her eyes fell a foot toward the mirror panel on the rear wall, seeking the source of her misgivings, and William briefly closed his eyes, leaning his forehead on his knuckles.
“I know..." he sighed. "Just don’t turn around.” She complied, forced to content herself with the reflected image in the thick, pin-dropping quiet. The face of every stranger in the room had turned toward them, from the parched and bead-like stares of vampyres to the large party crowded about a cluster of tables against the far wall, candle-lit miens made red and shadowed black by the swaying flames. They were silent beneath a pall of exhaled smoke, nursing their powerful green liquor, burgeoning hostility and the latent, half-inhumed equivalence in the darkness of their eyes that marked them all as kindred; Susan thought she recognized some from the hahdri, then guessed that she probably did not, perceiving that it was not their individuality that made them familiar. She glanced back to William. He muttered to himself and glared across the counter at Siobhan, dragging his keys and wallet from his pocket and depositing them in the crook of Susan's elbow in a gesture laden with weary fatalism. The vampyre chuckled, pouring the sludgy brown contents from a hip flask of tarnished silver into a milkshake glass and topping it with stale champagne, creating a pink concoction lidded with pale yellow spume and sucking off the froth. “I’m going to skin you before I chain you to my fucking hood.” William promised.
“Teh! Kint do that! We all family now, ye fuckin made sure a that! This hoe maght as well beh the sister that kint fuckin outrun ye!” The bargirls stared while Siobhan hunched further over the counter and referred a loud indictment to the gallery. "You dummer-n-shit dogs need t’ git into ye heads he aint a fuckin rockstar just cause he kin gut a critter blindfold’d! Nothin come easier t’ a perdishuss fuckin snakeface that got no moon or daylight nor drop a real blood t’ beh fuckin mahndful of... ye thought him cute up til t'day, but now ye fuckin knowest... he gave us all up fer a taste a fuckin weaner pussy, an if ye think what fell t' fuckin Caleb aint got shit t' do with them, yew all go right ahead an let 'em fuck ye dry, an don’t come crahin’ t’ meh afta’werd!”
In the darkness behind them, the murmuring from the seated conclave died like a draft killed by a closed door. William took his time over the dregs of hueless liquor at the bottom of his glass.
"What about Caleb?" he muttered, receiving no reply from the smirking vampyre.
"What about Caleb?" sneered someone from the party behind them. "Like he don't fuckin know." William shook his head to himself, turning to address the restive alujha contingent as he shed his heavy coat.
"Mallet, are you even on my dick, because I had to ask your mother the same fucking question." he replied. "And if you whiny alujha pricks stop sitting on your arseholes knocking back muppet-coloured horse piss, you wouldn't need my brother to do your fucking dirty work.” He stood up off the stool, handing the Afghan lamb to Susan and cracking his neck to one side. "Fuck it... who wants to go?"
His foremost antagonist threw back his chair and his cohort surged across the dance floor in his wake, climbing over the tables and shoving aside the vampyres that had braved the degenerating atmosphere in the hope of witnessing just such a spectacle. Mallet came at William without preamble, catching his shoulder and attempting to twist him onto the ground while Susan scrambled up onto the counter in an escape from the encroaching crowd, dismayed to find that Siobhan had also claimed the vantage. The vampyre shucked up its skirts and gave a shrilling whistle of encouragement to the fracas unfolding below. William knocked down, then hoisted the struggling form of his accuser from the floor in both hands and threw him into the crowd, seizing another contender and putting him head-first through the barstools into the counter as swift, reactive punches flew between the lycanthropes, their infective combat quickly extending to one another and any vampyre remaining in the throng. Susan shouted herself hoarse, both hands to her mouth while he caught and punched a spray of teeth from the nearest stranger; blue strobes cut downward from the ceiling, turning the alujha stares into rounds of floating silver, casting them as whooping predators massed beneath her on some nocturnal plain. The sight transfixed her amid Siobhan’s hacking cachinnations until the vampyre plucked liquor bottles from the rack over its head and flung them down into the fray; snarling, she punched both hands into its back and shoved it shrieking from the counter into the scrum below while William swung one of the fallen stools in a gruesome arc. Its victims yielded a jagged stripe of blood that struck her as she jumped down herself, landing heavily against a knot of preoccupied belligerents, her boots crunching and sliding over broken glass as she squeezed through the crush.
She was buffeted onto all fours as she caught William's belt and used it to haul herself upright, only to be flattened against him by two struggling neighbours, catching a flailing elbow to her brow and ear as she kicked a fallen stranger's grasp from William's legs and dragged him bodily toward the door. A sudden emission of bitter white gas parted the impounding crowd, the substance hissing from the decrepit halon extinguisher clutched in Siobhan’s hands. The little vampyre cussed as it cleared a path for itself toward the bar and left its victims to beat away the unwelcome pall, choking and grimacing.
Susan held the neck of her dress to her face, stumbling through the haze with her companion. She could feel the fractious, pyrogenic spirit struggling beneath his skin against containment when she grasped his arm; in the alley outside, he boosted her over the crumbling wall and scaled it after her, Susan climbing over the hood of the Jaguar to avoid the dumpster by her door.
A tiny and impossibly elderly Algerian woman led them from a door with a closed sign in its glass through an upturned forest of bentwood legs, to a bistro table simply laid for one. The lone diner rose from his confit de canard, riz rouge and fougasse to greet them, and their maîtresse shuffled back into the quiet kitchen in her slippers. Gideon Auberjonois was not entirely as he had been inside his photograph and the disparities surprised Susan, though she strove to conceal it, smoothing down her disordered hair and dress after she had shed her bloodied coat. He was neither tall nor otherwise as he pressed a kiss to each of her cheeks, his face as warm as hers but almost atavistic in the pronouncement of its features, their bossed and dramatically pagan structure recalling the carven masks of imps and green men amid ecclesiastical oak. He was so strongly made beneath his clothing that the impression almost defeated its notional modesty, his hair dark and short and half-curling, his skin a henna brown by virtue of both the summer sun and his southern blood.
"Mademoiselle." he smiled. "Ça va?" He indicated with a discreet turn of his hand the state of their clothing, and they replied with the same weary expression, dragging out chairs on either side of him. Pouring them each a glass of robust white, Gideon sat down to resume his late repast and turned to Susan eyes of deep, impure green, like the ore of some obscure metal, inviting if not rewarding interest. Three rings of battered gold clasped his tanned fingers; a chain of the same metal hung from the breast pocket of his suit, a rustic shade of heather and doe that struck a careful balance with the atelier finesse of its construction. Between mouthfuls of tender confit he conducted a leisurely, serialized survey of his erstwhile acquaintance, his private smile growing in inverse proportion to William's frown as he chewed thoughtfully. The latter pushed a cigarette between his lips and sought his lighter amid the black bulk of his coat but Gideon leant forward and plucked it from his mouth, sliding it into his own pocket. Presently he turned and began to appraise Susan in the same unhurried fashion, her features, raiment, and the fading red marks on her face offering the conversation she did not, William slouching back in his chair until the frame complained beneath his weight. Susan perceived his umbrage and looked down at the table to contain her impolitic amusement; their host leant slightly toward her, directing the fork poised at the edge of his plate toward their scowling companion.
"It is good, no, that we have so much in common?" Gideon observed, lifting the napkin to his chin. A faint scar that began in his hair quartered his forehead and followed his nose downward before turning out over his upper lip. He edged a bowl of fat black olives toward her with his elbow.
"I'll let you know." she chuckled, glancing with him across the marble at the subject of their exchange.
"I just got the shit kicked out of me by fifty barking arseholes at the Moth."
Their host shrugged, scooping up a forkful of rice.
"I don't think they ah, try too hard." William's face darkened further and Gideon set down his utensils, smiling at him fondly. "Allez, mignon... fais pas ta pute... I come all this way for your smile. How long has it been?" he sighed.
"You remember?" Gideon shrugged again. "I forget." He nodded at Susan. "I don't think she was born. Have a drink, eh?" Raising his glass, he successfully cajoled William into doing the same.
"Nique la police." the latter murmured as a toast, and they drank together, Susan swallowing the wine gratefully though she found dried blood on the hand she wiped across her mouth.
"I have something for you." said Gideon, reaching under the table for a shopping bag from which he drew a trio of plump, plicated lotus buds on thick green stalks, blush-pink and wrapped in a stripe of brown paper. Though he enjoyed William's suspicion, he was more delighted by the involuntary darkness of the latter's eyes as he accepted them, watching him lift a heavy bud and bite cleanly through the fleshy bloom. “It's true that he has told you of himself?” Gideon inquired of Susan. His manner was a strange blend of confidence and insinuation, his eyes neglecting no element of her response.
“You mean about...”
"Oui. About. I see. An he tells you of us?”
“Ouais.” said William, setting down his flowers. “I gave you all up like a perdishus fucking snakeface.”
The frenchman looked back to Susan, somewhat wistful.
“One hundred years before he would confide such things to me.”
“Well what the fuck, Auberjonois... next time try some fucking smalltalk before you rip the pants off someone.”
"Always so charming. Enfin... how did you meet? I ah, can't imagine."
"I'm... was... the housekeeper." Susan admitted. The intelligence returned the smile to Gideon's face and it urged her to further disclosure. "It's hard to believe at the moment, but he was... I couldn't quite say charming, but he was persistent. Are you here on holiday?"
"Sadly, no... commerce."
"Don't let him snow you with his fucking Pepé le Pew bullshit, Christabel... he's not out here kissing babies, he's a dirty fence and he's dumping a bunch of looted shit too hot to drop in the E.U." William informed her, picking his teeth. "Blackmarket antiquities. If you can rip it off, he can turn it around for sixty percent."
"Sachiin's collection of course is sans reproche, particullérement the things he would like me to buy from him... they don't go to sales because, like him, they are shy. So, Guillaume... what do you have for me?"
"Christ, I've sent you the list twice... pull the fucking dicks out of your ears. Ed'll probably take a cheque but I want cash."
"In that case, I will come to the house an look for myself." Gideon's smile remained complaisant as he turned to her again. "Do you know, Sussan, that in the homeland of these creatures, a rainbow, it is viewed as a calamity... a certain sign of doom?” She looked to William, who had sat back from the table with his flowers. “I remember once... Sachiin come to the house from the parterre to tell me I must gather my horses an leave this place at once. He had such a look of great dismay I could not think what had happen... I ask, the magistrate, he comes to collect taxes? No, he says... it was worse... a great arc-en-ciel had appeared over the park. When I laughed an told him many, many rainbows have come here with the rain out of the west, he look at me with his great green eye an said... an yet, you abide here still?" He laughed to himself, warmed by the recollection, and Susan chuckled behind her hand, accepting another glass. “I ask myself... Auberjonois, why do you go on with these creatures? They are rude, they have no hospitality at all... they are trés égoïste, intéressé, déroutant... lucky for them they are quaint. You don’t like that story, Sachiin?” Gideon inquired artlessly. "I have others." He tisked at William's attendance to his phone.
"I'm looking for Caleb. It's fucking important."
"Caleb, du hahdri Adrahna?" William glanced up at the tone of the inquiry. "You ah... you don't know?"
Leaning down into his briefcase, Gideon found his own phone and devoted a moment to its library of images before pushing it across the table toward his guest, who glanced at him in a moment of uncertainty before consulting the screen himself. The initial image was a flashed nocturnal snapshot of the towering gate fronting the familiar hahdri. In the next, its sagging cottages loomed like ghost ride props out of the rural darkness, mutely presaging floodlit scenes of infernal, eye-gouging carnage complete with hand-held catalogue numbers and piebald reference scales laid out in each corner, the leavings of a frenzy framed by the homely plank walls of a large barn. Sweat-darkened animals lay both in suffocating drifts and randomised disorder, their heads and flanks spotted with bullet holes, throats gaping, some of them decapitated by the force used to dispatch them upon beds of golden hay and sawdust. The horrific files continued, documenting the yard around the barn, where resident males had paid for the savagery of their last stand about a battered utility with their heads and limbs. In the cab of the vehicle lay the darkly-spattered bodies of a brunette woman and two young children, the latter pressed into the foot well beside her legs, the hand-held glare documenting the calibre of weapon that had been trained upon them.
"Someone come to that hahdri and murder them... finis... everyone who live there. These pictures are en ligne... someone post them." Gideon pushed back slightly in his chair while they digested the news. Susan dropped her hands from her face and beckoned for the phone, and William looked up, hesitating before passing it to her wordlessly, though she could not bear what she found and pushed it away.
"We were just out there." he said.
"Yes, I know..."
Susan stood up suddenly, looked around and dashed toward the rest room door. Gideon caught his arm and kept him at the table.
"I tell this to you now because I care how people speak of you... it is known that you went to this hahdri..." His expression concluded the statement for him, though William was already cognizant of its implications. "It is thought that Prague sent cochon noir to this place to teach some lessons, and that your brother, he have a part in this. Sachiin, I ask you once... oui ou non... does Kala'amātya serve?" Susan's face held a sick shade of pale as she returned between the tables, her progress halted by the shadow framed in the glass of the entrance; Gideon gave no sign of surprise at the arrival though he sighed an expression of regret at its timing. "Your cousin... he want very much to speak with you. I thought it would do no harm." he confessed, raising a hand in a gesture of resignation as William shoved back his chair.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
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We were sitting on the couch the other night whilst minding Hamish, my mother's dog, when I noticed something weird tracking along the white fur on his back. There can't be too much wrong with my eyesight since it turned out to be an first-instar stick insect, perhaps the progeny of the large mature one that dropped in about this time last year. Everything travels in cycles and spirals and circles.
It was about 2cm long, the smallest we've ever seen in person; it's standing on the end of my thumb in the pics below.
After consulting our copy of The Stick Insects of New Zealand by the Prof J.T Salmon, we suspect this is either a day- old nymph of the locally common Black Spined Stick Insect, or possibly Clitarchus hookeri. How privileged we were to have such a miniature wonder gazing back at us with its faceted lavender eyes; it was perfect in every respect.
Holy shit I would wear each and every one of these 'fits, possibly smooshed together and definitely to the supermarket. Those two capey coaty things below & centre left...
* runs for sewing machine to begin ripping off immediately *
See the whole thing H E R E