“Thus spoke Arjuna in the field of battle, and letting fall his bow and arrows, he sank down in his chariot, his soul overcome with despair, and grief.”
William’s unheeded narration died a lonely death amid the quiet of his rooms. Rain hissed against the panes behind the heavy red drape, though he had forgotten the inclemency of the night outside, sitting with his back to it; in his hand the little book from which he read had folded closed almost of its own accord. He stared at the talismans stitched into the ancient felt he had laid over Susan’s legs in the low-burning light of the candle, her body almost lost beneath the blankets. The scent of her blood recalled the damage done; he gave over trying to read, and sank more deeply into the chair, letting his eyes drift shut.
They opened again to deep, glowing fuchsia and the sensation of something aliform against his face and hands. Long pink plumes, gently bouffant, slid across his eyes, one after another; he turned his head and saw they formed the recherché raiment of a double line of lissome show girls as they passed by on either side, heads held proud. They were crowned with cocktail-coloured festoons, shimmering diamanté chains swinging from the cups of their bustiers, powdered flesh spilling over the seams. He was bewildered, by their number and their silence, buffeted all the while by the glitter-dusted shoulders and outstretched arms that rose and fell with the count of their routine, their gazes fixed to the distance, eyes outlined in peafowl blue. As they danced, the shadows on their faces swung upward and immersed them; William closed his eyes again, since they were no longer of any use to him.
Another light waxed roe-red over a course of buildings, strung in the distance across a broad lagoon. The air was densely moist; insects danced atop the water, and doubtlessly in the dim lacunas before the distant porticoes. The city lay beneath an idle sunset, its blazing colours lying heavily upon the domes and spires that formed the long spine of its profile. Looking down, he saw that his bare toes lay only inches from the tongues of water that licked toward him over a narrow, silty beach, straining the bounds of a full tide.
He recognized the famous lagoon, and the flank of the crowded city lying some small part of a mile distant, but not the cemetery isle on which he sat. The mausoleums of bronze and marble were crammed as closely as the houses of the living across the passive shoal, testament to the affluent merchant caste interred within, though their seals were undone by saline mist, their walls washed with streaks from the greening corners of their plaques. He sat down on a grave, perplexed. One of the tombs before him stood cracked and leaning, its door prised open. By its footings lay a white gull’s severed pinions.
A female figure appeared, gliding as if borne on air. She leaned forward in an expectant manner, hands clasped at her breast as she neared him, though her features darkened slowly with disappointment and she halted a few graves distant. A rattle scorched his ears, as harsh and sere as a gale whipping salt from a soda lake, dying away into a sullen, hissing chatter.
“Have we met?” William asked. Discerning the style and substance of her garments proved difficult; her dress altered with her movements, appearing one moment as faded palladian drapery, the next as some quilted court gown blurring into fleur-de-lys brocade, then patterned velvet. Her hair fell past her shoulders, its true colour as furtive and indefinable as her clothing in the twilight. Her frown proved more substantial.
“Will you never remember my name?” she sighed, voice dulled by boredom. Her face was a gentle, rounded oval, her skin the colour of sugar melting over fire.
“Sorry...” he admitted.
“I am the lamia Amernis.”
“I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”
“When we meet I know that I am dreaming.” she remarked, raising a hand to her mouth as she yawned. She stepped around the stone between them, leaving in the earth behind her a tapered furrow, as though something trailed in her wake, and she took a seat beside him on the grave. “A woman with the look of you about her brought you across the water, and when her demands did not prevail, she treated you roughly and flung you to the ground, naming you the worst of all earth’s creatures. She rejoices at the misfortune of your mistress, and hopes that she may perish while you are sleeping.” the lamia informed him. “Perhaps she is your wife.”
Jumping up, William seized an intagliated headstone and ripped it from the ground, wielding it in both hands to smash a pair of slate crosses, then flinging it at the head of a porphyry cherub. He continued his destructive spree until there was little left of the stone in his hands, coming to a breathless standstill. The lamia toyed with a strand of her own hair, twisting it around her fingers as she observed his frenzy.
“What would I not give to have a lover curse me with such conviction?” she lamented.
“It’s fucking overrated.” William assured her bitterly.
They looked up at a strange, attenuated grunting. To his surprise, a glabrous, pithecoid creature shuffled out of the salty mist and halted before the sepulchre, blinking and snuffling like an idiot cast from a dungeon. Its head was broad, planate and bald; tufts of coarse black hair protruded from its wing-like ears, and its thickly-fleshed arms reached almost to the ground. It came closer upon twisted legs, peering at them with eyes like balls of lignite, grasping half of a human arm in its right paw. It was certainly the most olid beast to have troubled William’s senses; it pressed the knuckles of its free hand to the ground and lowered itself onto the moss before Amernis as though invited to, where it took to crunching on the dismembered limb, stripping it of flesh and regarding William opprobriously in the midst of its gnathic labours.
“This is Dadjin.” said the lamia, watching it ingest both flesh and bone. “He is a Khorezmian ghoul, but comes here, for he esteems its dead above those of other folk. They are kept savoury by wine, usury, and whoremongering, even into their dotage.” William nodded, opening his mouth to breathe so that the visitor’s odour would not sicken him.
“I’d offer you my hand but it’s got sentimental value.”
The ghoul snorted, and addressed him in a thick pidgin of corrupted Latin and his own ancient tongue.
“Why should Dadjin desire your rude thews while a seasoned bounty lies all around?” He recommenced his unsightly repast; Amernis watched him fondly, and the trio sat together for some time, William watching the fabric of her dress change from mazzarine to royal purple.
“For the first time in my life I don't give two fucks about Rana. It’s Susan... every time I look at her I think... what the hell am I doing?” He let his arms fall laxly. “She gets eighty years, I get ten thousand. Pourquoi? I can't even keep a vampyre off her. I’m such a fucking loser.”
“For shame, that you did not guard her against this night creature.” Dadjin scolded.
“Who will defend her if you can not?” the ghoul insisted.
“You don’t have to rub it in.”
“I know not how you can speak of this disgrace.”
“She had told me to fuck off...”
“Do you follow a woman’s word in everything?”
“Yes.” William declared, glaring wide-eyed at the censorious creature. Amernis interrupted her colleague’s reply, leaning forward to cough gently into her hands, then shake spittle from her fingers, in which sparkling diamanté chips and fuchsia feathers were inextricably immured. The ghoul concluded its own meal and bent forward to wipe his face upon the pillowy moss, first one cheek, and then the other.
“Why do you never bring me happy tales?” the lamia complained, frowning down at William as he lay his head in her lap. Her eyes were called toward the water, and a small, shallow-bellied boat of dark wood drew up into the shoal, its prow pushed against the sand by an unseen current. She cast him from her lap and slid down over the beach, wading out into the water and clasping her hands to her chest as she peered into the hull. It was empty.
“I would leave this island, but what of Amernis?” the ghoul confided in a voice like the slow grinding of a hinge. “Few come to seek their doom with her, but she will not join me in my victuals. Dadjin says let it be your need that steers your hand, for soon your wants will follow, but she will hear nothing of this, and in her pride she does surely suffer.” He scratched his side with claws blunted by excavation. “These black dogs come to us all. It profits no beast to wring his hands on their account.”
The furrow carved in the lamia's wake began to fill with seeping water. Across the lagoon the buildings seemed to sink into the horizon as the evening consumed its mantled hues, narrowing the spectrum until only black and blue survived, like smoke steeping from the ashes of a bonfire. Amernis spoke with her face half-turned toward them.
“As for your wife, the dead are best left buried. Dadjin will tell you. And of Susan... her brief years are blessed as yours and mine are not. We are stone... she is a new thing every morning. Remember always, in your foolish imperfection, you are her beloved ideal. Now, go back, Sachiin. You are missed.”
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
While it's obvious that you have to be either disgustingly cynical or deeply delusional to instigate religious conflict, I've often wondered precisely what is going on in the minds of the participants. My personal guess- not much, followed by oh fuck. So it's interesting in a grimly voyeuristic sort of way to discover that the very people traumatising places like Afghanistan suffer the same depressive and PTS disorders they're inflicting on entire populations.
All this despite the moral and spiritual uplift that must surely be implicit in their activities and the wicked inutility of secular science. Read about Nader Alemi's work H E R E.
Oh and whoops, nearly forgot- DONATE TO WIKIPEDIA, GUYS. Kajillions of bloggers research and fact-check with it all the time and if you're reading this site, you're effectively doing the same so don't be a tightarse.
Five/Ten bucks won't kill you. Let's keep it ad-free and accessible to all.
You need quite a bit of mouth mojo to pull it off though, because it is a shit-tonne of look. ABOVE LEFT Salon Rouge sheered out/maxed out. As I said, the more heavily you apply it, the closer you get to a conventional red since opacity tends to cancel out the berry/fuchsia.
BELOW L 2 R: MAC VG 1, Russian Red, MAC Red, Salon Rouge, Nars Mascate, Bite Cranberry neutral indoor daylight.
I can't really give you any dupes; MAC Glam is in a similar direction, but quite a bit pinker. MAC Diva is darker, slightly dirtier and more winy- not as luminous. Some of the MAC Marilyn Monroe sticks (Deeply Adored?) look like they might be related, but I've never owned them. If you crossed Nars Mascate with MAC Red, you'd be very close; Mascate offers the same sort of haute theatrical look and, being slightly warmer, is possibly more diversely wearable.
Salon Rouge is what I wanted Nars Dragon Girl to be (I'll be shitting all over that in the near future; stay tuned), so I'm especially pleased to have found this berry-flavoured dreamboat. Just keep in mind there is a drama factor that probably isn't everyone's idea of awesome, but it gets three thumbs up from me. Try it either cupid-bow neat or slightly smudged with just some matte powder and minimal mascara. Trying... to... resist buying... back up...
L 2 R: MAC VG 1, Russian Red, MAC Red, Salon Rouge, Nars Mascate, Bite Cranberry
warm direct daylight. All these look a little deeper/redder on the lip.
Here's the band we acquired recently. We've loved tent bands and animal trappings for a long time, probably because they are the sort of honest, homely, noncommercial items that bear the most forthright imagery- symbols and compositions that you only really see on the oldest rugs and bag faces secluded in museums and snooty private collections. They speak to my deeply buried itchy feet, of loading everything onto something hairy and protesting and setting off somewhere else when it gets too hot or cold.
Unsurprisingly, the stuff woven expressly for sale is often generic and crowd-pleasing (witness the mind-numbing stream of gul rugs churned out by Turkmen weavers for the Russian market even before 1900) but I think it's safe to say the woman behind this band wasn't too worried about what a rug dealer might think of it.
Price-wise, tent bands really run the gamut from fifty bucks to several thousand dollars for the oldest and rarest, even when fragmented; they're one of the few areas in which the novice can still score a stone-cold bargain as far as graphic/authentic bang for the buck is concerned. We picked up these two lengths of the same 9m band (they're often cut for sale which is immensely annoying) for well under a hundy locally. There are lots of bog-standard Uzbek and Turkish straps kicking around but Kungirat stuff is a bit rarer so we think we did well. Perhaps they're not as commercial due to the madly extravagant, almost Dr Seuss-y nature of their motifs. Here in NZ such puzzling items tend to be onsold by returning tourists who, having been pressured into buying them as souvenirs whilst on trips through Turkey, rarely have any clue what they are. The touristy bits of Turkey seem to be a clearing house for random weavings sourced from all over the Middle East and Central Asia; most of it is dross but there's the odd whacky gem amongst all the rug-picker rejects.
BELOW Right side up. Good as new :)
The dyes are a rowdy mix of organic and industrial, with the former predominating, despite what I assumed at first glance. The red of the satin stitch blocks looks crazier here than in life so it could actually be natural, but some of the replacement orange looks hot-n-dodgy and there's the inevitable whacky greens and used-to-be-blue-now-shitty-grey failures here and there. BELOW LEFT The end (literally).
God this song gives me such a hard on. That laconic guitar and her voice... excuse me for a moment.
Do you try to avoid the videos for songs you really love? I loathe being forced to relinquish the personal imagery I devise for them and besides, we don't own a TV. So this is the first time I've seen this one and lol- bouncy castle! That bitch jacked my shit. I've always thought bouncy castles are a puffy little piece of dirty heaven and it's nice to know Polly concurs. Morphic resonance/fools seldom differing.
* Check out the Best of the Blog. There are worse things you could be doing *
Josephine depressed the remote button again, sitting alone in the climate-controlled darkness of the briefing room long after the senior technicians had departed. On the sleek white screen and on the surface of her dark eyes, the playback began again at her behest, silent enamel blue and black, printing itself into her memory. The fact of the creature sitting immured in its transparent, retrofitted cell lit such diffuse and indemnifying satisfaction that she felt almost luminous, elated beyond all experience. It sat on the floor of its exclusive enclosure, its back to the rear wall, the elegant form of its arms arrested somewhat by the tangled mass of steppe iconography inked into the skin over its hands and wrists. They were such a rude departure from the cryptic, scarified formality of the figures on its back that their rebel intent was declared even to her. In reality, the footage offered a paucity of meaningful detail, suggesting rather than informing, but her private archives overpainted the deficit.
“It is breathing, but it doesn’t use much O2.” O’Connor told her, his long face flexing into a dishonest smile, his ingress having escaped her notice. He sat down on the table beside her with his thumbs hooked into the pockets of his grey trousers, commentating the footage as it played out again. “They deliver another round of inoprophenol...” She watched the long, slender dart device being introduced to a sliding partition in the front of the enclosure, and saw the little missile strike the subject high on its left arm. “Waited twenty minutes... went in...” He took the remote from her and slowed the projection, emphasizing the caution exercised by the two large orderlies on entering the cell, densely ponderous in their body armour beside their lightly-clad objective; though the account contained no audio track, it was apparent that the two men were issuing instructions to the creature. “It’s totally passive... won’t talk, won’t look, will not respond on any level.” The orderlies shook their heads at each other and then reached down to hoist their subject from the floor. “Until you try to impose contact. At least now we can cross inoprophenol off the list of effective agents.”
The creature emerged from its fugue in a moment Josephine blinked away, seizing and swiftly dismantling its tormentors as though they were intrinsically modular, in a process that, while horrifically graphic, was rendered almost abstract by the dispassion of the offender and the employment of its vastly superior strength in the imposition of its will, as though completing the task to a game-show deadline. It left the resulting pieces where they lay, standing with its arms by its sides, strafed by the arterial spray that was rendered in solid navy blue by the camera.
“Look at the total lack of inhibition as it goes for the debrachiation. This thing will literally rip your arm from your body without thinking about it. When have we ever seen this kind of arousal and reaction time, even from a lycanthrope?” His voice trailed off as he shook his head in wonder, reversing and playing the process over. “As much as I hate to admit it, Bateman was right... this thing needs to be written up and registered yesterday. It’s incredible.”
Josephine looked from the screen to the controlling unit in his grasp.
“What did the lab say?”
“They can’t say anything. The samples taken when it entered the system were as unstable as anything we’ve gotten... turns to dust, just like everything else. If we didn’t have the whole thing for context, we’d be back to square one.”
The creature’s submission to their unwitting ambush played over in an endless loop inside her head, vindicating her suspicion of its apathy.
“When can I put in for access?” she asked.
He suspended the inmate's image in the act of walking back to the rear of its cell between the dismembered orderlies, who had ceased to jerk or rock in the midst of the blood that had pooled at the foot of the transparent panel.
“There's a tight circle for now... no one without a special-issue clearance.” The anger in her gaze relegated him in a swift and peremptory process that he did not care for. “Never demand where you can negotiate, Ms Jones." he added, removing his glasses and sliding a little cloth from his pocket to wipe them perfectly clean.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Read the first part of this walk H E R E.
So anyway, we descended Grey St , past the surprising number of eateries that lurk in the pit of George St (without succumbing to their mysterious starch-laden traction) and then headed uphill, voluntarily. I know.
Behold. Two slightly wonky panoramas of the Lady Thorn Dell, an old quarry slathered in historic seamens' (lol) tagging and stuffed to its bluestone gills with those species of plants most pleasing to our elders. It overlooks the Port Otago site (to the right in the shot below).
A lot of people think of Port Chalmers as a quaint dump, and to some extent it still is, having neither the means nor will to outrun history, but the more we walk and compare, the happier we are in our choice of domicile.
There are not too many parts of the developed world where you can enjoy this sort of thing without the experience being ruined by thick clots of your own species. We arrived midmorning and the old amphitheatre was gloriously empty, except for a family of smoky blue welcome swallows who were nesting in the cliffs, diving after the loose clouds of midges drifting overhead and singing their chittery little songs on the rocks. They are such a strange little bird, so puissant and self-possessed.
The southerly wind that had been scraping across the bay for a week was excluded by the hillside and the cool air it had dumped in this secluded little cirque was dew-heavy and fragrant with those pale green and gold-stained notes peculiar to scented rhododendrons. Combined, they yield a smell that is something like honeysuckle at dawn and lily of the valley, twisted sideways by the disturbing sweetness of the last magnolia blossoms. The ground was carpeted in wood chips, both new and old, and the stone itself offered another olfactory dimension, expanding and exhaling as the sun rose. It was high enough in the sky now to prickle your skin pink after five minutes and the shade promised infinite evergreen respite.
If I've learnt anything in my 40 years, it's this: never deny yourself a simple pleasure. Never apologise for doing so. There is no time like the present to piss away an hour or two looking at and breathing in flowers.
Stop what you are doing and just enjoy this. There is no why. There is no later. Now is perfect.
Part three still to come.
The Lovely R and I recorded this tender gynophilic tribute for posterity during our survey of Port Chalmers for 'Surface Failure'. I decided it needed a rebuttal. In rhyme.
* More verse here *
We enjoy a bewildering array of arachnids on our half-acre shambles, everything from teeny emerald-green crab spiders peering from their pastel flower condominiums to gigantic (look away, phobics) peripatetic mygalomorphs (supposedly quite primitive but dude, you don't want to say that to their face) who glare at you from the middle of the toilet floor when you're busting for a wee at 5 in the morning. They finish a slow mental cigarette and you let them because they're venomous, can jump about 30cm and you're not wearing shoes. We once watched our old tabby Libby encounter a particularly large one; it leapt at her face repeatedly in a pretty amazing display of concerted aggression. Ichneumon wasps hunt them incessantly and can often be seen dragging their paralysed bodies out from under rocks to entomb with their grubs over summer. Nature is a strange place.
This tiny girl is about half the size of a short fingernail and insists on spinning her gleaming orb web across the passage beside my aloe bench. The Lovely R outdid himself with this difficult macro capture so yay him.
The best ever death metal band out of Denton was a couple of guys who'd been friends since grade school. One was named Cyrus, the other was Jeff and they practised twice a week in Jeff's bedroom. The best ever death metal band out of Denton never settled on a name, but the top three contenders after weeks of debate were Satan's Fingers, and the Killers, and the Hospital Bombers.
Jeff and Cyrus believed in their hearts they were headed for stage lights and Lear jets and fortune and fame.
So in script that made prominent use of a pentagram they stencilled their drum heads and guitars with their names.
This is how Cyrus got sent to the school where they told him he'd never be famous, and this is why Jeff in the letters he'd write to his friend helped develop a plan to get even.
When you punish a person for dreaming their dreams don't expect them to thank or forgive you.
The best ever death metal band out of Denton will in time both outpace and outlive you. Hail Satan. Hail Satan, tonight. Hail Satan. Hail, hail.
Despite the fact that death metal bores me, nobody likes teenagers and satanists are going to heaven for believing so implicitly in a monotheistic godhead, The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton is possibly the most cogent argument for the fundamental necessity of personal freedom ever tendered by someone with an acoustic guitar. Imagine the courage it takes to keep singing this shit live in the US as the school shootings and conservative fuckery mount up, year after year. And then perhaps ponder the increasing importance of, and even responsibility to, do so. For this reason alone, The Mountain Goats come with the highly coveted BTO platinum seal of unqualified approval and you should probably check them out if you haven't already. The Lovely R is more comprehensively enamoured of their canon than moi, but this is my favourite track and it's a great way to kick a new week in the shins while it's still getting out of its chair.
If you're a regular you might remember that I promised something gloriously vernal last week and then didn't come through with anything of the sort. What a lazy bitch, eh? I promise to make it up to you some time around.... Wednesday.
Honestly. Cross my heart.
(crocheted cold black heart by Gypsy Applo: her anatomical shit here)
ALSO: Hostile Witness Film Review- now goes down even easier with its very own landing/navigation page!
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.
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.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
We're into panoramas at the moment. I know I said I was going to post something vernal but I've run out of time this week, folks- spring means extra work for us here so there's only a few hours left in the day to sit on my arse and stare at a screen. That's not to say spring isn't productive- it gets image-heavy, for example, which is probably easier on you than winter's housebound verbosity, lol. So there's that. Rest assured, all things come to those who wait.
Or throw C-notes. Or hunt them down with edge weapons.
One category I've neglected recently is the venerable Kitchen Bitch, largely due to having to avoid a lot of traditionally delicious comestibles in the pursuit of svelte. Check out some recipes; if I can manage them, so can you.
Enjoy the next excerpt and have a great weekend.
* Best of the Blog * Photoessays * Jewellery *
Okay- good v bad. First the good, namely: the colour. Chromatically, Walkyrie is difficult to characterise but here goes- caramel + the dust from an old terracotta pot mixed with antique tea-rose; more specifically, half toasty, half rosy. Relatively neutral-to-slightly-warm. Like MAC Del Rio, (which is darker and cooler) there's more than enough colour in this shade to lift it out of zombieface territory, leaving you with a mouth that is at once work-appropriate and sophisticated. So you look more like a boss than someone who photocopies their arse after a bump in the loo and two glasses of cheap white. I'm not saying the two don't overlap, I mean, they would if I was ever in charge of shit; lucky I'm an anarchist, eh?
Walkyrie may not pack quite as much visual punch as its feminine namesake but the opacity and saturation mean it can still be quite a lot of look, so we're not talking shy, sheer or MLBB, at least on pale punters. Tanned girls might find it more of a regular-nudie sort of thing, but deep-dark ladies could possibly be dealing with a no situation. Personally, after test driving Walkyrie in my capacity as a virtual stranger to melanin, I'm really sold on this shade. It just sits so darn well on my face, complimenting everything, fighting with nothing. Redheads should get onto it immediately. If you're rocking more skin colour, I would choose MAC Del Rio for the same effect.
And now for the not so much bad as challenging: texture. I find Nars mattes lighter in texture than the general run of MAC, broadly speaking, and like one of my other Nars pieces, Terre de Feu, it goes on fine straight from the pencil. There is a faint honeycomb scent but it's pleasing. On the mouth this Velvet Matte formula is suede-like and absolutely sheenless and you know what that means; these sticks are much waxier and less 'fudgy' than the Pure Mattes, closer to the hard-wearing feel of one of the softer traditional lip liners than a lipstick, i.e. quite inert and pretty unforgiving. Applied with a heavy hand, they'll stick to every crack and peel and the degree to which that will bother you depends on the condition of your lips and your general matte tolerance. Put it this way- if you can't handle MAC Ruby Woo, I'm not sure Nars Velvet Mattes are going to turn that frown upside down.
On the upside, after a sloppy cup of tea there's no bleeding at all and hardly any loss of colour, so top marks for stickability and that really is a fair trade-off in my opinion.
Having worn it for a month or so now, I'm very pleased/bordering on a bit obsessed with Walkyrie because it's such a confident, flattering shade, the kind of thing that can salvage your entire look even if you're suffering a case of ogre-face (everyone over thirty knows what I'm talking about and everyone under thirty will find out soon enough, lol). It has a cinematic, vintage quality and you won't see it on every second trick floating past. After getting a bit further into the pencil, the texture isn't close to being a deal breaker for me, and will probably concern only those averse to mattes in general. I think the leading end of these pencils may dry out in storage and provide a slightly inaccurate impression of their overall feel at first. Not too sure if any of Nars' current lippies are being retired in favour of the new Audacious lipsticks but you might want to keep an eye on the availability of your personal faves.
L 2 R: Nars Walkyrie, MAC Del Rio, Hot Tahiti, Taupe, Riri Bad Girl (LE) bright warmish daylight.
Sometimes the endless potential of strange fiction is a garden, rampant and fertile, and sometimes it is a featureless void, deprived even of convention’s drab landmarks. That you see either one or the other is down to the eye of the beholder as much as the nature of the material presented, which is why critical judgements can be dismissed as subjective and even biased opinion. Sometimes opacity and absence are intelligent devices and as welcome as any immediate, spectacular disclosure. And then there’s those times when any single thing you can think to say about a story is an egregious spoiler… which to me is something that elbows past discretion and burps into your ear about fatal insubstantiality.
I was so looking forward to Under The Skin that I was determined to ignore my own skeptisicm’s sardine breath and white knuckle it through any nagging preemptory suspicions.
Damn you, suspicion. You’re so often right. So spoiler alert; Scarlett Johansson is a nameless alien predator inhabiting a busty (is there any other kind?) earthgirl’s corpus. That shouldn’t ruin the film for you, unless I then blurted out that’s all, folks, and rolled credits. Which is what someone might as well have done twenty minutes into the thing because Under The Skin isn't really the piece of brilliantly-executed originality that I was sold, and this is obvious right from the stuttering opening sequence.
What is an Alien Scarlett to do? She roams with a purpose, walking around on her hind legs, taking jerky notice of her new incarnation, finding all the onboard buttons. She is abetted in securing human meat for a devouring plasm by a number of silent companions, using the crude mechanics of desire to secure her victims and inviting us to contemplate the circular universality of predation, the ugly relativity of morality and the visitant experience.
All of which would be fine things indeed if Alien Scarlett could offer much to our scrutiny. I suppose she looks a bit wonky when wide-angled from below, and lipstick application is an arcane thing, but little is confessed or projected beyond Johansson’s terribly obvious surface. Her performance feels so rootless and under-directed that I fought the urge to feed the poor thing lines in the hope it would prod her out of wandering and pouting. And taking off her shit, jesus. That Under The Skin was penned and directed by dudes is a notion that intruded pretty quickly and the volume of lingering and tenuously-motivated nudity had even my male partner chuckling; yes, we get the whole tangled web of visual reference thing, but they just should have called it Here’s Some Tits so you Wont Admit it was Boring. That doesn’t put you off, does it? Sigh.
It was boring, and for the worst reason- latitude. There was so much of it that everything seemed to droop and flatten out in all directions. A lot of that's on Johansson's performance, but let's pin this shit where it really belongs; Glazer should have gone with an unknown for the lead and spent the money nailing down some flapping edges, since there were plenty of them. For example- the massive challenge to tone posed by warty Scottish verité in the face of Johansson’s lacklustre otherness- an experiment that required much stronger oversight. The two performance styles just did not clash and spark like they should have, leaving the first looking just stupidly inept (whatever the truth around the local performances- there's that pesky skepticism again) and the second foolishly mannered. The predator’s obscurity could have been fine but there is peril in that sort of silence; it devolved into a dull second act and a denouement that had me A: discounting its literal probability right from the start and B: laughing out loud through a mouthful of popcorn and wondering exactly what it was that made black jellybeans so fucking delicious.
It could be argued that the nourishing of the plasm itself is worth the price of admission and it does provide the most satisfying sequences, hiving off in a cute, if wilfully arbitrary stylistic riff that infuses the strangeness of dream horror into the mundane choreography of physical congress, alluding uncomfortably to the relationship they’ve always enjoyed. But these scenes and indeed everything else of fleeting value stick out like dogs’ bollocks against an arc that flounders into sketchy production values, fumbled emphasis and patience-baiting repetition. And I could mutter something about Under The Skin’s best moments feeling... overly cribbed... but whether you consider such things knowing homage or cheap pastiche is best decided privately.
So yeah- not a dead loss, but a big disappointment. That the thing was shamelessly oversold in the midst of a weird-shit drought is not exculpatory and nor was it a contribution to our shared impression of generalised paucity and tediousness, and those are harsh words indeed from people with a lot of time for digression, rough edges and honest imperfections. That, and there is a wide stripe of insistent and quite icky cruelty in UTS that is neither explicitly motivated nor especially revelatory, leaving me with the need to wash my mental hands a few times afterwards and as there's no compelling reason to subject oneself to it, the sensitive and empathetic should probably consider themselves warned. If you’ve sipped Johansson’s Kool Aid you might enjoy her stilted antics, but she’s so much like McConaughey in her single-trick fuckery that I just couldn’t lie back and take it, especially in something so utterly dependant on finesse and transparency. She could have slapped us all with the delicious prismatic irony of her very presence in this thing- if she’d had the chops to testify on her own behalf. Apologists might ponder that, if nothing else. A lot of people seemed to love Under The Skin, because... I don't know... bewbs? I'm told they're popular.