Running through the names of things

The going was not difficult but the land did not make it easy either. An hour passed. “It’s further away than it looks,” Ary said. They continued walking in silence. After more hours John stopped.

“You can almost see the sea from here.” He was looking out over the vast plains. A flock of small white birds passed like a respiration of the land over the dry grasses.

“Yes,” Ary said.

“Although it is difficult to tell where the sky becomes water, exactly. Sort of blur.”

“I don’t know,” Ary said, smiling.

“Yeah. Well.”

And almost as evening came a bird fell down the plane of the mountain soundlessly, wings syncopated into the body, wide symmetrical Vs. It went over their heads and disappeared very fast around the edge of the bulge in the mountainside. Ary and John watched it. It was strange to see something so small move so fast over such a mass of basalt. The speed of it was such that they turned while following the bird from looking at the sky to looking at the mountain and the lands beneath its shadow so quickly that there was a moment of disorientation when it disappeared and the rock and the soil became unbearably still. Not a moment of disorientation. That was wrong. Rather realignment. Of knowing more clearly, this is a mountain.

“Pretty late. Shall we eat here?”

“As good a place as any,” John replied.

“It’s quite cool.” You couldn’t quite see your breath in the air.

“I’ll get the thermo going.”

“I’m okay. Really.”

“We’ll be better with it.”

They ate in silence. The sun was very yellow and great gouts of it came through the clouds.

“Do you hear that? Hissing?”

“What?” Ary paused. “No.”

“Hm. I can’t hear it now either.”

“Wait. There it is.”

“Yeah. What is it?”

“It’s over there.”

Several feet from them in the dimming light something moved among the stones and the short plants.

“Does it have the ridges?” John asked.

“No. It’s got these big brown lines down its side. Kind of blotchy.”

“It looks young. Juvenile maybe.”

“I don’t think we can tell.”

The squat scaly head raised itself and the forked tongue quivered and flickered in the air. The pupils like black channels did not move. Did it blink? No, no. The snake has one transparent scale over its eye, to protect the delicate sclera. This specialised scale does not move. The eyelids at the top and bottom of the eye are fixed. They also do not move. The sudden pale cloud that comes over the eye is the nicitating membrane, a third eyelid drawn horizontally across for moisture, to keep the eye clean. This is all known.

“It’s still hissing,” Ary said.

“Is it angry?”

“It certainly sounds angry.”

“Maybe we’re in its territory.”

“There’s a lot of space around here.”

“It’s really angry, isn’t it?” John reached out to grab it, crush it. There was a rule about these things.



“It’s not going to hurt us.” Ary brought his head close to the ground, to peer at the snake. “Is it? You know what they always say which is that these things are more afraid of us than we are of them.”

John looked at Ary and sighed and leaned back and flopped into the wet grass. A stream burbled nearby. The snake hissed again, loudly, not a metre from John’s face. It made as if to strike and then settled back down. A long pyritic gleaming glare. Well. At least looked out at them with those unreadable eyes and did not blink.

“I think it came because of the warmth.”


“We should switch to internal heating.”

“I don’t think anyone will see us.”


“I’ll see them before they see us, at least.”

John sat up. The snake lay in dark coils near him and made no sound.



“You’re a strange person.”


“Never mind,” John said. He looked at the sun. He looked at the plains. He reached out to touch the snake, and it did strike this time, arched up and stuck him with a strange flinty noise. John stared idly at the spot on his suited elbow where it had struck. It was dry. “We’ll let it stay the night with us, I guess.” He made something like a dry smile.


Ary was thinking. He thought, a person could live all his life studying this world and yet for all his knowledge and time he would never guess that things like this live in it. He could not imagine the flight of a mountain bird or the unblinking recoil of a snake that lies in the grass. Such is the mystery of things. Ary tried to tell John this.

“Who would have expected this?” he said.


“Us being here, stranded, walking up this mountain.”

“All the deployments are scrambled.”

Ary wanted to say no, that’s not it, but then thought that was truth enough. He fell asleep running through the names of things: Crotalus, Sistrurus, Bothrops. He remembered they signified things but not what the signified were. The sounds were strange and made him think of movement. More he could not say.  

Approximate prayer

The long arc of a bird that flies over a field and does not see the fences beneath. In the far distance a barn, something made of brick, undulating in the heat. Messages in the thresh of air. Rusted machines standing constellated, abandoned, intimate. Gangly limbs and their doleful postures maintained even after all this time. Between here and there a path intervenes, less a road really than a desire line, unstaked. Look up and there the fume of summer coils around the fields, going on and on.  A small river, old trees at the edge leaning over. A birch kneels. Kingfishers like prayers unweaving water. Tight clots of life thrumming the fibres of the air, startling even now into the stippled divinity of the branches. Days end on end moving and quiet and livid though surcharged with sweetness.

                    (Heaven & Earth—)

Warm bodies like planets rolling in the deep. Heavy with an age like water, generous with the blood they carry. The vastness of that breath, going out like a white hand before the sky, emerging with a concussion of noisy and resurrected air. The shining declension and the katabatic voice. The black ribbed body lifted and plunging like a hieroglyph. A clock of blood. An eye, a scotopic bead invisible in the monument of the head. The balaenic jaw fit to house a mountain. Something that is its own estuary. A pale continent of fin cutting the hem of a wave and raised and if in greeting and then withdrawn. An ordnance of spray immediately caught and carried away by the wind. All enkindled and fathomed in water.

                    (Heaven & Earth—)

It brought the man’s face close to its own, and embraced the body, pulling it close to him, feeling it break and crumble against its flesh.

                    (Heaven & Earth are full of your glory. Forgive us our trespasses etc.)

Two Interrogations [sic]



A: I’m really not sure what you are asking and so I’ll start rambling until I hit something. Is that okay. Okay. I’m supposing you know the details of the I suppose you could call it attack.


A: Look, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just –


A: Well it was hard to tell because it was so early in the morning. It wasn’t bright. All the stuff looked kinda bluish, I’m sure you know that, right? When it’s dim and you only see the taillights.  And – I had been sleeping. [] had been driving for most of the night. And then we saw the truck lying in its side, and the thing was actually dragging someone out, like right through the windshield, it was pretty fucked up. There was a bloody mess all right. Maybe there was actually someone else –


A: Yeah, I thought I saw someone else, maybe two or three bodies on the road. I was. No. I think I was. It was pretty dim remember so I think I got out and that was when the thing went from being over there to suddenly being right here, beside me. I think I had been yelling, I don’t know, maybe yelling for help or yelling at the thing, or whatever. I don’t remember but it attacked me and I just ran, man, I just ran. You see how it mangled my leg –


A: I shouted for []. I don’t remember his reaction like immediately. As in not when [] saw the whole scene. I think some people had gathered. No. No, no, that was later. I’m not sure, [] must have been in the car the whole time. But I shouted for him and he came out. I was on the ground, I think by this time it must have taken off my fingers. I mean it must have been toying with me or something. After what it did to – I mean, it was a truck and everything, it got through the blastproofs. [] came out of the car and it was strange because I was sure I was dead. Like. I’m sure that at that moment I was thinking or at least a part of me was thinking I seriously can’t believe it because I am actually dying here. Accidents don’t just happen in the Kingdom, you know? And really accidents on Hakon of all places, I was sure P. would have sounded a warning at least. Where was I? Uhm. Yes. So [] came out of the car. Do you know, I was totally terrified at that moment but I might remember [] smiling or something like that. He had that kind of look where his mouth was smiling but his eyebrows were scrunched up like he was worried or amused or. Like he was going inside, oh dear me oh my. I’m exaggerating but. I mean maybe I can’t remember, or maybe my brain is all fucked up right now but I get that impression. He came over and he wasn’t shouting or anything even though I was screaming. I don’t know how, I mean look at my throat. And the thing was even though I obviously didn’t like register this at the time was that [] came over and pulled the thing off me. By which I mean, he just did it, took it by the back and just yanked it off and then the thing turned to him and he raised his arm to block, you know, the natural instinctive thing to do, and then there was this cute moment where [] laughed like he was thinking what the fuck am I doing this thing can’t even scratch me. At that moment I didn’t see anything weird, I was screaming kill it kill it kill it. Of course people had come by now, imagine them looking at me, I was murdertastically bloodied, screaming like, like just some insane idiot. I didn’t even stop when it became clear what [] was doing to the thing. I mean I wasn’t thinking at all but it was getting torn apart. I mean clubbed to death with its own – limb, something. Just. Utterly annihilated. Can I say something that probably sounds fucked-up and weird? Okay. Well remembering now I really feel pity for the thing, really. It was making these really begging sort of noises and was trying to get away but [] was just dismantling it limb by limb. I mean the violence was totally personal. Okay don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I wasn’t happy at the moment or that it was like they knew each other or something but rather that the way the entire episode, you know, played out, it was strange and intimate and people were just staring and screaming. Okay no I have it. The thing is that [] really seemed to be enjoying the power. The whole situation was strange though. This living, defenceless – not defenceless, but you know what I mean –thing which had tried to gut me yes I know, but it was getting pulped and I was shouting kill it kill it even when I had lost like a good fifth of my blood, at least that is how much it eventually was I was told later. And then when it was dead? I don’t know, uhm, [] said something like, hey, thanks for asking for help. While I was lying there I thought he said something like I’m glad to help or something but when I was in hospital I remembered that he had said something different, and now I’m relatively certain he said thanks and then fairly certain after that he said for letting me help or for asking me to help. And then right after he said that the ambulance came. [] didn’t mention the whole thing that had just happened, he went back to his car, people were staring at him because he was covered with – unspeakable fluids. Sorry, sorry. I’m not laughing because it’s funny or anything. But now when I remember it, it was so absurd.


A: What’s going to — am I okay now? Is everything okay?



A: I was walking along the bridge. Evening on a weekend; not so many cars. I came to the middle and there was this person standing beside the big metal support. The sign was a weathered blue and had CRISIS COUNSELING in white on it. Underneath that was written THERE IS HOPE / MAKE THE CALL, and then, in smaller font, THE CONSEQUENCES OF / JUMPING FROM THIS / BRIDGE ARE FATAL / AND TRAGIC. Under the sign there was a yellow box with a phone in it. There was a man standing before the box and he had the phone pressed against the side of his head. He was hunched over the box with his shoulders closed and his other hand was gripping the top of the box really tight. He was really leaning into it and it was quite heartbreaking. He was wearing a hoodie and his forehead was pressed into the hand holding the box and the whole position of his body spoke to a kind of anonymity.

Can I make some comments about this? I will make some comments about this. Don’t you think the entire thing is absurd? For example: why THERE IS HOPE? Surely the person who goes to jump does not feel hope. Telling this person THERE IS HOPE is – well, it’s a lie, isn’t it? Okay, so maybe this person looks at the sign and thinks there is hope, but then that’s just circular, isn’t it? The sign hasn’t really pointed outside itself, or to the person, and made that person deduce something good. It has merely declared the existence of HOPE and if that mere declaration is enough then it must be fake. It’s authoritarian, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve always thought a PLEASE somewhere would help, but then maybe that’s too pathetic or otherwise too reminiscent of the sorts of vicious vocab that the person will undoubtedly been subject to and that affects the whole fucked-up inside of the mind of the suicidally depressed in a manner to subtle for me to grasp. Maybe. Also: why THE CONSEQUENCES OF? You could easily phrase that away, give the sign a bit more, you know, I suppose profundity. But alright. Maybe the jumpers just need to see CONSEQUENCES. But are they that stupid? Or maybe there’s something too comic about a sign that goes DEATH IS FATAL / AND TRAGIC. Nonetheless CONSEQUENCES as a word just looks highly apathetic, almost. Threatening, as in: THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES. It just strikes me as a highly manipulative way to treat a person. Guilt-tripping people just before they die, that sort of thing. And needless to say there is no need to point out that jumping is FATAL because, presumably, that is the whole point. TRAGIC is also an odd thing to put on. My guess is that it is meant to remind the person trying to kill himself/herself that he/she has, I don’t know, a family, a child, a lover, friends etc. But from the little I know people who try to kill themselves often come from those sorts of backgrounds where this will make little difference to them because, say, the point is that they have been so strangled of functional human relations in life that a state of perfect neutrality might just actually genuinely be better than the sort of anguish they endure on a daily, second-to-second basis. I keep coming across an analogy which is that you are locked in a room where there is nothing but pain and you know, really know, you’d like to get out, but there is this key a couple of metres away from you and somehow the journey from here to there looks totally insane. The very thought locks you up. Now that I think about it though of course many people walk up there because it’s quote unquote a cry for help, or quote unquote a confrontation of the self, and I suppose for these people it works. Nonetheless. TRAGIC is so crude. The word’s already bound up in all kinds of aesthetic theorisations, the big dramatic sort, it seems a little distant, a little overused. I mean if you wanted people to think a certain way why not just ask them to, as in REMEMBER YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY? Maybe that’s not good, I guess, since some people will be up there because of FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Maybe the sign’s just a – well – sign, I suppose, of the usual compromise between the need to help on something that feels like an intimate, individual, level and the need to do this to a large number of very different individuals. Maybe I’m being picky.

So many other things, though. Why a phone? Anyone could just call, anytime they wanted. They could just go to Petr. Is there something about really old technology that is more, maybe affectionate, somehow? Bit more compatible with grief? Maybe. Or maybe most people leave having turned their implants off. Maybe it’s the visual confrontation – yellow box, blue sign, red support. No idea. How hypersensitive the brain becomes when you decide to kill yourself I don’t know.

Here’s another question: why do people choose to die this way? Dying this way is not actually calm or painless at all. 6 seconds of acceleration. When you hit the water you die of impact trauma, usually. You go from maybe 180, 200km/h to 0km/h in a second. You can tell who has died of trauma and who has died of drowning. The ones who drown get little bubbles, foam really, mucus, around the mouth and nose. But that only happens rarely. Typically the impact fractures the sternum and compresses the heart so violently it pulls away from the aorta. Inside the skin everything lacerated. But say you hit the water feet first – even then, vertebrae crushed, tibia broken everywhere, internal bleeding. If you live through that how do you swim? Do you know that the vast majority of people say their favourite colour is blue and that they find it calming? Maybe death by water is what they want and people are just ignorant about how you really die when you go off a bridge. Maybe that’s why the hotline sign is blue. Someone once shot herself on the way down. She was already dead when she hit: ergo, something about water, something about big empty air, the view. It turns out that if you look at the thousands of jumpers most of them jump from the centre of the bridge. You get a normal distribution and the peak is right at the middle support. Why? Maybe they want dying to be pretty, somehow. Symmetrical. Six seconds of falling and then water, you know, without being morbid I can say there is something about the image. I have a thought which I find quite compelling. If you want to kill yourself, and you start out walking along the bridge, you won’t jump immediately because you can’t really. You want a little more time, you want the walk. But once you reach the middle you realise that you are actually getting closer to the other side, to land that does not shake, and you can’t go on because going on would make you feel cowardly. It would defeat the point. Lots of people pick up the phone and are quiet. Then they say, “Hey, I’m gonna jump.” And then they do. My guess is that once you’ve said that to the people who are supposed to save you you’ve made a commitment. You can’t disappoint them.

Anyway, why aren’t there more signs near the middle of the bridge? If people are drawn there that seems the logical thing to do.

The point is there was this guy with his face hidden, and he was talking over the suicide hotline and asking the person there if he could help him call someone else. Maybe the hotline phone only went to one number. Would you really ask a person in that state to key in a long string of numbers? Anyway: I went over and picked the guy up and threw him over. He didn’t shout, I was pretty quick. Maybe he said, briefly, “Hey,” or something along those lines. He fell and became small and it was totally quiet. I think I put the phone back; that was it.


A: I am going now.


A: No, I don’t think you understand. I am going now. Sorry.

Something had come finally justified

“Salix sounded like he was afraid of you. I’m not sure. But I thought he was.”

Erth looked surprised. But she said: “Yes.”

“He did not seem like the kind of person who would be afraid of anything, really.”

“He comes across that way, yeah. Nowadays.”


“What with being –”

“Why is he afraid?”

Erth made a gesture as if she was brushing something away with the back of her hand. “Reasons. Well. Okay. The main thing I guess is that he thinks my ability lies in making people do things, but in a way they are not aware of, and he has no way of knowing if the things he does are because I am making him do them, or if anyone does things because he wants them to or because I’m making them do those things.”


“It’s not a very bright idea. The stuff he does – you know the kind of stuff he does. You’re a sort of – direct casualty – so. If I was making him do stuff do you think he would have started the War?”

Ary laughed and felt strange. “ ‘Not a bright idea.’ ”

“He’s – clever. But he’s paranoid. They’ve always been, actually.”

“Salix says that all he is trying to do is make people happy.”

“He really believes that.” Erth did not say this approvingly or disapprovingly.

“You don’t agree with him.”

“You do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmm.” Erth turned up the heat and put a pan of water on the stove. “I just don’t think people are designed to be happy. It’s not a complicated thing.” A small blue flame. Zeidgrebe had to be a very old boat. Or maybe Erth was that sort of person. “Do you remember a time when you were happy? Actually happy.”

[During their second Break Ary and John went to Canis I. They hired a sturdy car with generous windows at the old port at Stettal and simply drove in a straight line across six states through the height of summer. Just a car trip. Once they were driving through something that must have been an orchard, although they were not sure what kind of tree it was. Thousands and thousands of rows of thousands and thousands each. Apples or some variant thereof, fruit that messily spangled the grass and smelled sweet with rot. Ary picked out one tree that he could see ten columns or so back standing there in the middle of a row. One in a billion. He thought that was what he was.

John was driving, and didn’t speak much, but he was in such a mood that once he laughed at something Ary had said. Ary couldn’t remember now but he knew that he had not said anything funny. He thought it was something about how they were doing to get the car back.  They both did not want to waste their allowance so at night they pulled over deep into the unkempt grass and slept on the seats and woke up smelling a like vinyl with one cheek pressed into crevassed maps and divaricate lines. Ary often woke at night but did not turn on the light because of the insects. They sinewed into being everywhere, quietly but persistently, and would not go after the 14-watter incandescent was turned off. When he did wake Ary looked at John, perfectly expressionless in sleep, no smile or frown or impression of a dream, and thought how he looked like something freshly born or elsewhere wanted.]

What he said now was, “Yes. CM didn’t leave us much to be happy for but we could be happy.”

“But were you happy then?”


“At the time you say you were happy – when you were living it, did you actually feel happy? If I had asked you then, would you have said, yes, I am happy?”

Ary thought. “No. No, I was – worried. I was thinking – it was hard not to think – that soon we would both be dead.”

“You see. That’s the thing. The truth is that almost all our happiness is remembered. It’s not in the moment. No-one is actually happy here, in this precise moment, in this stupid uncatchable now-ishness. Sometimes you feel it like it is in the moment, very rarely, but even then you are lying to yourself, because what you feel is the idea that this moment can abstract itself into some higher otherised realness and continue. It never does. You know the feeling right after those moments. I’m sure you know it. Like the days are coming out from under your feet. Sand pulling away with the tide from just under the balls of your feet. That kind of feeling.” Erth waved her arms awkwardly, imitating a person losing balance.

“That sounds incredibly cynical. That is incredibly – sad. I don’t know. Maybe just remembering is good enough. It’s not a lie.”

[Ary and John did nothing of interest on the trip. They moved though the uncontoured fields and lines of standing crop. No human demarcations apart from the line they moved along. A million years before or something like that glaciers had come and sheared the land flat. They found an abandoned building and without really agreeing to do so they stopped the car and went over to it. The roof had fallen in. Just as they had done in Tityra after the massacre they climbed to the top of the wall and watched the evening. They sat on the callused brick and put their feet out into an the abyss in which people had once breathed. Twenty-wheelers generated seismic ripples as they dopplered past and sent out washes of diesel air whose warmth survived all the way from the road and broke against the walls.

Sometimes in the afternoon huge storms gathered. They could get very bad. The ozone first, not quite electric and not quite metallic in the air, and milky wall clouds bulbing and turning. A swathe of leucistic grass on one side of the road, or just ahead, would suddenly bow and turn white and a second or so later the car would shudder and skid left or lean over crankily. They put on the attractors to get through the worst storms, although this drained their fuel fast. Afterwards the air for miles around would reek of geosmin.]

“Does it sound that way? I don’t think it sounds that way at all. I’m not trying to say it’s bad. I’m just saying, happiness is difficult. Sal’s whole – thing. Maybe we should look for something else. I’m not saying anything not experienced as happy is not good. Maybe many things are good, as in capital-G good.”

Erth took the pan off the heat and poured the water, into two cups. She opened a can and spooned something amber in. There was a faint hissing sound.

“It’s quite nasty the first  time, but all the boaties have it. Pretty good, actually, really keeps out the cold.”

It was nasty, and burned, but it had a good aftertaste.

[After one storm Ary and John stopped at a town for food. The person serving them took the CM credits and walked away from the table and then turned back and said, “You guys are fucking us all up, you know that?” He was the type of person who smiled when he was angry. This afternoon he was smiling a lot, and he kept his eyes on John and Ary as they ate.

When he came to take the plates he said, “I mean it. I hope you all die fast so that we lose this properly and you stop taking our money. We’re all dry here, all bone dry. You motherfucking bastards.” He laughed. Ary said thank you and stood up to go. The man actually put his hand on Ary’s shoulder and said, “Just give me a moment.” He turned around and shouted, “Got a couple of cammers here.” People looked up from their tables. Some looked emabarrassed on Ary’s behalf. Many did not. The waiter turned back to look at them and spoke, loudly, grinning now. “You want to blame someone, folks? Look here. Oh yes look at these quiet ones. I’m thinking when they are all dead—”

John broke his glass on the table and stood up fast. The first blow opened a red gorge through the centre of the waiter’s face from the bottom of the left cheek through the nose. The waiter went down immediately, less because of the force and more because of the shock. He tried to shout but managed a whistling burble that was only savagely comic. John stepped hard on his face twice, putting the weight of his body into it, and the waiter stopped moving. John bent over him and stuck the glass in his face again and again. Then he used the other end and started pounding, very precise and very brutal. Ary stood there and Inside his numb head he counted. At n.6 the nose went and around n.11 the face caved in crunchily. John ignored Ary’s shouting and the pulpy mess got all over his front and face. When the others came out of the kitchen screaming and tried to get him off John pulled out his Botze and shot one of them in the knee. And then he finally got off the waiter and stared at the other man writhing on the floor and shot him in the knee again. Ary got in front of him and faced the people and said something like I’m sorry, I’m sorry and left the signoff for all his remaining credits on the table.

John had shouted something as Ary took him out, something like, “Don’t we die well? Don’t we die well? I I I see.”

They got back in the car, John dripping with blood, and moments after Ary slammed the door shut John started making a high-pitched jerky sound that was like crying but turned to huge shuddering laughter. Ary looked at him with horror and then started laughing as well. He went on and on. He couldn’t stop. There were slivers of bone on him. He thought of Tityra and all the people dead there and he felt something had come finally justified, something all aligned together. It was a clean and good feeling. You nearly took the leg off, he said, wheezing.]

“It’s good,” Ary said. “Where do you get this?”

“There’s a small market near the station. It’s an hour’s drive.”

From the window Ary could see that it was getting dark outside, fast. “I’m not sure I agree with you. Still.”

“It’s always the same problem once Salix has talked to someone.”

“He’s very persuasive.”

“Of course he is persuasive. When he was on Stize. You should have seen.” Erth looked a bit sad. “University life. How are you feeling now?”

“Pretty warm, actually, I’m—”

“No, I mean—”

“Oh. Oh. John’s dead. All the people I got to sort of know, for a while. I’m not sure – I am not sure what I should say. What do you think I should say.”

“You know what I think? I think that a long time from now you will remember these days and you will think that you were happy.”

“If I. Why would you. No.” Ary waited for a while. “If I am happy now how will I know that this is not just you.”

“You could ask.”

Ary sat like a crippled thing. “And?”

“I’m not doing anything. Well I am doing something but only what everyone is doing all the time. I’m trying to make you feel a bit better.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“You see? It’s happening already.”

Strange attractor

I imagine that the storm is coming. First I imagine it forming. I picture how it escapes its inhumation far out in the ocean. There is some point there where things come together in a way we do not yet understand. Where the griefs and uncharitable things have accumulated and where the winds and currents and heat all conspire to set air rising, turning. An eye opens, corrugated, a perfect round gape that vents into atheistic blankness.

Coming together, pieces in a puzzle, gathering force and vigour. Growing in a way that is even now unparsible. we cannot predict when it forms or where it will go or how it will come. Think of the labels: Category 1, Category 4. Their austerity. Clots of incautious colour growing in the eyes of satellites, budding and splitting, wandering and then fixing on a course.

The storm is not about anything. Never mind me. It’s just there. This is not about anything. Is anything about anything other than itself, I mean really?

It is coming. I imagine it coming. It is big. It brings its swell of water over the levees, pushes its way in. It is too small, it slips between the old barriers and the shaking places between the atoms. A vast soft collision with the shore. The streets have been drained of people. The storm is a tenant too big for its house. The house smells like the sea. I see the skies darken and the day shiver away. It peels open the dams and takes windows off their hinges, sends vehicles scuttling and skidding stiff-wheeled down streets, piles them like dead leaves against the sides of buildings. It cleaves roofs from the houses inside of which the screens have fallen silent and people have hidden and warnings have long since stopped flashing. It is tired of waiting. It wants rest.

It pulls down the walls and comes straight for me. I am its purpose: of course. I only have time to wonder why something so sure, so bold, so vicious with piety, so implacable, would go to all this trouble to find me. I am in my home, waiting. My skin is tight and my eyes have gone all white and I am flattered.

The word is stopped by the water

The boy squats by the canal. His clothes are flecked with spray. In his hands he holds something slick and alive, like a bomb. It is struggling so he holds it out, away from his face. He laughs. The water in the canal is smooth and deep and muscular. The thing that is alive is fighting for its life. It is struggling. As it moves it nearly slips out of the boy’s grasp and its centre of balance shifts out, away, toward the water. The boy’s voice goes high with delight. It is a shriek with a small intake of breath in it, in the middle. Adults do not make this sound. Without knowing it the boy adjusts to the thrashing weight he holds, as everyone adjusts without knowing it. His hands go out further, he leans forward. He leans forward too fast and topples into the water without a sound. The water carries him away swiftly. He cannot be seen. The thing that he was holding, the thing that is alive, leaps briefly out of the water. Then it is a shape, moving arrowly away, holding against the current. The boy cannot be seen. The canal is long and straight. On one side is wildness and on the other the buildings come down right to the edge. The boy comes to the surface for a moment. He is far down the canal, further than one might think. His arms are out in front of him. They only just come above the surface of the water. His fingers are rigid and clutching. He cries out. The word is stopped by the water. The frail sound disappears fast. It is difficult to tell where he is because of the turbulence. Eddies, foam. He comes up again. His limbs are pale and thin or maybe the stretching water makes its look so.  He turns, burbles. He turns and his face shows. He is not paralysed but the panic and terror of it is pure. He tries to see through the water and his hair. His hair is long and one eye is covered with a wet sheen of it. He cries out but the water grayly pulls him under. The movement looks graceful. The boy sees flashes of blind white sky and then black autistic water, bubbles. Sometimes the sides of his body feel the stony bottom. The boy tries to grasp at things but there is nothing to grasp. It is hard to see him in the water. His head looks like a rock beneath the surface. He tries to cry out again and again until he can only breathe and cannot afford any sound. Then the child is at the surface again. This time he does not disappear underneath. The child tries again and a sound comes like a miracle. It is high and bright with terror. It sounds like he is crying but surely a child in this dark water would be too stupefied to cry. The child makes the same sound again and again. A woman comes running down the canal. Her voices rises but not in the way the child’s voice rises. Her shoes make a stony noise against the pavement. Frantic she takes them off. She nearly trips but does not. She does not stop calling for help. Then she calls the child’s name. She says that she is coming. She tells him to wait. The child cannot wait, the water is taking him down the canal, past the buildings and the storm drains. He turns one way and another and he cannot see the woman but he can hear her. The voice of the woman is hoarse. There is an animal inflection to it. The second syllable of the child’s name she draws out. Not a scream, more necessary than it. Someone hears her. The woman points as she runs. She moves her finger as if tearing at the air. The stranger cannot see the child in the water. The woman is infuriated without feeling it because she can see the child very clearly. She can see him every time he comes up. His hair is grey against the current and it shows. There, she shouts, and the stranger runs to a bend and waits and jumps. The stranger swims well. He goes into the canal often. As he comes out of the water the child’s arms are around him. They are cold. They clasp so tight it is frightening coming from a child. The boy’s eyes are very wide. Water comes off him and his clothes and runs down the legs of the stranger. Even though in the canal it is massed and gray it is very clean on the boy. The woman ignores the stranger. She takes the child in her arms and wetness expands over her clothes. There are small pink cuts on the boy’s palms. His clothes stick to him. The stranger stands against the railings and bends over. He puts his hands on his knees. The child speaks. I was not afraid, the child says. His voice is slightly muffled. His feet are bare. The woman is crying and she presses the boy into her chest and she does not hear him as he says, Mother, Mother, I am not afraid.