she peers through the stalks and brushes the cornsilk from her cerulean gaze with golden hands…small green boys caper in the tall rushes under a bloated red sun…a lagoon boiling with silver ripples as dark things twist in its depths…line of labor in the desert, plucking burning bushes to be thrown in long yellow bins…a trail of bubbles etching a line of blue breath as the fish god passes through its medium…orange men with long slender wings gambol above a watery marble, trailing their fingers through the russet clouds…black basalt is the relief which outlines these small, fur white people ascending the mountain…girl children with sad eyes huddle under weak shelters as it rains green frogs and blue snakes…a field ruined by grasshoppers and the wheat’s ward hangs from a tree in hopeless abandon…its corrugated steel rusted, its timbers rotted, its plaster and paint peeling, its streets and windows cracked, its buildings and stores crumbled, its soul decaying like the corpse on the road into the city…a hum of computer in an empty room that smells of morning coffee…roaches desperately race across linoleum, a black flag at their rear…shoes, countless matches and mismatches, fill the warehouse with a musky smell…candles gutter as the black nights blows through the red drapes…women weave baskets from the slender hairs of yellow-eyed cattails that root and lap at pond’s edge…songs that echo through its drafty streets, and a long dead philosopher asks if a tree can be heard when it falls with nobody around to hear…blue and orange turtles leashed to a sapling with bright yellow string trundle in a circle as the laughter of children echo over the hill…neon squirrels flicker through the park at night…old men sit on knurled steps to reminisce about the green days of youth and sip tea in a cloud of smoke…tin cans and aluminium kitchenware on small paraffin stoves splash ethereal blue on the walls of the cardboard shanty…the circle of stars, through the quickening ever-rushing fall of night and swell of day, wobble as the years pass…lazy dust in the lethargic bedroom…thin and bent, his spectacles reflecting monitorlight, he taps slowly at the keyboard
The wayfarer stood at the crossroads, holding a small leather satchel with gloved hands. He wore a long coat, with an upturned collar. His eyes, green like beetle sap, watched the crooked streetsign rattle in the wind, its mischief also fondly fondling his rich brown mantle of hair. His breath steamed from aristocratic nostrils that sniffed as a line of dust slowly grew from the west.
It screeched to a halt in a paroxysm of steam and dust. He could barely see the figure who crawled out of the contraption. It was only a boy! He affected scratched aviator goggles that he pulled from his eyes, snapping it onto a thick mop of dirty brown hair. His eyes, like blueberries in a barrel of water under a clear summer sky. Boy blue eyes. A wide grin redeemed the grimy face and a hand gloved with thick old leather reached towards the wayfarer. “Joannes. How do you like this thing?” The wayfarer took the hand gingerly and nodded. “Ashford. Ashford Blaxhill. W-what is it? I was expecting a carriage.”
The boy whooped and slapped the metal beast. “It’s a Steamhorse Deluxe! It’s a carriage… horseless! Car, for short. A beaut. It’ll take us where you’re going right fast.”
Ashford nodded again, nervously. He made to step into the carriage and lost his balance. With a cry, “Careful, hot!” the boy steadied him.
Ashford began to regret his excursion, but it was necessary. The boy did something with the carriage, uh, car, and it bucked into violent life, eliciting an involuntary cry from the wayfarer. Steam broiled the low, thin glass pane that faced them and the boy sniggered. “I heard that.” Ashford gripped the satchel until his knuckles became white. The boy laughed again, his goggles frosted. They were off, the car once more tossing up dust, headed for the road.
It flapped in the wide open spaces above the rolling hills and blue winding streams that made up the sun-spattered countryside of checkered orchard greens and golden wheat, above stone bridges and old, cracked roads. It was the very last of its kind, its species’ only survivor of Nature’s compassionate cruelty, and it ranged the land for a suitable nesting place for its precious hoard, tumescently tucked under the whir of its iridescent wings. Multi-faceted eyes gleamed, telescoped and its antennas susurrated a hum of approval; its slow drone upped the ante and it fell towards a copse of gymnosperms voraciously choked by twisting vines dotted with yellow topped blue blooms.
“WAHOOOO!” The boy bounced in his seat with childish enthusiasm. Ashford was beginning to smile. Once on the road, the going was much smoother, and admittedly, this new-fangled thing was surely faster than a horse drawn carriage. Something pulped against the windshield and he squeaked with fright.
“Oh, man look at the mess that one made!” The glass was a meaty smear, and a piece like a rainbow shard tinkled against the beating air resistance. Joannes stood, bracing his knees against the dashboard and reached over the windshield, wiping at the mess. He still handled the steering wheel and the car almost plunged off road, into dark forest. Joannes gave Ashford the little piece of rainbow. It was soft, like flimsy velvet, but it did not snap in his hands. He put it in a pocket.
They puttered past cornfields, stone cottages crumbling to ruin, rusted industrial complexes surrendering to choked foliage, invading morning glories, past chicory and datura and belladona that overtook the gravel bordering the ferrocrete, threatening to strangle the road. Foliage whipped their cheeks and they had to huddle to the center. Nothing grew on the ‘crete road.
It became prematurely dark. Clouds boiled a purple black cauldron in the sky and teemed with dancing lightning. Joannes had brought out a pair of Naptha lamps. It was an unnerving experience, as the boy had a way of doing things with seeming disregard for the road. Somewhere between the torchlight and fading visibility superstition had crept into Ashford’s mind. He heard cackles between the crackle of tire and road, saw foliage rustling with sudden motion. Witches weaving through the corn, and long skeletal hands plucking at the plants of secret magic, dark green fire of straddled broomsticks jetting through the stalks. Purple eyes that gleamed amid unholy incantations through mouthfuls of rat blood. Bat streaked air. Ashford clutched at his hair. The sun buried itself in the far clear horizon, the light disintegrating with a green flash.
The rain started coming down in stinging sheets. The boy shivered in his seat, and Ashford felt depressed. The lamps still swung and rattled on their hooks, flickering in their glass globes. Firelight in the distance. Joannes howled joyously, and seemed to get a bit more speed out of the monstrous contraption. They sluiced off the road, snapping a sapling, and rutted in the mud before finally surging forward. The car shut off, but they seemed to slide sidelong for many long moments before finally coming to a halt.
The house lay before them, its many windows aglow with welcome light and warmth. The screen door clanged open and a plump, matronly form in baby blue apron stepped onto the porch. Joannes was already making his way towards the hearth glow, but Ashford just stood in the rain. A gray hair in bun, crow’s feet on a map of wrinkles, spatula in hand. A smell of cookies smiled down at them. Relief flooded Ashford and choked his voice. It was not too late. “Father…”
Darkness, the blank slate. Pop pop pop: White-boned skulls flash, of cattle, fish, frog, dog, human, a multitude of calcified blooms on the slowly greening tree that is greeting the light. A neon skeleton of ash flashes solid and boils with leaves and keys that keen in a high wind. Picture this. The disembodied skulls swing in the teasing wind, as if hung from rope… and they are.
Golden hemp, noosed at the necks of rotting corpse bodies slowly fading solid like a photographer’s darkroom trick. Bull’s head above a half fleshed ribcage, cobra vertebrae hissing raspily against paperdust snakeskin, a weasel writhes a facsimile of life under its dead-eyed glare, shark teeth grin at the irony of deathdealer dealt its own card, a man without a face but for a skull wears his skin like a loose robe. The skulls gain a light of their own, red and green and blue and purple and yellow and orange, in soft, blinking auras.
Ornamental tree. Raiments of diffuse death hung on the worldtree, coat rack of the dead gods; the gods have dusted, turned into the very earth the ash roots in, and the goddesses have splashed, a monsoon from which its root suckle greedily.
It was one of these occasions better served with a SLR camera in hand, and even then that would pale in comparison against the reality. Writing is in order, though there are never enough words; the final impression cannot reflect the clarity of that singular moment and we are left with an etch-a-sketch representation.
It perches on a small hill of its own making, silhouetted against a vast expanse of tufty sky. A radius of trampled earth and stone surrounds it and beyond is a field of tall grass that maps the wind’s passage. The crane starts and goes about its intangible business in a cloud of diesel smoke.