Letter To Jack. Version 1

October 19, 2013 § 5 Comments

A short monologue. Hope it makes sense.

I think it might be about redefining sanity in the face of disaster. Does it work for you?

armageddon_by_teddybearcholla

It’s daybreak Jack…the break of day. A broken day; I don’t know what to call it anymore. I climbed out of our bedroom window onto the roof to watch the sunrise, but it didn’t come and I cut my hand on the glass and bled all over my dress.

That wind the colour of fire came again last night – but hotter. This time it blew the windows out. Now they’ll be no difference between day and night. You remember? Like dusk last January when we cycled home from work with our hats and gloves on singing Bob Dylan to keep ourselves warm. I hate not knowing how long it will last. I know it isn’t supposed to be winter – the calendar on the kitchen wall says it’s July and nearly time for your birthday. I’d send you a cake if I knew where you were…

I’m getting to know when the wind will come because the dogs in the forest bark, and their noise bounces through the dead trees and makes me jumpy. Yesterday they howled and yipped like those prairie wolves we saw in Mexico and I wanted to warn you. They don’t come into town anymore because people are shooting at them. I know one was killed last week, because the Townsends on the corner made a barbeque. The smell wasn’t right. If I don’t see people doing the killing it’s not so bad, and they’re doing it because there’s no other kind of meat to be had now all the pigs have been eaten. I don’t know what dog tastes like, and I don’t want to find out. I so miss Bobby. I have some tins of his food waiting,  and keep his lead on the back of the kitchen door for when he comes home.

The leaves that began to bud on the oak tree – you remember the one in the front garden by the fence – we carved our names on its trunk last year? The wind killed it this time, and it curled up their leaves and they crackled to red dust in my fingers. Everything is covered in this strange skin – a shroud like rust.

Everyday I stand by the garden gate and wait. I wait for you and for someone to tell me things I can’t remember. I shan’t go into the street until you come home. Where would I go? Some people stopped by our fence and told me they’d heard the sun was dying – that it was burning from the inside out. Killing itself. You remember that documentary we watched about solar flares? They remind me of these red winds – but they’re bigger and stronger than the flares we watched spewing from the sun when we wore our special glasses and lay in the grass and held hands. I don’t know whether to believe these people or not – they were kind because they took all my letters to post to you – but their eyes stare and they forget to blink and smile… After they’d gone I locked myself in.

Jack, the vegetable garden is wrecked. There were carrots and beetrootleft, but people came and dug them up. And now the red wind has killed all the flowers – except for that beautiful red rose I planted by the front door. I found a bud this morning and put it in a vase on the kitchen table so I can think of you whenever I like. I know how sorry you will be about the garden – but it really doesn’t matter – we have plenty of tins of food and a few vitamin pills left. I lock the garden gate now and have stapled the razor wire to the top of the fence. I feel much safer.

The electricity stopped coming from the central grid last week – the lights flickered on and off for a while, but now it doesn’t come at all – so there is no TV, no telephone and no computer. But we’re lucky, Jack, the red wind brings a light that is stored in the solar panels for a few days so I can read our books and write my daily letter to you. It’s better than nothing.

More news. Your rainwater collector is still working well. I had to tie a pair of tights over the main inlet pipe to filter out the dust and they do the job. The water has a pink stain but has not made me sick. You’ll be pleased to hear I am looking after myself without you. I have a wash every day, then rinse my clothes and the dirty pots in the same water. After that I water the garden with any that is left.

There’s not so much noise since you went. The neighbours make none at all now, like they’re sleeping or not there any more; and the gangs of boys have gone elsewhere. The birds still come: I think they must be sparrows. I’m not sure what they are eating but I do enjoy their singing. A new kind of bird has come: it has a long sharp beak and great wings like the sort they have in Tibet. It circles high in the sky for hours on end, then swoops down on whatever it has found to eat; then others of its kind appear from nowhere. They must have a strong sense of smell. I have forgotten the name of the bird, but I’m sure you will know.

Jack, there are smells that I don’t know. People are making fires. The smoke smells rancid, like they are burning stale fat – I don’t know what they are burning – maybe they’re cold. Someone set fire to a car yesterday and it looked like ours. It was the one that drove into the lamppost at the end of our street just after you went to look for Bobby. You might have seen it. There was an arm hanging out of the window for a while – it didn’t move – I watched it. Then the arm was gone, and I smelt petrol and someone torched the car. I remember it because it was the same red colour as ours.

I am going to sort the tins of food into alphabetical order now, but I will write again tomorrow. Come home soon, Jack. I need you.

Life In The Middle

September 25, 2013 § 1 Comment

This, and yesterdays story, was inspired by the writings of Toby Litt, and some long conversations I had with my late father, who at that time was showing clear signs of dementia. Not altogether sure this story works…

 Image

I live in the middle. I’ve lived here all my life and regard myself as most fortunate. I’m sure many people would like to be in my shoes.

It’s nice here: we’ve paid off the mortgage, it’s clean and comfortable, and no one shouts or rushes around. Life here is predictable, which is just how I like it. Where I live is not on the way from anywhere to anywhere else; but it’s not boring in case that’s what you are thinking: it’s just nice and quiet. Some people might imagine there’s nothing to do here so they don’t come and visit; but I wouldn’t want to enlighten them because I like being left alone in my happy little bubble. I’m quite content, thank you.

            I’ve never been to that place they call the edge, and I don’t want to go either. Some say they’ve been there and have written books about it, but I haven’t read any of them because I’m certain I wouldn’t like it one bit: it sounds too different from what I’m used to. To tell you the truth I rather wish there wasn’t an edge because the thought of it disturbs my peace of mind, and I can’t sleep some nights wondering about whether the people who live there might invade us and try and change things. I wouldn’t like that. I know it’s silly to worry but some people just aren’t to be trusted.

            I’m glad I wasn’t alive about a hundred years ago when explorers went everywhere and got dirty and diseased, and brought back stories of people living in atrocious conditions in jungles. I would have found that very unsettling. I’ve read that the explorers even discovered people who ate one another. Sometimes they didn’t come back to tell the tale because… well, we don’t know the answer to that for sure because they didn’t come back and tell us. In any case, I would prefer not to know what it was the explorers discovered – it never did us any good to know that kind of thing.

I’ve heard that some people, and of course it’s mostly the young, like to travel to the edge and look. But they must know in their heart of hearts there is nothing to see. But they to do it anyway, and sometimes they don’t come back so I suppose they must have decided to stay. I don’t understand them. Perhaps something awful happened. Don’t they know that nothing good ever comes from curiosity?

I have decided that living near the edge would be very dangerous, but it’s important I don’t say too much about this, otherwise the people who live there might hear and want to sell up and move to the middle. That must be avoided at all costs because it would encourage overcrowding, which wouldn’t do us people in the middle any good at all.

In truth, those of us who live in the middle shouldn’t waste time thinking about the people who live on the edge. I’ve certainly got better things to think about. The apple tree needs pruning and there’s a pile of ironing to do. But there is one thing that’s been on my mind for a while, and it’s this: we in the middle have heard that those who live on the edge believe that if there wasn’t an edge, then there wouldn’t be a middle; but I say it is very clear that the opposite is true: they on the edge could not possibly exist without us in the middle. They need us. I know which makes the most sense to me.

As I get older I get wiser. One of the things I have learnt is that we are more rational and sensible than they are. We have adapted to our environment; we have evolved so that we are content where we are. There are other ways that we are superior too, but I couldn’t even begin to list them as it would take up too much of my valuable time.

 I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but the simple truth is that we are simply better than them…

***

Life On The Edge

September 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

Image

            I live near the edge: not right on the edge, but hey, life is too short to sweat the small stuff. There’s no way I’d admit to anyone here I’m bothered about a few metres; but if the opportunity arose to move closer, I’d grab it. Living on the edge is definitely the best place to be, so you won’t be surprised to hear that people often knock on my door with rolls of cash stuffed in their pockets pleading with me to sell up.  I wouldn’t of course, because to move further from the edge meant I’d be moving closer to the middle. I’d experience less of living on the edge and more of living in the middle, and that would be crap – like dying.  Never in a million years.

            It’s pretty crowded here and that’s as it should be: we humans are a sociable crowd and like to be together all the time so we don’t need much space. It’s never still and it’s never quiet and there’s always something going on, even at night. It might look like no one ever sleeps, but in truth we don’t need much; we grab an hour here and there when we can: on the subway, on a park bench, in a coffee house – everybody does it. Can’t waste time sleeping. Those of us on the edge talk fast and walk fast, and we like to wheel and deal and organize stuff.

Rumour has it that those who live in the middle talk about the edge as if it’s not a good place to be, but we all know that’s just fear talking and probably quite a bit of jealousy. I’ve read a book or two about those who live in the middle, and I’m not surprised they never come and look, even though we’ve invited them lots of times. They’re basically cowards who don’t like change and are too frightened of what they might see. You don’t have to be brave, just a bit adventurous. It’s such fun. What’s the point of having eyes if you don’t open them? That’s just willful blindness. What are we here for if it’s not to look?

            From time to time we all make a point of going right up to the very edge and peering over. It’s regarded as a kind of pilgrimage really, and there are thousands of us who go, although you can’t see a lot. I look really hard for as long as I can and feel better for it: it’s invigorating and I feel properly alive. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to want to look. Occasionally some of us jump off on purpose; and we’re all regarded as national heroes.

Everybody should go to the edge at least once in their lives – just to have a look and to see what it feels like – but you can’t force them. Even those who live in the middle who can’t or won’t see should go there – you never know, miracles might happen and they might be able to see again.

There’s a secret place not far from here that a friend told me about where they say that instead of extolling the virtues of the edge, we should go and have a look at the middle and find out for ourselves. I suppose it’s possible I might find some things that I like there, but I can’t imagine it could possibly be as perfect as it is here.

There is an insurmountable problem about the middle, which is that it has never been defined. I can’t be sure it even exists, and nobody who lives on the edge has ever drawn a map of it or decided exactly where it is.

I’m not impressed with all this inexactness. The edge is exact; I know exactly where I am: close to the edge. I can’t agree with what the people who live in the middle say, which is that the middle is what defines the edge. This is rubbish. Those in the middle need us on the edge to define where and what the middle is.

            The people who live in the middle say they don’t need us to define them because their lives are based upon history and tradition. That means they never question anything and probably don’t think change is a good idea. We on the edge believe in change and innovation, and that is why we will survive, and they will perish.

When that happens, those of us who live on the edge will be able to spread towards the middle, which may eventually mean that all of the middle becomes the edge, and that might mean we will have to find a new name for what was once the middle. But that’s fine; those of us who live on the edge welcome change.

Whatever happens I am quite certain the edge is the best place to be.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with dystopia at Changing Skin: modern haiku and other stories.

%d bloggers like this: