From Green Messiah – a novel about incest, climate change and cults:
12.30 a.m. – strung out across the landscape of his parents’ lounge like Gulliver caught in a Lilliputian trap.
12.30 a.m. – bream, perch, roach drift through the depths of the blighted River Avon.
12.30 a.m. and the wind, the wind, the tireless wind is chafing and fretting and scraping and scratching, snuffling and gasping and grunting and gnawing, clawing and tearing and poking and pawing at the roofs and the doors and the windows and walls of the shops and the factories of the city of Bristol.
Just past midnight.
Tower blocks and terraced streets.
Five hospitals, six cemeteries, four hundred and twenty-two thousand inhabitants – trapped in a maelstrom between the cold and the dark.
In Victoria Park breezes like demons lay siege to the trees.
In Bedminster the wind, the wind, the freezing wind rattles at windows, hammers at walls, sets off alarms, pounds at doors.
In Clifton and Redland and Westbury Park the wind – the wind? – the devious wind slips into cat-flaps, wriggles through keyholes, flutters in chimneys, plummets down flues.
In Montpellier and Southville outlets and drainpipes gurgle obscenities, ejaculate cold.
In St. Andrews, St. Pauls…
Down in the docks the stays of the yachts – and the awnings of ferries moored by the locks – crack like whips, snaffle like drums, chatter like teeth, rattle like guns.
Citizens of Bristol, the time has come! Surrender your defences! Sacrifice your children! Succumb to the encroachment of the pestilential sky!
Cold inhabits Bristol: lip-splitting, bone-chilling. Cold spins hoar frost across the surface of the earth.
The homeless have no intention of staying homeless. They gather in hostels and wrestle with proximity – or scrounge grudging hideaways from relatives and friends.
Either that… or they’re dead.
Home owners have no intention of straying from their homes.
They pull shut their curtains and barricade their doors.
Petrol stations dwindle.
Bars fall prey to loneliness.
All-night supermarkets wither on the vine.
Marshal is on the sofa in his parents’ lounge.
He settled here a thousand years ago, giving up on Amy, abandoning his friends, turning his back on their irrelevant nightclub culture, retreating through ice-mired streets, sometimes running, sometimes walking, impatient with himself, angry at the arctic landscape Bristol has become, angry at his family, impatient with the wind.
12.30 a.m… and this is who I am:
university drop out
burden to my parents
The wind is a like lover at the door. The television is a lover, pinned up against the wall. ‘Pay attention!’ the two lovers cry. ‘Pay attention!’
Marshal resists their strident demands. The wind will soon blow over, it always does – and the television never trumpets anything but lies.
Marshal refuses to believe what it tells him.
My parents have destroyed my ability to believe.
The belief-thief Graham Dean made a meal of my soul – and my parents gave him the plate and knife and fork.
Marshal wrote in his diary the previous evening, Molly, I love you.
He had written that by mistake. He crossed out his sister’s name, ran a line through it half a dozen times until the name was illegible, then wrote in its place the word he’d meant to write. Amy.
He had always meant to write Amy.Never Molly.
Now his diary read, Amy, I love you.
As it should have read all along.
01:45 a.m. The television rants and raves:
Pay attention! Pay attention!
This is highly important.
Then it’s three a.m.
On a multitude of channels slick presenters, cool presenters, narcissistic presenters, anorexic presenters, frenetic presenters, splenetic presenters, sycophantic presenters, apoplectic presenters vie for viewers.
Beyond the walls of his home, role-playing the end of the world, the city of Bristol subsides into slumber. Upstairs, huddled together in their bed, his parents pay court to the sleep of the bored. Three fifteen a.m. and this is who I am:
22 years old
a question mark
an unexploded bomb
Marshal often feels this way late in the evening, beer in hand, as if there’s something wonderful that he needs to do but that his home, his family and even the sheer pointlessness of the world are impeding him, are tying him down with a thousand tiny ropes, pinning him like the captured Gulliver to the furniture or the floor… as if his lungs are bellows and he’s on the edge of blowing up a storm, as if I’m on the brink of discovering something wonderful, something I can’t quite understand but know is there – a feeling of unfolding power and promise and unimaginable strength – but a strength and potential and promise that are undermined and utterly foiled by his family and friends.
They are conspiring against me.
That’s how he sometimes feels, late at night.
That’s how he feels now.
His pills are is still in his jean pocket.
My pills are conspiring against me.
Three tablets, taken twice each day, a poison manufactured and branded by Schleer Pharmaceuticals. Marshal had meant to fling them into the bloated River Avon as he ran through the dark.
Anything is possible, he’d told himself.
I am capable of anything.
That’s what he had imagined out there in the cold, his lips so frozen he could hardly speak. That’s what he had written in his diary only the previous evening.
Anything is possible.
But not tonight.
In an urban landscape as inhospitable as the surface of Mars, amongst the schools and the churches and the shops of the city of Bristol, between tower blocks and factories, between the steeples and the chimneys and the aerials and the masts, a wicked wind wickers and whines. In the bosom of his parents’ home Marshal tries not to care. He thumbs the remote controls and entire worlds transform.
Pay attention! Pay attention!
This is important.
A presenter approaches orgasm over a subterranean home cinema.
Then the camera chases her upstairs – where she climaxes repeatedly at pinball machines, a juke box, two pool tables, the crossed Samurai swords…
Not to mention the bedrooms with ceiling mirrors, the bathrooms with floor mirrors, the kitchens with wall mirrors, the play rooms with mirror balls and the one-way mirrored doors.
There are unused swimming pools, deserted acres of garden, security cameras, surveillance towers, gurning gulag walls.
There are quad bikes and motor bikes and copters and sea planes.
And then there are their owners…
The presenter exhausts herself with love.
Rock stars, pop stars, porn stars, film stars.
Old wealth, new wealth, oligarchs, financiers.
Christ, they make me sick.
Marshal changes channels, takes another swig, holds the liquid on his tongue, lets alcohol evaporate up into his skull, drift down into his lungs.
I’m self-medicating. This is therapy. This is far better than therapy.
A week ago he decided to abandon the sodium valproate he’s been taking on and off for all these years. He imagined his position in the cyclic history of his mind was poised upon the brink of thrilling hyperactivity.
That had been a mistake.
I was desperate for the upward lift, the existential thrill…
Instead I’m lying here, in my parents’ lounge, twenty-two years old, oppressed, supressed, regressed, the television ranting and raving like a street-corner messiah, the inertia of my history and the mass of my family and the momentum of my condition pressing down upon me as if funnelled and compressed into a single leaden weight…
No, not the expected adrenalin-fuelled rush of hyperactivity, my brain fizzing and spitting like spark plugs in some gargantuan machine – not that, but desolation.
He dries at his eyes with the back of his hand, takes another swig of beer.
Tries to understand what the television is trying to say.
This is very important.
It’s a very different channel. Polar icecaps are calving, never to reform.
Vast landscapes of tundra are releasing methane to the sky.
Icy continents are dwindling. Before long, says the presenter, they may not even exist.
Seal hunters and polar bears will very soon be homeless.
Someone says that Hugh Maxwell of NASA is concerned.
Hugh Maxwell himself says he is more than concerned.
He is very, very concerned.
Our whole society, he says, everyone everywhere, all the decent scientists, all the half-way decent scientists, all intelligent laymen and women on both sides of the Atlantic, scientists in China and researchers in the Ukraine, technicians in Algeria and post-grads in Japan, each and every one of them, in fact, anyone with even an iota of intelligence, is beginning to acknowledge, in their deepest gut-instincts, the impending Armageddon – our entire species facing eco-apocalypse like rabbits in the headlights of a car.
‘We need to do more,’ Hugh Maxwell says. ‘We need to do much, much more.’
Then there are images of glaciers, calving into the sea.
Marshal draws back into the sofa as if its cushioning depths might offer some avenue of desperate escape.
‘Bloody hell,’ he whispers. ‘Is this the end of the world?’
In his heart of hearts he knows that it is.
Insight: The Tree of Life
The tree of life is full of strife
Each leaf is a disaster
And when its boughs come tumbling down
Our hopes follow swiftly after
Marshal’s parents are awake.
The door opens.
It’s Mattie, Marshal’s mother.
“Mattie” is short for “Matilda”, Marshal thinks. And “Matilda” is short for “someone I will always betray”.
He squeezes the remote controls. Infrared light forms a binary message and squirts across the room. The television falls abruptly mute.
He is in the wrong place in his cycle.
Marshal hears his mother’s voice but his only reaction is a feeling of depression and sadness and guilt.
Deprogrammed by an enemy of all faith, extracted from his cult of choice by the repugnant Graham Dean – deliberately severed from the religion which took me to its heart – andMarshal feels…
He doesn’t know what to feel…
Doesn’t know what to think.
He twists on the sofa, looks at his mother, sees the anxiety in her eyes, sees the tentative, half-frightened, half-hopeful smile upon her lips, feels the old inexplicable pain in his left side just beneath his ribs and
Sometimes it happens, just like that.
The whole world turns on its side.
Nothing is ever the same again.
~ Can’t you sleep?
‘I haven’t been to bed.’
~ Don’t you think it’s bed time?
~ It’s awfully late.
I know. I know.
|Mattie Anderson’s face, tilted to one side so that she can peer into the room, is so beautiful that for a moment Marshal can’t find it in himself to breath. Her hair is brushed back from her forehead, pushed behind her ears, falls over one shoulder, her eyes are full of love and doubt – and her foolish, unworthy son thrashes around on the mud banks of failure and hope like an air breathing fish that hasn’t yet taken its first lungful of air – jerking through its last death spasms, filled with self-loathing at unattainable goals, but seeing, far away, almost like a rising sun, the hope and meaning of inhalation – dying, in juddering, gill-flapping, tail slamming panic until suddenly, like a solar flare, it’s there: like the beauty of his mother’s face: the knowledge of how to breath.
I love you, Marshal thinks. I have always loved you. All my life has been about nothing but this: the worry lines around your eyes, the half-smile-half-asking-whether-you-dare-to-smile turn of your lips, the glimmer of your forehead, the expression of understanding and compassion in your eyes, makes my floundering seem so stupid, so base, so abstract and irrelevant, so tangential to anything that really matters… Forty-eight years old and twenty-two of those years are a gift to me, borne lightly as if they weren’t a burden, as if they weren’t a cross to bear, a son with a mental condition, now up, now down, now neither up nor down – and in this moment of appalling descent I glance towards some distant light and see that I am utterly and totally loved, that this gentle face gazing at me, tilted sideways around the door, is utterly beautiful in its empathy and care, that you have always put me first, high above yourself, that I have had so much more than any son has ever had, my entire, ungrateful, flailing life held and protected and nurtured like a flame in the cusp of your hand…
‘Why awful?’ Marshal asks. ‘Why awfully late?’
~ It… It’s just so late at night… It’ll be morning in no time at all. You’ll be so tired… Too tired to work….
Pills can never take this away. Even sodium valproate can never eradicate such moments of perception. His soul is the city of Bristol, filled with darkness and cold. His mother is the wind blowing through the city streets.
~ So you’re alright then? You’ll be alright for work tomorrow?
Marshal twists on the sofa, turns to look at her. Matilda Anderson is peering around the door as if afraid to come in, both of them gazing at each other sideways in a tilted-over world. ‘Alright?’ Marshal asks again. He turns away. Thumbs the remote controls to take the TV back off mute, shouts above the rising flood of noise, ‘Of course I’m not alright. Of course I’m not fucking alright. How can you ask that? How can I ever be alright after what you’ve done to me?’
© 2012 Luke Andreski. All rights reserved.
www.hunchthenovel.com; www.greenmessiah.com; www.tothebridge.info; www.nowwearegreen.com; www.portnoysdefence.com; www.agreenphilosophy.net; www.beingleftbehind.com; www.thebookofnewcreation.com; www.speakinginamonotone.com; www.swogstongue.com; www.theoutskirtsofmymind.com.