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Peter never understood people's obsession with travel. How could anyone think that they are exposing themselves to the wider world, he thought, when the entire time they shelter themselves with credit cards, sunscreen, insurance, and a ticket home? That type of travel was only for people to take photos of themselves smiling in front of well documented monuments in the rain, sunshine, snow, surrounded by strangers all doing the same, quickly moving from one icon to another superimposing themselves on history, altering memory, all the while seeing less, and knowing less than what has already been documented historically and academically.
However, anyone that got a chance to look through Peter's travel albums would think that he had been to all corners of the world, multiple times, always smiling in rain, snow, scorching sun, howling wind. He reluctantly said yes and no when people asked him about his experiences.
Truth is he'd never traveled anywhere. He transported himself through the pixles, and manipulations, on his computer. Each photo was an exact, detailed study. He knew all the places he posed with. He got so close to the taj mahal that he knew about the crumbling grout on the south east corner.
'Come on. Let's do something. The day is sagging behind the hills.'
'What? "Sagging behind the hills" really?'
'Yes. What was wrong with that? I'm not a poet.'
'You've proved that.'
'Stop being a prick. Come on.'
'Ok. Good point. What are we going to do?'
'I kind of hoped you would help decide.'
'Ok. No movies, no bars, no friends.'
'Suggestions, not eliminations.'
'No galleries, no coffee shops, no resterants...'
'Suggestions! Geeze you are so difficult so often.'
'Ok... sorry. What do you think?'
'I don't know...'
'... and we looked to the summits we'd raised.'
'Not funny. Poet. :p'
Norbert's flimsy reality.
When he woke the sun had already moved over, and was filling the rooms on the west side of the house. He smiled and thought the room looked nice at day break - everything rose to greet the sun, but he would wait a little while in bed, comfortable, appriciating the opening of the new day. Justina's bra, knickers, and shirt, that she wore some day before, blossomed between the other dirty things mossed on the floor. He was a bear and hibernation was over. He strethed and yawned, high pitched, like a wet finger running over glass.
When did the joureyman tradition die? People travel so much now, at least the money rich middle class from Australia. I recently went to Amsterdam to meet a friend out on his first trip from the renovated, reimagined, sunscreen plastered old country. I got to the hostel he was staying at, after a night spent in a park on the other side of Holland, and talked with the other Aussies who filled the hostel. They were all following the party circuit - Amsterdam, Berlin, Croatia, Home. They were all on holiday, but they were away to escape jobs, not exchange cultures.
I am always the first one to talk when silence is needed, and the last to realise waht I've done. It isn't I get home that the uncomfortable gestures of all the people around me posses my imagination, filling my nervous system with surges tense shame. It's been happening less as I ahve been getting older. But these attacks still scare me. I never know they are happening, I only know that they have happened when I have to unclench my fists, straighten my body, and piece together the missing time since my last clear memory - usually of shivering shame.
She lived a complimentary life that was always received as poilte and courteous, but she never understood these positive, although outdated, reviews. It was just easier for her to mimic the ations, and opinions of those around her. All complications between people were removed once she started reflecting the parts of people that they held out in moral righteousness. It was her joke on the absurd world, and most days she struggled to hold back laughter. It was her way of bundling all the bad things of a world together, and offering to carry them for her frail old neighbour.
I looked at myself in the mirror for a long time. At first everything was recognisable, and familiar.My hair was different (I shaved it all off for the firsttime in my life a couple of days before) but everything else was the same. But as each second ticked away so to did my recognition of myself. First to go were my eyes, then my shoulders, then my chest - rising and falling slowly - finally I smiled. It wasn't my smile. There was a subtle malice that passed from my lips to my eyes. I never thought I was so evil.
There was no note when she left, but she had never been on to express herself openly. She perfered to wait for me to catch up with her thoughts unassisted, which left me as the one saying the stupid things in tthe heat of the argument. She did once say that when she told me what was wrong she hated herself and thought that she was nagging me.
I spent the next two days looking around the appartment for any clue she might have left, but only found the atmosphere loosing its womanly touch. Everything between the walls became harder.
I think I should stop this now
that is what I say everyday to myself
and that is exactly what I was always told
As a child I didn't have time to make memories
There was never enough time
even during the summer salstice the sun
still eventually set
I think to much about nothing, facilitated
by my meandering whims unguided
through more, or less, inspired fatalism
I was meant to be here
I was meant to do this
is the point of the continious breathing
just to stop the next word
coming out my mouth haphazardly
It was one of those mirages - a slightly altered state. Reality posing an halucination - brought on by exhaustion, dehydration, and three day of constant walking carrying supplies for other people who were thirstier, hungrier, and needed what they carried months ago. The company was the best that was available in the district. Night time fires were lit, and conversation was always jovial.
Their directions were exact: climb to the hill to tthe west of town look to the south and you will see the first marker in the distance. Look closley because the heat will make it shimmer and dance.
A trip to the theatre would fix everything. It was the one activity that they both enjoyed, and could discuss afterwards. He mainly talked about how the sets and lighting design rounded out the atmosphere, and how the operators were slow or fast on some cues, but mainly how he was drawn into the play by these static objects. She could be free of plot holes in the theatre. There was something about seeing an actor right there breathing, walking, struggling between themselves and their role, that allowed her to forgive the mistakes, the flaws, and listen to the story.
'Bloody hell mate! What are you doing?'
'You can clearly see what I am doing.'
'Yeah but that doesn't explain anything. I'm just more confused.'
'Well, well. Get over it. It has to be done, and I'm here doing it.'
'Yeah, well, someone else can finish it. I need your help, now.'
'Got to wait, mate.'
'Can't. Come on. This is urgent.'
'So is this.'
'Not as urgent as what I need you for.'
'Not to me it isn't.'
'Don't start with that relative crap again. You know I don't mess you around.'
'Yes you do, constantly.'
'No, I don't.'
Up and at it like a tired army roused before daybreak. Today was the last march. Over those low hills wait the enemy at the boundary of their territory. Tonight we will smell the fat of their game singeing on the coals of their fires. The wind is favourable to us, but their ears are aleart to the thump of our step, the halt of our snoring, and the yawns of tomorrow's preparation. They are waiting. The soil has rounded to the contour of their seat, and grown with their weight. We will be limbre, strong. We will be ready.
"I don't know what to do about these dogs."
"there is nothing to do. they are dogs. Walk them, feed them, pat them. Make sure that their tails arealways wagging."
"But their tails already awg all the time. they have no food. They ahven't been for a walk, but their tails wag, and they look at me."
"they look at you?"
"Yes like they want something else. Something more. they are never satisfied, but they are always happy."
"Throw them a stick."
"I did that once, and they cowered."
"really. Then don't hit them so much."
"They've never been hit."
The feathers were still falling to the floor when I got home, but all other evidence of the bird was missing, so was the cat. It was like I just missed mardi gras. The beating of the drums softened to the level of distant flapping wings, echoing out of sync and hiding all trace of organised rhythm. There was only a panicked beat of my heart, unfamiliar to me. I was already angry and fustrated with myslef and was looking for any excuse to vent in another direction. I'd beaten myself to insensitivity and wanted to see something in pain.
Why? Because they needed help, that's why. No other explanation was necessary then. I didn't think about the consequences of my actions. They needed help, and I short circuited rational judgement and acted on impulse. The problem was fixed quickly - they'd done most of the work before I intervened - and they were on their way again. They didn't have to say thank you. And later I was happy that they didn't, but I miss them now. I miss working with them soundlessly, efficiently. We ceased being individuals, and united as a working mechanism to drive them away from me forever.
The driver said something unintelligible. He like all the other people who live around here stopped trying to be understood by outsiders a long time ago, and talked in a dialect that even people in the next town struggled to comprehend. They talk to me with hand gestures, smiles, and movements of their head, but mainly smiles. I walk to the shop every two or three days smiling from the time I leave the front gate to when I return, even when I want to cry and scream and am only leaving the house because I am affraid of solitude.
The wood was useless - scrap from the yard, charged to the account as premium hardwood. The delivery drivers didn't have time to talk they ahd more deliveries to attend to, any questions could be phonned through to head office, they were just a subcontracted company, the quality of the wood had nothing to do with them. Neither, it seemed, did the qulity of the wood have anything to do with the person who answered the phone, her responsability was accounts, and even though a poor quality wood was sent at a high quality price she could do nothing to help.
With my limited capacity let me describe the situation to you. It was a day like today, like yesterday, but easily distinguished from sometime next week, or last week, and a month either side has no resemblance. You smiled for the first time, and I smiled with you. It was something stupid I'd said. But this time you didn't anger, or walk out, you smiled, and studdied the candle's flame. Your dress was new, my suit was too, but looked tatty. The waiter flirted for tips, knowing that you would get the bill, and I would be going home alone.
'Well I did it.'
'Good on ya.'
'So, what now?'
'Don't you want to know how it went?'
'Not from you. I'll read about it in the papers.'
'What papers will write about it?'
'Some journalist has to still be working out there, scoping for the next beaking development, the next thing that will define a new epoch.'
'I'm sure they are, but they'r'nt gonna find it around me or you.'
'True. So, what's next?'
'Don't know. I kind of hoped as I reached completion that I would never finish. I knew this would happen.'
'What would happen?'
The water in town is undrinkable according to the people who live there. It isn't really. This is just a myth that they have spread so that they can easily distinguish locals, and visitors. You'ld think that there was an easier way - like simple observation of faces, trafic, accents - but all the easier ways were impossible; the locals, hideously disfigured, in both looks and speech, had stopped observing the world so that they could surround themselves with beauty again. They had trained their eyes, ears, and noses to alter what was actually there to conform with their beautiful internal pantomime.
It wouldn't be right to leave without saying something about the end. But I am in a difficult position because saying too much could dramatise our insignificant time.
Imagine peace. We are at peace with ourselves, now that we know it is over, and we are the last, and aging visably. We spend most of our time debating who will die last, who will be the best example of us, and should stay alive the longest, just incase salvation arrives while there is still human breath carbon dioxidising the atmosphere. But these discussions usually laughingly end imagining the last suicide.
How odd linda thought. The guests had been steadily making obvious signals to each other, closley followed by goodbyes, thanks yous, and see you agains. Maybe, she thought, it was something to do with the food, but their plates had all been emptied, and none of the guests were known to suffer bad food for the sake of politeness, and besides, they were all such close friends that they would have spoken up, and laughed about unusually bad food.
'I just don't know, Corey. There is something wrong with them tonight'
Corey didn't stir. He lay dead in his coffin.
'Do you know what they are playing?'
'Who knows. I bet most of them don't even know. They're kids. They just play.'
'No they are playing together. Look. There is organisation to them. They aren't just running around chaoticaly.'
'Yes, that one is in charge. That one wants to be in charge. That one is just running around chaotically. That one is thinking aobut heading into the woods to look at frogs...'
'Of course there are different personalties. They are growing humans testing themselves amogst their peers, but ingeiously, playfully.'
'They're a roit waiting for mommy's dinner call.'
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. That might be true for most people, but he must have had some curtains fitted. I don't think he ever blinked, his eyes looked constantly glazed. It was like there was nothing there. Most of the time his eyes were blank and did nothing more than reflect light. Once I saw something there. I think his eyes were brown at the time. It was a carefull movement like someone parting curtains a crack to see what all the noise was about outside. Then the curtains closed again, for good.
He talked in hints and whispers about people from his past, as if saying what he thought confidently would raise them from memory, or the grave, to float around the kitchen yelling defenseive arguments, for which he had neither energy, nor evidence, to repel. I knew none of the people by name, but knew their traits, and the little pieces of themselves that they left behind mapped out their last day in his house. At night, after he went to bed, I started drawing my own departure map being careful not to allign too close with any of their routes.
~ The guard speaks plainly - you can not come in, now - but when is not a quetion that he answers.
~ It is better to go and wait in a coffee shop, where it's warm. No one worries if they see you in a coffeeshop, and they have today's paper.
~ The queue is long but moves faster than the usual/different coffee debate. Usual wins, as always, but they don't knnow that here, on this side of town.
~ Money is no longer a weighty problem, it is counting problem for the girl behind the register.
~ What time does the sun set today?
'Is that all?'
'You're sure? This is the last opportunity for a while. After this, once we get going again, there will be no stopping.'
'That is what you said half an hour ago when we stopped last.'
'But this time it is really the last time. I forgot some important things last time.'
'Don't you have a list? You need a list.'
'I wrote one, but left it at home.'
'Well, why didn't you stop and get it before we had come so far?'
'I know everything on there.'
'Are you just making it up as you go?'
I think that the frost has settled in for winter. For two weeks now it has covered the ranches of the trees, and slowly hardened and grown. Today, while walking the dogs, I saw a branch(?) as thin as a vein. It looked glossy, and wet, but it was like steel when I tried to bend it. The frost didn't crack, it flexed slightly, and had penetrated the bark and forced itself inbetween the fibers of the wood. This winter is goinng to be brittle. The localscan put away their chainsaws, and knock down trees by fracturig blows from hammmers.
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