Monday, 21 October 2013

Somebody To Shove (chapter from The Truth About Pubs in York) (2006)

Many years ago, I was working with a partner on a book called The Truth About Pubs in York, which ended up not working out. But I recently found my chapters from the project, and I still love the theme and the chapters, and I want to share them. It's always been there, in the back of my mind, to finish the project because there were so many things in it that works for me.
Also, reading this, you may find some familiar names. The idea was to kind of play with roles and fantasy and take an honest approach to oneself as one is as well as an approach to one's own fantasy, perhaps stepping into a self-indulgent area. I'm not naming my partner here, but if there is a wish for name changes, I am happy to do some re-editing.

My hand trembles. There is a pain in my ankle, but I cannot recall the reason for it. Marion is low, depressed and it means that I am too sad and in despair. The weeping warrior is with us, searching for the lost Amy, who apparently has vanished from the world. So much for helping those two. Where the hell would that girl go, if she is so in danger? The girl I never laid.
There is a song back home, which entwines with my thoughts. I always hear it sung by children, for some odd reason. They sing of the prosperous future that awaits us all, but they sing from the human view, which is perhaps not so joyous.
‘You will never be yourself again.’
I don’t know why I mention it, it is hardly important. I only know that stalking the slick streets at night searching for Amy is eating at my conscious. We find the drunks and homeless camouflaged with the shadows, like the monster in the ending of the film ‘Alien’. The city, it sleeps.
My breath filters air into smoke, and I think about the humans, whom I hate so much adrenaline pumps in every limb, and I feel sorry for what they are and for what they are to become. I’m sure this is mirrored from Marion’s mind. These thoughts cannot be rooted in my own.
We saw Amy’s flat empty, and the streets are so equally vast and heart drenching. I gave that bitch Malin a good telling-off for losing trace of her. It was an argument which gave that sensation of victory even in loss, though without settlement on who’s to blame I came out glowing.
She’s wearing heels, hooker heels, spiky, evil and dangerous. Her feet are small and delicate, perfected with slender toes and withering nail varnish. I guess it feels like my soul, that black varnish, first applied so carefully with layer upon layer and then simply left; to break and chip and die.
-We can hardly move quietly with you along, weeping warrior.
-Believe me, with those humps under your cloaks we are more invisible with my shoes. People only look at me. And I am used to dirty looks.
Marion shifts uncomfortably. We turn toward Micklegate and I wonder to myself how Malin is supposed to climb down the hill in those shoes. And true enough she struggles, but remains poised and dignified. It only confirms her true age. I can see her as a magnificent man, working in fields oozing smoke. It makes me think of that Finnish painting by Eero Järnefelt, only judging from her clothing it must have taken place long before Järnefelt touched a paint brush. I can see her in Victorian dressing, on a ship in storm, clutching to the rail. Water spraying across her clothes (and I picture her stiff nipples shining through the white fabric), poisonous dagger by her side. Is this how Marion remembers her? I must take an opportunity to ask.
I reckon that the warrior is not as useless as I presumed. She knew healing methods for my jaw and nose. They’re now corrected if still so swollen and tender.
And then as if she had heard my thoughts she asks:
-Why did you provoke Digger like that? Is it a masculinity thing?
I shrug.
-I don’t like the man.
-You impregnated his wife?
-She has a thing for me. It was no challenge to lay her and even less in charming her.
-But why?
Why the fuck am I talking to the warrior?
-Because I could.
-You do realize you hurt him. That betrayal will always be with him.
-The betrayals, Marion adds. Malin looks at me, but there is very little in her eyes. My misery instantly grows. I can’t see why it should, but it does. Nothing bothers me, I am an honoured assassin, and forever connected with my companion. There is not a much higher rank to achieve.
-I don’t know how many times I fucked the bitch, okay! It doesn’t matter. Digger is a prick, he deserves a little bit of betrayal every now and again. Wouldn’t want the boy to get soft!
I laugh, and a woman in front of us startles. She stares back with glassy eyes. Her stripy shirt is a little torn, and I expect she paid a lot of money for that detail. She quickly ushers away, the mini skirt gliding up her wobbly thighs. I feel an instant hatred toward the human race again.
-Poor man, Malin says. She stops in the street and inhales.
-There is someone by The Cock and Bottle. Her breath steams, obscuring her face.
-It is probably Digger. We don’t want to meet him, Marion says. Malin shuts her eyes. She looks peculiar in the street light. I can suddenly see all of her freckles. That Scandinavian kitten knows the wind. I bet she knows the humidity. Water seems important to her. The elves of Russia were strange in their time. Perhaps it is a kind of culture shock.
-It is not Digger.

A girl sits in front of the door to The Cock and Bottle. She rocks back and forth, comforting herself. There is vomit next to her. Her hair is an exquisite red, her leather jacket smells of cigars and weed. She’s missing a shoe, and I find that she has carved ‘Dimmu’ in the flesh of her leg. The wound is fairly fresh. Marion kneels down to her.
-She’s only fourteen. Wonder what she’s doing out this late, the poor reject?
I join him. Malin keeps a distance. I lift the girl’s head gently by the jaw. Her eyes are tightly closed shut.
-What’s wrong with you?
She’s keeps quiet. But I demand an answer. I slap her across the cheek, so hard that she falls over. I rip her up and shake her, and she bends awkwardly and spews bile by her side. She’s shaking now.
-What do you want, she mumbles, drying her lips with her sleeve. Though she is tired and fantastically wasted, she’s enraged. I don’t sense a fear of any kind.
-I know who you are. You fucking demons!
Marion chuckles.
-The popular misconception.
-My brother’s gonna kill you! He’s seen you, and he knows how to destroy you! I’m not scared of you.
-That’s another usual misconception. You should be scared.
I’m not sure what to think. Plastering her blubbering words together equals the assumption that she might actually be involved in this mess. But then again she might be bluffing.
-Who’s your brother then?
-The Green Warlock!
Now both Marion and I start laughing. We mock her, she responds by scowling and insisting that her brother’s powerful.
-She’s quite genuine, if somewhat exaggerating, Malin says, appearing from the dark, her arms crossed over her chest. Her sluttish dress (short and black) slips up an inch as she does, but her thighs are far from wobbly. The girl freaks out. I mean, she’s screaming and crawling away, chattering nonsense.
-My God, it’s you! It can’t be, it can’t fucking be, I want off this trip now, take me to ’ospital! For fuck’s sake, help me God, help me! She screams, whimpering in our grip. We look at the warrior.
-Shush, Serena, Malin says. She settles as if Malin’s voice was a tranquilizer. I can’t stop thinking if the warrior’s actually suggesting that we should worry over a green warlock. Now that’s ridiculous.
It’s her turn to kneel in front of the girl. She takes her face between her palms.
-I’m real. I’m here, and you’re no longer lost. Now tell me, what has your brother done?
-He calls himself ‘The Green Warlock’. He brought the moon to wake the old ghosts.
Her voice is thin but clear. She sounds like a machine.
-The moon does not bend for a man. Malin’s voice is steady.
-That’s what he said he did. I don’t know how, but he has set ghosts over the city. He says the demons are to take over the world and he won’t allow it.
-Oh, so he sets out ghouls to save the world, I state. Not a very smart move.
Serena looks at me, her eyes empty and I fall into despair again. Why are people looking at me as if I don’t exist? I look at my trembling hand again, to confirm it’s still there.
-Ghouls? The child asks weakly.
-Ghosts, sweetheart.
-Marda, silence from you.
I glare at Malin, but I can see that she has a point. And for some reason at that moment I love her intensely, dubious of my previous feelings. But the feeling vanishes as quickly as it appeared. I think I’m fucked in the head. It’s throbbing now.
-Serena, she says. You know me, and I know you. You’re brother is lost in his doings, it will end him.
-If he dies, I die with him.
-I know you will. Now you will be my eyes and ears, you will betray your brother.
-I will not.
-You will.
Her voice is fading into sleep, not knowing what she’s saying.
-So what news do you have for me?
-The barmaid Amy sleeps in her flat.
Marion startles. I too am shocked that the girl knows of this quest.
-But how can she, we were there earlier? Marion asks.
-She sleeps protected, using a veil to keep you from seeing her.
-How do we break this veil?
Serena starts laughing, a hollow sound.
-You knock and draw it aside!
-I know how to do it, Malin claims. I summon power from the mist. I should have figured this out on my own. Now sleep, Serenity. I will return to your mind. I will be your parasite.
Serena falls back, and she snores. Marion and I stare at Malin, demanding answers. What of the warlock, is he dangerous? What of the veil? And how the hell did she know this teenage wreck?
But all I can say is:
-How come she knew you?
Malin blushes, turns away ashamed.
-I have messed around in her head and dreams. I’ve spent time with her, I’ve fucked her, I’ve talked with her. Silly kid. Don’t know her own good.
I grab Malin’s arm. I’m angry because I realize that she has been manipulating me too, and who knows what comes from manipulation? Am I her zombie? But I simply ask:
-Do you mean that this warlock character comes because of you?
-No! she says, ripping herself lose. It must have been through him that I have been able to connect with her!
-What do you know of this magician? Marion asks, calmly.
-Not much. He is one of the few resurrected witch-men, but does not know how to handle the power, nor where it comes from. He must have had visions. I wonder which witch has been resurrected in him?
-What do you mean? Marion ties his hair back. His face is beaded with perspiration, steaming in the cold.
-It is an unfamiliar magic, not northern, that much I know. In fact I know very little of it, but I intend to find out. I doubt there will be much worry from him, or anyone else. They are mortals, and mortals are… limited.
I smile at her remark. The warrior’s cool, I must admit I’m taken by her cruelty and wisdom.

Amy’s lodgings.
It is all very strange. Amy’s flat smells of fire and fresh incense but there’s no one there. Malin seems determined outside her bedroom door, shuts it (as we examined the room one more time) and stretches her arms out. She lets out a low tune, a note which grows and suddenly turns into a murmur. We’re quite vexed, not knowing what to think of it all. She starts banging on the door, in rhythm, harder, harder, until I begin to suspect the wood will break. Then, by an unknown force, the door swings open, slamming into the wall. Smoke pours out like lava.
-How could you do that? Marion asks, and it feels as if our eyes are about to fall out of our skulls.
Malin smiles. She calls Amy’s name, and there’s a shape stirring on the bed.
-I sleep behind veils too. No physical form can erupt there. You’re quite safe behind the veil, like a bride on the wedding day. Once removed the power fades, and you’re on your own.
She calls for Amy again.
-Anyone can hide behind the veil. Even an angel.
Marion and I take a step back as Amy rises, naked, from her bed. But it isn’t her nudity that perplexes us. It is her wings.

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