Tales From The Town #38: The Frozen Sea

Above The Frozen Sea

The sea was frozen from the shore to somewhere beyond the horizon, as far out as anyone dared to tread. The whole town came out to see. It was like a dream. In years to come no one would be believed when they spoke of it.

Some walked timidly on the ice, some ran, slid, spun, others still skated up and down, around and around, pirouettes and arabesques, smiles to the crowd, kisses, applause.

Behind a wave of ice, out beyond the headland, in a world entirely of their own, Oya and Anna slid into each others arms. Nothing could keep them apart.

The Frozen Sea Itself

Not flat like a frozen lake, but undulating, like the gently rolling curves of some furrowed hillside. The ice groans and creaks, moans and sighs. But it does not move.

The philosophers amongst us wonder, Is a wave still a wave when it’s been frozen in place?

Below The Frozen Sea

For a mermaid there is no loneliness like days spent swimming beneath frozen seas. The footsteps above sound like explosions from some distant war, the scrape of skates against ice like tortured screams.

The sea itself seems smaller, darker, the sky now a roof, the sun as dull as the moon, her home reduced from its limitless splendour to this dismal claustrophobic cave.

The mermaid sings and sings, weeps and wails, but no one can hear. On days like today, not even the gulls return her calls.

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Notes:

1. Written between May 14th and May 25th, 2021

And They Were Not My Words

And They Were Not My Words is a small collection/zine of cut up fiction experiments, in which I’ve tried creating new works from old pieces by Jorge Luis Borges, William Burroughs, the Brothers Grimm, Daniil Kharms, and Haruki Murakami.

Download (contains both PDF and EPUB versions): And they were not my words (.zip)

The collection also contains fully annotated versions, so you can check on my work if you want to see if, when and where I cheated.

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Notes:

1. The Borges cut-up pieces were made in December 2021
2. The Burroughs cut up pieces were created in August and September 2019
3. The Brothers Grimm pieces were made in February and March 2020
4. The Daniil Kharms pieces were made in December 2020
5. The Haruki Murakami pieces were made in December 2021
6. And the copyrights were not my own, etc etc

What Haruki Murakami Talks About When He Talks About Women

1.

I’d like to tell a story about a woman. 

She was a small, slim girl. More cute than beautiful. The kind of face that, if you saw her on the street, you’d forget as soon as you passed by. A wide forehead, beautiful straight hair, her ears on the large side for her build. A small nose, out of balance with the size of her mouth. 

She was wearing a sleeveless white dress and her hair had a citrusy shampoo scent. Her accessories and makeup, too, were low-key yet refined. Plus, she wore thick glasses.

She practiced yoga every other day at a gym and had a flat, toned stomach. One afternoon I kissed her small yet full lips and touched her breasts through her bra. Her breasts weren’t particularly big, or particularly small. When she smiled, two charming little lines formed beside her lips.

She reached out and gently took my hard penis in her hand. Her vagina was wet, and moved smoothly, naturally, like some living being. She was on the pill, so I could come freely inside her. She had four orgasms in total, every single one genuine, if you can believe it. 

While we had sex we hardly said a word. When she looked at me, it was as though she was ignoring the outside (granted it wasn’t much to look at anyway) and could see right through me, down to the depths of my being.

I think what makes me feel sad about the girls I knew growing old is that it forces me to admit, all over again, that my youthful dreams are gone forever.

[Taken from the following works by Haruki Murakami: the short stories On A Stone Pillow and With The Beatles; and the novels Killing Commendatore and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage]

2.

This first girlfriend of mine was petite and charming. 

There was nothing special about her face. Her features were not unattractive, but her face lacked focus, so that the impression she left was somehow blurry. She had really strong, healthy-looking teeth. Her large, protruding ears were like satellite dishes placed in some remote landscape.  Dressed or undress, she looked five years younger than she was, with pure white skin and beautifully rounded, modestly sized breasts. 

That day she wore a white T-shirt, faded jeans, and pink sneakers. Her black hair tossed about, supple as a willow branch in a strong wind. It was hard to believe that this girl – small, bony, with a not-so-great complexion – was the same girl who, the night before, had screamed out passionately in my arms, in the winter moonlight.

[Taken from the following works by Haruki Murakami: the short stories With The Beatles, Scheherazade, On A Stone Pillow and Drive My Car; and the novels Killing Commendatore and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage]

3.

The waitress had mammoth breasts, the buttons on her uniform ready to burst. She was a housewife from a provincial city well on the road to middle age and running to flab (in fact it looked as if every nook and cranny had been filled with putty), with jowls and lines webbing the corners of her eyes. The rolls of fat started just below her ears and sloped gently down to her shoulders. No matter how you looked at her she was hardly a beauty, and there was something off-putting about her face, as Oba had suggested.

She was watching me and waved. Her long hair was a silky lustrous black. She had on a white blouse with a round collar and a navy-blur cardigan. It always surprised me, the variety of clothes mature women wore. 

Her legs were beautiful, and her stockings matched her black high-heeled shoes. She had on very simple white panties. But, when she took them off, the crotch was damp. It was so beautiful I had to look away.

[Taken from the following works by Haruki Murakami: the short stories Scheherazade, Hunting Knife, Drive My Car, Where I’m Likely To Find It, and Yesterday; and the novels Killing Commendatore and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage]

4.

The first woman I slept with was in her late twenties. She wasn’t exactly a standout in terms of looks. 

My guess was she had recently had plastic surgery. Stuck up, flat-chested, with a funny-looking nose and a none-too-wonderful personality. A detailed examination of her face from the front revealed that the size and shape of her ears were significantly different, the left one much bigger and malformed. Her eyes were big for the size of her face (with large pupils, which made her resemble a fairy). Ten years earlier, she might well have been a lively and attractive young woman, perhaps even turned a few heads.

The mere sight of her sent a violent shudder through me. Which, in turn, conjured up vague memories of oral sex. I may have felt that way because I really did have shame and guilt in my heart.

[Taken from the following works by Haruki Murakami: the short stories Where I’m Likely To Find It, Yesterday, Scheherazade and With The Beatles; and the novels Killing Commendatore and 1Q84]

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Notes:

1. These were put together on December 15th, 2021
2. From various works by Haruki Murakami (as noted beneath each vignette)
3. For other similar cut up experiments to these, please see In The Terminals OF Minraud (a William Burroughs cut up trilogy), The New Brothers Grimm, Five Tributes To The Works Of Daniil Kharms, and Five Entries Recovered From Jorge Luis Borges’ Imaginary Book Of Beings.
4. Every sentence here is taken verbatim from the original source, the only changes being a few changes from third person to first person, or vice versa.
5. No two consecutive sentences from the same piece are used
6. Although occasionally two non-consecutive sentences from the same piece are used

Five Entries Recovered From Jorge Luis Borges’ Imaginary Book Of Beings

The World

Plato thought the World to be a living being and in the Laws stated that the planets and stars were living as well. Others have it that the earth has its foundation on the water; the water, on the crag, the crag on the bull’s forehead; the bull, on a bed of sand; the sand on the World; the World, on a stifling wind; the stifling wind on a mist. Leonardo da Vinci had it that the World fed on fire and in this way renewed its skin. In another version of the myth, the World, burning red-hot, would put its arms around a man and kill him.

What lies under the mist is unknown.

[Assembled from the following Imaginary Beings: Animals In The Form Of Spheres; Bahamut; The Salamander; Talos]

Heaven

Down the ages, Heaven (also known as Hell) grows increasingly ugly and horrendous until today it is forgotten.

Four centuries before the Christian era, Heaven was a magnification of the elephant or of the hippopotamus, or a mistaken and alarmist version of these animals. In India Heaven is a domestic animal. During the Renaissance, the idea of Heaven as an animal reappeared in Lucilio Vanini. In sixteenth-century South America, the name was given by the Spanish Conquistadors to a mysterious animal – mysterious because nobody ever saw it well enough to know whether it was a bird or a mammal, whether it had feathers or fur. In the story ‘William Wilson’ by Poe, Heaven is the hero’s conscience.

Heaven, in Greek, means ‘that which looks downward’. ‘A vain or foolish fancy’ is the definition of Heaven that we now find in dictionaries.

[Assembled from the following Imaginary Beings: The Basilisk; Behemoth; The Elephant That Foretold The Birth Of Buddha; Animals In The Form Of Spheres; The Carbuncle; The Double; The Catoblepas; The Chimera]

The Mirror

We do not know what the Mirror looks like. So immense and dazzling is it that the eyes of man cannot bear its sight. 

Sir Thomas Browne gives this description of it in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646):

“The Mirror has the ability to assume many shapes, but these are inscrutable. Often for months on end it is not to be seen; then it has presumably moved into other houses; but it always comes faithfully back to our house again. Its beauty delights the other animals, which would all flock to it were it not for the Mirror’s terrible stare.”

Both Brahmanism and Buddhism offer hells full of Mirrors, which, like Dante’s Cerberus, are torturers of souls. This same story is told in the Arabian Nights, in St. Brendan’s legend, and in Milton’s Paradise Lost, which shows us the Mirror ‘slumbering on the Norway foam’.

In those days the world of mirrors and the world of men were not, as they are now, cut off from each other. Chuang Tzu tells us of a determined man who at the end of three thankless years mastered the art of slaying Mirrors, and for the rest of his days was not given a single chance to put his art into practice.

It is long now indeed since I dreamed that I saw the Mirror.

[Assembled from the following Imaginary Beings: The Unicorn Of China; Bahamut; The Barometz; The Eastern Dragon; The Odradek; The Panther; Cerberus; Fastitocalon; Fauna Of Mirrors; The Chinese Dragon; The Chinese Phoenix]

The Half

Suggested or stimulated by reflections in mirrors and in water and by twins, the idea of the Double is common to many countries. But among the monstrous creatures of the Temptation is the Half, which ‘has only one eye, one cheek, one hand, one leg, half a torso and half a heart’. It is also said that it can see with its whole body and that to the touch it is like the skin of a peach. Also that if it is chopped in half, its two parts will join again.

According to the Greeks and Romans, Halves lived in Africa. Pliny (VII, 3) says he saw a Half embalmed in honey that had been brought to Rome from Egypt in the reign of Claudius. This outdoes even the boldest, most imaginative piece of fiction. 

[Assembled from the following Imaginary Beings: The Double; The Nasnas; A Bao A Qu; The Amphisbaena; The Lamias; The Centaur; The Zaratan]

Women

Paracelsus limited their dominion to water, but the ancients thought the world was full of Women. Little is known about what they looked like, except that they were tiny and sinister. Many authorities thought of them as witches; others as evil monsters. The Chinese paint them on their dishes in order to warn against self-indulgence.

Yet in the ballad of Athis, we read:

“Earthly things are but emblems of heavenly things. And we wonder at their song.”

[Assembled from the following Imaginary Beings: The Nymphs; The Elves; The Lamias; The T’ao T’iehThe Western Dragon; Swedenborg’s Angels; An Animal Imagined By CS Lewis]

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Notes:

1. I assembled these during December 2021
2. From The Book Of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges
3. For other similar cut up experiments to these, please see In The Terminals OF Minraud (a William Burroughs cut up trilogy), The New Brothers Grimm, and Five Tributes To The Works Of Daniil Kharms