Human Heads Replaced By Television Sets

They’re everywhere now. You see them more and more. Humans with their heads replaced by television sets. It was disconcerting once but now it’s not. You get used to anything eventually.

They’re always old cumbersome CRT TVs for some reason. I don’t know why. Perhaps to maintain the illusion that there might still be a human head in there. A costume, some post-modern joke. Rather than an invasion.

On the bus they talk to me. At least in public I can walk away, but not here. It is impossible to escape. Snippets of television news cut up into sentences. Messages of despair and hopelessness delivered via nice suits, tone-neutralised voices, neatly brushed hair, wry smiles.

I think they’re trying to wear us down until we give up.

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Notes:

1. Written on 23rd September, 2021
2. Mostly I wrote this because recently I was reading this book where the cover illustration has a man with a tv for a head on the cover.
3. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it but my nephew was slightly freaked out by it and kept saying how weird and scary it was.
4. While all I could think about was that I’m surprised there’s never been Doctor Who baddies who’re just people with television sets for heads.
5. Though there probably actually is anyway and I’ve just forgotten.

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I Was A Witch Once

I was a witch once. I used to help out in the summer, when the tourists were here, and the covens couldn’t cope with demand. I did luck spells mostly, lucky in love, lucky in spite, lucky in fruit machines, that sort of thing.

I don’t do it anymore. The covens have all closed down now. Everything’s online these days. Some old witch out there in her hut on the marsh can’t cope with some streamlined Russian wish farm or whatever. Now it’s all spells delivered by email spam, targeted facebook ads, unsolicited twitter DMs. No need anymore to slip something in someone’s tea. You can reach anyone.

It’s not the same, of course. But then again what is?

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Notes

1. Written on September 2nd, 2021
2. Although the title and half the first paragraph was written August 13th, 2021

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Recollections Of A Summer

The Path

We used to lay down paths behind us as we walked. There was no one to stop us from going where we pleased.

Instead of stones or breadcrumbs we would use the coins we found washed up on the beach by the old pier, spilling out of the rusted machines below the tideline.

We laid the coins down as went through the woods, as we stepped over fallen trees and crossed broken bridges, as we followed half-forgotten paths all overgrown with brambles, the paths we had walked together since we were little, the paths we would have walked forever if we could, if things had never changed between us. If we had never changed those things.

We walked all the way down to the hidden clearing and the cold, shadowed lake that you couldn’t see from anywhere until you came to it and it was there, and we would take off our clothes and step into the water and swim off from the edge, swim all the the way out to the centre.

And we waited there together for whoever might follow our way.

The Jetty

She always called it the pier. I said it was the remnants of an old dragon, its vertebrae fused together to form this truncated path to nowhere, out into the sea. The boat tied up at the end of the pier I imagined was its skull, or perhaps the lower half of its jaw.

I never could decide if it died on its front or its back.

Its wings had been lost to the sea, I said, a faint echo of them painted out in kelp at the line of the tide. The vast caverns of its heart lay hidden, buried deep beneath the beach.

My sister wasn’t listening. She climbed out onto the boat and beckoned me to follow. I watched her swaying there.

“Jump”, she said.

I didn’t want to.

“Come on, jump.”

I did.

The Hut

Rain clattered like stones on the metal roof and we were glad of the shelter.

My sister took some cards from her bag and for each picture she turned over one of us would tell a story, our voices raised slightly so we could be heard over the din. My stories were based on things we had seen and things we had done. What hers were based on I do not know.

As the sun began to set she put away the cards and took out a candle and lit it with the last of the matches, the only dry ones in the box.

I took the candle in my hands and held it as gently as if it was my own heart.

Outside, despite the rain, on the horizon we could see a single blood red star, and beside it a bloated yellow moon.

The Stairs

1… 2… 3… 4… 5…

She had seen it from the cliff top, the dead or dying whale, and wanted to see it up close.

6… 7… 8… 9… 10…

And so I followed down behind as she bounded down the narrow stairs cut into the rock.

11… 12… 13… 14… 15…

Tentatively. 

16…

Counting each step.

17…

One

18…

by

19…

one 

20…

I couldn’t bring myself to look ahead. The steps seemed to fall away vertically below me if I did, gravity welling up almost visible before me, drawing my body forward, forward, to topple and tumble and fall and die.

21… 22… 23… 24… 25…

And I couldn’t look over the side, down to the beach, although I did, I did. I didn’t mean to but I did, and each time its body down there in the sand loomed larger, nearer now, more bloated, deader somehow, deader than before and deader than ever, deader than everything.

26… 27… 28… 29… 30…

I couldn’t even look up at the grey skies in case I lost my footing and slipped.

31… 32… 33… 34… 35…

So I stared intently at my feet, at the tips of my shoes and my careful steps from step to step. Right foot down. Then the left foot next so both were side by side. Then count.

36…

Right foot. Left foot. Count

37…

Right foot. Left foot. 

38…

Right. Left.

39…

Right. Left.

40…

Careful never to hurry.

41…

Careful never to miss a count.

42…

Hoping the stairs would never end.

43…

That I would never reach the sand.

44…

Never have to look up.

45…

And see it.

46…

47…

48…

49…

The Stream

We sat facing each other from opposite banks. Socks balled up in our shoes and placed by our sides, our trousers rolled up to our knees, our feet plunged down into the cold and clear of it.

The water was deep from the rains, the stones we’d placed suggestively as steps in earlier days now almost completely submerged. The waters ran so strong around our ankles the dirt was scoured from our skin, and it billowed out downstream like clouds of blood from old unhealing wounds.

I smiled. She smiled. In the afternoon sun we had never felt so alive.

The Sky

She walked ahead of me across the fields, out under the starry sky. I could see her only as a shadow, a deeper darkness in the dark of night that disappeared when I looked straight at it, so to follow her I had to keep looking away, glimpse her form only out of the edges of my eyes.

I stumbled over something, or into something, tripped and fell, the fall more terrifying for not knowing what had caused it, for not seeing where I was about to land.

When I picked myself up and looked around I could not see her at all. I looked away in every direction, concentrated on every periphery, but saw only darkness, uniform, yet without form.

I called out to her.

I cried.

The world span so fast every star was a blur across the sky and you could feel the whole galaxy turning above you.

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Notes:

1. This was written in April 2021
2. To submit to a thing
3. It was rejected.
4. Also as it’s all taken from An Escape
5. It was really written between 2014 and 2017
6. Please don’t hate me
7. Recycling my past is all I have

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The Dinosaurs

A big dinosaur and a little dinosaur were walking through the swamp together.

“God, you’re so small,” the big dinosaur said to the little dinosaur. “So small and tiny and pathetic.”

Although he only said that last part to himself rather than out loud. You never say those bits out loud.

“And you’re so big,” the little dinosaur said to the big dinosaur. “So big and huge and amazing!”

The little dinosaur was so excited he even said that last part out loud. He couldn’t help himself. Everyone knew it was true. Big dinosaurs were brilliant. All the stories said so. Big dinosaurs went on exciting adventures and had all this amazing fun together and all their friends were beautiful and they lived in the biggest caves and everything. It was so cool.

The only stories anyone ever told about little dinosaurs were ones where everyone was miserable and dying and ugly and dead. Who’d ever want to listen to those?

“I wish I was as big as you,” the little dinosaur said. “I wish I was bigger than everyone!”

“Well, you just need to put the work in,” said the big dinosaur, magnanimously. “That’s what I did. I didn’t get this big by lazing around all day doing nothing! I did it by working my bloody arse off!”

“I work hard,” said the little dinosaur. “I catch and eat a fish every single week!”

“That’s not work,” snorted the big dinosaur. “I eat a thousand pounds of swamp grass every single day! That’s the sort of work you need to put in if you want to move up in the world. No fucking lazing around in the sun for weeks at a time. ‘Oooh, oooh, look at me, I’m metabolising my food!’ Pathetic. You don’t see us big dinosaurs napping on the job. No, we fucking digest our food while we eat it. We don’t even stop eating while we talk. I’m eating right now! See! See!”

The big dinosaur bent down and took another big mouthful of swamp grass, spitting great lumps of it in the little dinosaurs face as he fantasised about shouting at the stupid pathetic lazy workshy little arsehole. Fucking little bastard! As if you could ever be as big as me! Bigger! What a fucking cheek!

The little dinosaur ran away and cried a bit probably and then resolved to improve itself in the face of adversity, because that’s what little dinosaurs always do in the stories. So much bloody crying. And resolving. Always resolving. Resolving to do this and that and the other and whatever. Fuck them. Little shits.

Anyway the next day the big dinosaur came back and found the little dinosaur was already in the swamp. The little dinosaur was lying on its side and its stomach had burst open and blood and swamp grass and even a little bit of undigested fish leaked out of it all over the marsh.

“Hah!” the big dinosaur laughed down at the little dinosaur. “Less than day of hard work and you’re already sleeping on the job. Typical!”

Later on a group of medium dinosaurs appeared and fought with each other over who would get to eat the little dinosaur but no one was watching by then because honestly what would be the fucking point.

___________

Notes:

1. Written on March 7th, 2021
2. While still in bed
3. Before getting up
4. I did not feel well
5. Please forgive me

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Building

My father was building things in the garden again. It’d been a while. Once he started he would not stop, no matter what. Not until it was finished. Not until he’d made you look, made you comment, made you evaluate its worth.

Whatever it was. Whatever it turned out to be.

That was the problem, really. You never quite knew what was coming. You never quite knew what you were in for.

Sometimes they were things of quiet beauty, wistful sculptures, delicate carvings, a phrase etched in chalk, as fleeting as thought. Abstract structures as moving as anything Henry Moore ever carved out of dead stone.

Other times they were impracticalities, intrusions, wastes of materials and resources, space, time. Not just his time but ours as well, as we were forced in vain to try and conjure up some validation of his over engineered creations, his cumbersome designs, his broken visions. If you can’t even tell whether it’s a bench or a cage or a new gazebo you’re evaluating, it’s pretty difficult to form an opinion as to his success.

But then there were the nightmares. The horrors only he could conjure. Once he spent six months building a hole. A hole in nothing. Just a hole. Floating there. Inert. Unbounded.

Another time, My mother lost her mind one summer, trying to visualise some casual violation of geometry he’d forced into being. Now she rejects every dimension beyond the three.

And I myself spent six years lost in the fractalising inner spaces of a shed he’d misconceived. Six years! No one even noticed I was gone. I only survived because the roof lekaed incessantly, and the snails proliferated down there in the damp and the mould.

So now I try not to look out of the windows of my room. Try not to listen too closely to the sounds of his tools. Try to escape the looming presence of his coming words.

But this year there’s no escape. There’s nowhere else for me to go. Except to make my way out into the garden, and into his domain. To stand there by his side, and answer that question.

“So, what do you think?”

I can already feel the tears rolling down my cheeks as I try to think of something to say. Already feel that anxiety building in my long since emptied heart as he ushers me through the door, and into his new dream.

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Notes:

1. Written in December 2020

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