Category: Uncategorized

The Defeat of Night

nightIt all started like so many nights: Buying a ticket from a tout outside the tramshed at the top end of Mombassastrasse, realising that he’d sold me a kid’s four zone pass, catching up with the fucker as he fast-walked up the street, and extracting a two zone hopper from him instead. The hopper would be fine for my purposes, all that I really needed was to get into the network and then the inspectors of the stress-blinded graveyard shift wouldn’t notice if I was waving a beermat in their faces.

I caught a green and red liveried Liverman’s Harrisbus to the far eastern run of the Mombassastrasse and then hopped across the tracks to catch one of those old open-backed double-deckers for the Grands Boulevards. The chocolate-brown brick of the west turned to a red-speckled green and there the lights on the Broadway caught in the fountains and water sculptures of the Centro Plaza and refracted in the top deck windows of the autobus. The seats began to fill out with large wedding-cake ladies and dark-suited naratchiks splashed with eau-de-cologne. I jumped off at the Circus just before we hit Chinatown and took the back roads from Pomp-a-l’aix to the Windmill. My destination: The Trattoria Espagnol.

The bar behind the Trattoria was filled with bohemians from Petit Fours, a TV production team celebrating the end of a long running Welsh Gangster Soap and the rugby team from the Polyversity on the hill. I brushed through the throng in the darkened space past the coloured lights of the bar and found the old gang from the Wassgotterspeck viaduct. Tim and Manda and Ilya and Rooge were there, pissed or inhaling vapours. An acrid whiff of amol nitrate over the table. The two Mikes were fighting out old territorial ground as their spouses and ex-spouses discussed the price of eggs. But most of all the twins Rose and Tanzy were here. It was their birthday.

I could spend another two thousand words describing the carnage that night: The tears and recriminations; old stories revived like so many stagnant corpses. We drank toasts and we jostled the rugger lads and the bohos. Fights were narrowly avoided by Tanzy’s delicate diplomacy and we moved from bar to bar along the Windmill up to Sigmundbahn. What they call “walking the line” in the Malabar district. Somewhere we lost Rooge in a vapour-haze and picked up a pair of wedding-cake ladies in Jenny Ondioline’s. Rose and I fought, argued, spurned one another’s attention and played the double-act against beautiful outsiders. Nudging and scowling our way to the Grands Boulevards in an opium fug.

Rose was two years older than me. She could play professional to my degenerate, slattern to my puritan, and vice-versa. In other circumstances we were strangely uncomfortable with one another. Sometimes I’d wonder if there was any reason we knew each other at all. As if we only existed as a dynamic, not as a combined essence. Sympathy was almost more than I could take and my flippant barbs seemed capable of upsetting the fragile nervous structure that held back what could have been a real acrimony.

And I don’t know what happened that made me hide from her in the maze of compartments at Papa Gelato’s. She had picked up a sensitive poetic rugger lad at the Limpo-Po Swamp Cafe who I had liked very much. The three of us saw off a good deal of red wine and most of his Black Russian fags. Two or three of the Mike’s spouses were dancing in the parquet floorspace in the centre of Gelato’s while a gypsy troupe from Meopham played a lively two step. I was playing a hand of inscrutable masks, stopping at a number of tables to blag cigarettes and offering to find the bar. No mean feat in the labyrinth of Papa Gelato’s. With the accumulated dollars from a half hour of scrounging I felt a breeze coming from the next corner and took myself out into the street.

It was cold out there. The night had settled on the broadband autostrada that curved over the Northway. Hearing a familiar voice calling my name from behind I made haste, out into the street, pulling my hat over my eyes and feeling the mask deepen around me. The pong of a dozen kebabish fought the gas and ammonia of the buzzing road. The yellowish rectangles of a double-decker travelling in the Malabar direction loomed into the street and I hailed it as near the bus stand as I could reach. I hopped off near the southern end of the Windmill and ran after a night bus, really not much more than a converted transit, as far as the old supermarket on the Broadway.

After I’d spent an hour looking at my lengthening face is the shop windows of all-night stationary suppliers, I caught two or three night buses back and forwards along Mombassastrasse. Avoiding the end near the tramshed and curving my course closer to the Paperwhite parc to avoid the lights and water at the Plaza, I felt my melancholy lift. It was an honour and a privilege to be on one’s own in the night-time in the borough of St Real. The brown black brickwork of town houses near the park, lit here and there with the low lighting of formal drawing rooms, and the wind in the elms that border the beginnings of Nuthatch and Chessolp. My head began to clear in the sharp balmy air. Feeling myself in the mood for further adventures I caught the tram that runs through the Plaza towards Petits Fours.

Dazzled by the rainbow sparkling fountains I was taken by surprise as a ticket inspector, in his dark green cap with red trim, boarded the tram. Two hours earlier in the height of intoxication I would have slapped his face and tossed his notebook out of the window. He had the eyes of a zealot, a man who would know the difference between a two zone hopper and an central zone travel permit. The shame faced loser who was currently turning out his pockets in search of a spurious ticket-he-lost bought me some time. I brushed past both and leapt off the departing tram across the road from the Nova Basilica cathedral.

It must have been a madness or an abject perversity that carried me over the road. I was out of sorts, out of my zone. I made a point of keeping the Nova Basilica always at a remove, behind a block, behind my back. But at this moment I was seeking a sanctuary, I was shaken by the surprise that the night had thrown at me. I’d tackled the challenge badly, I was tame, lame, a sheep not a wolf. I was looking for the good shepherd. And besides the door was open. It was a tall arched portal with big wooden doors propped open. Halberdiers with polished breastplates and crested casques stood on either side of the entrance, a papal guard. Inside, through plate glass doors, the open entrance hall was lit with discrete uplighters. Behind a closed door marked with a big number two choirs could be heard singing and the whole place reeked of incense and age.

To the right, and on a raised dias stood the Popemobile: A baroque, arched carriage in burnished high gloss black, trimmed with too much gold. A quadrega of four mechanical greyhounds, also in gold, stood paused in mid motion before it. The halberdier behind the carriage noted my interest and began to pace towards me. I smiled at him and sized up the thick oily darkness of the gold framed painting that covered most of one wall. A suffering bearded man died with eyes rolled to heaven his supine tortured luxuriant body held by two women, one in blue – the other in red, but otherwise indistinguishable. Beneath the painting an old irish woman sat on some steps knitting.

“It is a beautiful carriage, no?” she asked from somewhere in that creased face. I looked first up at the painting and then over to the Popemobile, uncertain to which she was referring.

“A lot of gold.”

“It’s mostly gold leaf.”

“What does gold leaf cost per ounce these days?” I laughed, we both laughed.

“He’s a good lad,” she said. Again I looked from one to the other.

“You must be proud of him.”

“My son!” she smiled.

There was a call of clarions and bells and the big doors opened. A procession began to appear, behind them I could see the arched perspectives of the sanctuary, the great banners in their deep reds and blues rolling down from the high recesses of the roof. Cardinals, clerical, hierarchs and hierophants, the glorious and great of the papal host in slow procession, like the ghostly wild hunt of Paperwhite Parc but heavy with the solid rich glory of Mother Church. Heaven had come to earth to walk the night-touched strada of Kilburn Inreal and to see in the rising of the solar orb over a new day.

On the Trail of Eliott Peacocke

(from Narcotic Transmissions 2002)

it was not without difficulty that i travelled back from folkstone to the big city. train services had been crippled by a top heavy management structure and repeated de- and re-nationalizations by several london patriarchs. above and beyond this were the barely suppressed rivalries between counties and parishes across the south east. the slow moving eleven twenty-eight to charing cross (a station on stilts fighting a constant losing battle against the  rising flood waters) was stopped at regularintervals by armed bands and militia who would pull dissidents of other factions off the train and carry them away into the badlands where they would vanish without trace.

at ashford a mother was shot in front of her five year old son. single bullet from an artilleryman’s parrabellum in the back oft he head…

and the train pulled away.

in the city things were no better than they had ever been. i took an armoured cab from the riverside taxi rank in soho (thegeography had been altered irretrevably by the movement of the waters) and made stratford before night fall.

my rooms in a converted office tower near one of the snaking heads of the river lea felt small and distant. the clip-framed artprints i had put on the wall when i moved in only a couple of months ago looked naive and shabby. the washing up piled upin front of the kitchen window rattled precariously every time an express roared through the station at stratford-low-level.

i connected my notebook pc to the modem cable: pornographic junkmail, miracle cures and instant cash schemes hadcaused my isp to send two warning messages. i had caught the rising kipple in time – i wiped the messages and fired up mypersonal webspider: green alphanumerics scrolled across the screen and the connection clicked and rasped at itself.

the flourescent tube in the kitchen had blown before i’d left, the result of a run in with madame cava, so i washed up a mug inthe dark and filled the kettle. there were a few dogadan rose-hip teabags in the cupboard. i poured on the boiling water andwent back to the notebook in the lounge.

if i’d known then what i knew now, i’d have know that elliot peacocke had been living in stratford back in the black days ofthe vigilantes. he’d been the vicar of st john’s, when it was still standing. it seemed that after the death of a close friend andseveral threats upon his own person by the plaistow stilt-walkers he’d quit the city to make a new life for himself on the southessex coast. certain data from monetary exchanges on the grailings a few months back suggested that he had moved tosouthend-on-sea.

why would a man with the key to kilburn-inreal hide away on the estuary?

there was nothing further the webspider could tell me so i closed down the connection. the only way to find out would be totravel to southend. the old silverlinks line still ran from leyton midland. leyton was an uncertain quantity these days so i putmy snub-nosed ascii-izer on to charge for the night and tried to sleep.

Snap Crackle & Pop

Soma Jones strode purposefully across the leaf-littered late September of his patched and pasted always. It was another early afternoon and a cooling breeze rattled the branches, filtering a pomegranate dying sun on his cloth capped head. He sighed with the solitary contentment of one released from the ties of temporality. Perhaps, he mused, he had always been alone: Breathing the world into colour. Perhaps that bloke he’d worked with at the depot, Rory Valentine, had been right.

“This is a half-world, imperfectly constructed,” he had insisted, “the story’s already over and done with: The battles of angels and devils, the greater darkness and the lesser light. The day of judgement came and went, Soma Jones, and those assembled there were judged. But things go on. It all made, in the final analysis, precious little difference. This is a world for crippled and half-witted souls, impoverished spirits and those who died in childbirth.”

Turning off the wide leafy road where second hand motors rattled into the orangey haze Valentine took Soma Jones by the arm and led him carefully down the steep slope behind the the Victorian clocktower. Here the pulpy discarded pods from the Pergolo vine gathered beside the remains of a stone wall.

“Built by Roman hands and rebuilt by serfs under the Norman oppressor,” Valentine commented, “when this island was but the westermost outpost of a spreading empire, carrying parasitic, symbiotic bacteria that would one day flower into the cruciform axle tree. Do you believe that he walked upon these pleasant pastures? We travel across a holy land, Soma Jones, the bones that were crushed and the spirits trampled to make this fair acre are nothing more nor less than the compact earth upon which we make our voyage.”

Soma Jones looked into the wide benevolent face of Rory Valentine, uncomprehending and troubled. “I seem,” he muttered, “to have broken my glasses. You don’t happen to remember�”

Swept on by the big man’s rolling stride they came out onto the flooded course that had once been the Holloway road, where new cobbled quays had been constructed from the Archway bridge in the north to the bustling concourse of the Highbury corner the filthy water lapped at the stone. They sat upon a memorial bench near the railway bridge and watched the blurred transits of a hundred births and deaths racing self-importantly under the yellow golden lion sun.

“We pass beyond the circuit of the bear,” Valentine described an arc across the sky and it was dark, “a few paltry furnaces glow here and there in the limpid darkness. Soon they will expire into the night and we shall be left alone with the cosmic dark,” he drew his hand across Soma Jones eyes and removed the glasses, “or perhaps the endless white void of the luminescent wasteland.”

Soma Jones stumbled across the dried out rubble of the desert that he had once called home. Stale dust blew into his masked face and his worn out shoes scuffed with a hundred light years of journeying tripped on broken concrete, bricks half-chewed by the passage of millenia and the layered detrius of wires, valves, resistors, capacitors and the broken shells of video cassettes and the half-shattered rainbow disks that once spewed forth bright visions. His skin turned to parchment where aged glyphs spelled out strange and obscure old conflicts: Gunshots fired from an ambush near the motorway bridge crossing the Medway, The accelerated shrieks of supercharged felines in subterranean arenas, the snap, crackle and pop of a dying FM reciever.

Leaping onto the open back of a departing No73 Routemaster Soma Jones caught his breath. That, he concluded, hadn’t been worth the risk. There were always plenty of buses at Stamford Hill Broadway. If he was ten minutes late for the appointment it wouldn’t be the end of the world, would it? Gripping the rail securely as he climbed the winding staircase of the accelerating omnibus Soma Jones climbed onto the empty upper deck. Empty, but for the hefty, jovial bus conductor: Rory Valentine touched the brim of his hat and rolled out a long band of tickets.

“We carry ourselves from one battlefield to the next,” he commented, “rarely aware of an enemy but nonetheless outnumbered by the absent foe. We are half-made, less-than-nothings orbiting a dull thirty watt bulb, transfixed by it’s fiery magnificence and afraid to spend our meagre hour in the unknown musty blackness of the attic room. And every moment.”

Luther

GApix01-filteredI’m afraid that I choked on my wine when one of the exchange students asked: “Are we going to fight the reds, Monsieur Tossio?”

Jean-Pierre was a fresh faced youth who was looking forward to his bac’ in the summer. He fixed me with that unanswerable question. I hadn’t really thought about it seriously before. For days we’d heard reports on the wireless: The home counties falling one by one to the Bolsheviks. It seemed inevitable that we were going to have to buy merchandise from Clide.

After lunch that afternoon I took Blissett’s landrover down to Llandovery. I searched around the town pubs for half an hour before I found Clide. He’d been with Mademoiselle Anise, the supply teacher, all day.

“I can sell you rifles, mate, but I think you’d be better off with carbines for these kids.”
“How so?” I asked.
“They’re inexperienced. Most of them have never handled a real gun. What are they? Thirteen, fourteen? They probably still play war – bang, bang, you’re dead!”
“But you said the Lee Enfield is a good rifle.”
“In my humble opinion, Mr Tossio, it’s the best. But I can give you fifty Winchesters at a very good rate.”
“What about those American M1 carbines?”
“They haven’t been invented yet. This is 1920.”

I’m embarrassed to say that the old swindler won me over. I used the money that we’d put aside for to take he kids on a day trip to London and agreed delivery for Wednesday morning. I knew we wouldn’t stand a chance against the long range capabilities of the Russkies’ Mosin-Nagants but I hoped that perhaps the element of surprise would save us.

I drove back to Llandovery feeling slightly depressed. As I approached the hostel Luther came running through the gates towards me. His face carried an expression of intense agitation. I slammed on the brakes and got out leaving the landrover parked in the road.
“What’s the matter, sir?”
“Where the fuck’s the rest of the legs?” He waved a lego spider at me, “One of those frog kids got it mixed up with the starter set.” I followed him inside and we looked over the lego shelves. Various Kinder Surprise toys were Blu-tacked to the brick work and cars, tractors and spaceships lay broken on the common room floor. I tried to explain to him about the Winchesters as I extracted black bricks from various models but he didn’t really seem to be interested. Ever since the demolition of Nelson’s Column he’d been hitting the juice pretty hard.

I spoke to the hostel staff and arranged an early dinner so that I could talk to the kids as soon as possible about the current situation. Miss Jones magicked up a treat with the last of the tinned sardines and some local potatoes and runner beans. The tables of the refectory were a buzz of adolescent hi-jinx. Luther was back on form. For all his faults Luther was great with the students and I felt I’d be needing his support in the days to come.

 

———————————————

Well Luther kept me up until early the next morning. Telling the students what was going on after dinner had caused some excitement. Some had been scared or apprehensive while others were determined to test their youthful mettle on the advancing russians with all the rash foolhardiness of the young. When we’d got them off to their dormitories we cracked open one of Luther’s bottles of cognac and enjoyed a fine havana. Perhaps it was the prospect of impending death that drove Luther to attempt to formulate his situation as accurately as possible.

“The past in the mind of a man is created dynamically in the period of the present as a constant. We must not think of the past as a chain of events leading to every now but created in the moment.”
“Created in each moment?” I asked finding Blissett’s monism difficult to follow.
“No, no, there is but one moment. There is no succession of presents and the future is as illusory as the past. Consider if you will the man who dreams: Between the time he lays his head on the pillow and the hour that the cock crows he may live whole childhoods, experience the rise and fall of civilisations or view the fate of galaxies. But in real life he has but spent a single night adreaming.”
I laughed and drained another bulb of his excellent cognac, “and what prey tell is the practical upshot of his philosophy, O Gautama?”
“That there is no future for us to save this unopened bottle for.”
Bluish light was creeping between the shutters when we took our heavy selves to bed. Luther followed me to my room and stood in the doorway shifting uneasily. We wished each other goodnight and there was a pause as if he were waiting to speaking. I Looked him in the eye and finding nothing forthcoming I bid him a second goodnight and closed the door.

I’d spent a few dreamless hours beneath my quilt when I was awoken my a sharp rap at the door. Finding my kimono and clogs I opened the door to find Clide bathed in the light of another golden morning. I followed him outside to supervise the unloading of the Winchesters. Some of the students, curious to know what was happening, were hanging around the open windows of the refectory. Clide passed me a box of cartridges. I loaded them one by one into the carbine. Tying my kimono at the waist I walked over to the students.

“This, children,” I worked the lever action to load one cartridge into the breech, “this is a Winchester carbine. From today onwards your lessons will to centred around learning to use one of these,” bringing the rifle to my shoulder and sighting along the barrel I followed the path cut by a swift in the morning air. At the last moment before it vanished into the woods I fired once bringing the bird down on the road. The sharp report echoed in the mountains and brought silence to the gathered students.

There was a creak from above. All heads turned to the naked figure of Luther Blissett at the french window. “Shut the fuck up! I’m trying to sleep in here.”
———————————————

Later that day after an excitable lncheon I retired to my room. From the refectory I could hear singing. Luther had found an old guitar with two missing strings and was leading a the students chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”. Voices would drop for the title line and rise into an enthusiastic cacophony of “Allelujah!” He was certainly good for the troops morale and the preparations for war had made him slow his drinking somewhat.

I was investigating the possibilities for ambushes with an ordnance survey map in my room when there was a knock on the door. “Come!” I called folding the map away. It was Mademoiselle Anise. I motioned her to a seat.

“We are leaving,” she said.
“Who?”
“Clide and me, we are leaving for Ireland.”
“I see. The kids look up to you, you know?”
“I know,” she shrugged and pushed the hair out of her eyes, “I think they should come too.”
I stared at her for a minute. She looked away and folded her arms.
“And when the Reds come to Ireland what will you do then?”
She opened her mouth a few times like a fish, “What good are you going to do here, Linus?” She spluttered, “These are not soldiers: they are children.”
“Children have been soldiers since time immemorial. This is no time for your bourgoise sentimentality. They will learn the glory of war by bitter experience. They have been pampered and molly coddled by doting parents this will make men of them.”
“And the girls?” Mademoiselle Anise stood up. The singing had stopped downstairs.
“I never thought of you as a traditionalist.”
“Have you asked them?”
“Asked what?”
“If they want to fight and die and learn the glory of war by bitter experience.” She stood there glaring at me her face and neck had turned the colour of lobster shell. Finally I broke contact and fished the flat pack of Senior Service from my shirt pocket.
“They do not know what they want at that age.”

I was rather surprised that she left it there. She closed the door quietly and her footsteps rattled down the wooden stairs. Lighting my cigarette and walking over to the french windows I saw Clide outside seated in the cab of an anachronistic Opel Blitz, the engine running, he didn’t see me. Some of the students were climbing into the back. Opening my desk draw I unwrapped my Webley from the striped scarf I kept it in. Breaking the cylinder open I checked that it was loaded.

Seating myself before the french windows and resting the heavy barrel of the Webley on my left forearm I aimed at Clide’s head. He had sold me the Winchesters at a reasonable price so I bore him no grudge he but he had made a bad decision. Crossing me is always a bad decision and he would have to be made an example. Clide was sat sideways on the driver’s seat of the Opel Blitz, his boots on the worn metal step. He was concentrating on rolling a cigarette and he considerately presented the top of his head to my revolver. I anticipated the recoil, the explosion and the smell of cordite. I wondered idily whether Clide would fall back into the cab of the lorry or topple down the step to lie inert beside the left side front wheel. I squeezed the trigger.

My perspective rolled upwards as the chair was kicked from behind. The shot went off and up into the blue cloudless morning. I windmilled erratically trying to regain my balance but the force of gravity and the kick of the Webley threw me inevitably onto the wooden floor on my back. My skull hit the floor with a heavy thud. My vision flashed red and the revolver hit the floor beside me.
Above me, upside down from where I was lying, Luther Blissett stood grinning boyishly brandishing a square handgun cunningly fashioned from lego bricks. There was shouting outside and I could hear rapid footsteps coming up the stairs.

“I didn’t hear you come in.”

Luther grinned and pointed the toy gun at my head:

“Bang!”

I floated in velvety darkness, soft luminous globes of red and green loomed in the preconscious gloom. Opening my eyes I was in a dark humid place. A ceiling fan rotated noisily but did nothing to relieve the heat. I was lying on a soiled sofa dressed as I had been in the hostel. It was immediately obvious that I was no longer in Wales. I sat up to find Luther Blissett sitting beside a small square table sipping at a glass of brandy another chair stood empty before the table.

The room was square. A window on each of the four walls. Smokey reddish light filtered in through the gaps between the blades of the blinds I could hear a crowd shouting, occasional bursts of automatic weapon fire and explosions could be heard in the distance. Looking around there was no door in any of the walls. A square hole in the centre of the room seemed to have stairs leading down from it.

“Where am I?” I said voicing my immediate concern.
“In a house on four stilts, Arjuna. Look out of each window and you will see a different war occuring on each side.”
“The name’s not Arjuna!” I stood up and walked over to the empty chair. “The name’s Tossio, Linus Tossio!”
He laughed, “We’re between the wars here, Linus. This is it! Wait until nightfall and there will be four more armed conflicts going on: Same rules, same game!”

I was beginning to tire of his metaphysics, “How did we get here? Has Clide taken the student’s to Ireland?” I realised then that I still had the revolver in my hand. He smiled again, that same beatific smirk. I’d show that blue faced bastard he couldn’t laugh at me. There was no surprise on his face as I shot him. I’ve shot a lot of men and a lot of women and most of them have looked either surprised or shit-scared. He fell sideways, off his chair and onto the floor.

Within minutes I was down the spiral stairs and into the fray. I stopped a car outside the Piazza and ordered the driver to get out. South of the river the aerodrome was on fire and the rebels had taken over the radio station. It was getting dark as I hit the autostrada but the night was lit by a hundred small fires.

The Puzzle of Soma Jones

cothSoma Jones turned the pages of the heavy leather bound volume. He followed the lines of script with his finger: “On the Nature of the Soul” he mouthed the words his eyebrows rising in curiosity.

The bell on the counter rang.

“Delivery for t.a.hulme, sign here!” A heavyset courier in filthy dark blue overalls and a baseball cap labelled “Quicksilver” handed him a pitted wooden clipboard with thin paper forms in yellow, pink and white. Carbons hung out like tongues of luncheon meat, a stubby pencil was attached to the bulldog clip. Soma scribbled rapidly on the top form: once, twice and in triplicate.

“You got a bog here, mate?”

“Just by the gantries on bay 16a.” Soma pointed down receding arcs of dark passage. Hot steam hissed out of a partly lit bay. There was a repeated clanging of metal on metal. the courier was trying to read his book – head turned sideways. Soma gave him an impatient look.

“Cheers mate, is it okay to leave the truck parked here for five minutes?”

“Yeah sure.”

“You certain, i’m not going to be clamped am i?” the courier laughed. Soma shook his head and turned his attention back to the book.

“…contained herein is the whole truth concerning…”, the wind was picking up he could hear it howling through the upper decks of the central station. He pushed back his swivel chair and bent under the desk to turn the fan heater on. There was a christmassy smell of old heating coils. He looked at his watch: just over two hours to go. “…the relationship between the archetypal,” he noted that word – have to look it up – he thought, “the archetypal entities that make up the illusion of consciousness and their relation to ultimate being.” ultimate being what?

The telephone rang.

“Hello, uh, hi mum – no, no, i’m fine.” He had an obscure twinge of guilt. The courier was coming back to his truck. Big hulking thing. Driver waved his key and the brake lights flared momentarily amber. He waved at Soma.

“Uh, look it’s kinda busy here – can I call you back…yeah, it’s always busy I
guess…”
———————————————

Into our first world…

Soma Jones sore rimmed eyes would not delight in the golden sunrise. Citrus tones from sour lemon through fleshy grapefruit pink into the blood orange of the sun purpled streamer clouds which dissipated into another perfect day. He removed his steel rimmed lunettes and rubbed some of the industrious nighttime hours from his face. Since suppertime yesterday evening he had been typing line after line of the Rushdean infinite recursion program into the clattering box of his Commodore 64. A vintage copy of C&VG dated 4th April 1984 propped in an ageing music stand was spreadeagled on the last page of the yellow programming pages. Hour after hour he had battled with the small dense typeface – an hour and a half from midnight to one thirty was wasted erasing several hundred lines on ZX Spectrum code he had mistakenly tapped into the machine. Finally at three in the morning, his tongue heavy with coarse coffee and tobacco, the last END statement went onto the screen. He saved onto a chrome tape with the ponderous Datasette and prepared himself for the hours of debugging ahead. As night turned into morning the high edwardian windows of his round tower room caught the first creeping hues of the new day’s spectrum. The clink and rattle of bottles being unloaded from the milkman’s blocky motorboat sent screams of anxiety into Jones’s neck and shoulders: He had been awake too long.

Throwing a light cape over his stooped shoulders and setting a wide brimmed hat on his sparse mousey hair Jones climbed down the anti-clockwise spiral staircase into the pine fitted kitchenette. He paused in the hallway to inspect his appearance in the indian teak framed mirror. Frowning he pushed the brim of his hat lower, selected a good mahogany cane from the faux medieval brolly stand and quickstepped down the hundred stairs to the damp portal lobby. Quickly he kicked a pile of mail from the twisted basketweave doormat and was out onto the quay that ran in an irregular oval around Finsbury Island. Sun rippled brilliantly over the Blackstock Reach littered with the early traffic of gondolas, boatcycles and tradesmen’s coracles. From the arched wings of the Chapel palace he could trace the grand Holloway canal from Odeon terminus to Angel. Jones hailed a grey and scarlett Islington Union gondola – the cabbie smart in his grey uniform turned the long boat towards the quay.

Stepping onto onto the broad pavement at Odeon terminus an archaic dark suited man sporting mirrored shades leading a stooped primitive man bustled past Jones to engage the gondola. It was all Jones could manage to maintain his footing on the cobblestones, he turned to glare after them but the suited man was absorbed in the practicalities of coaxing his apeman onto the boat. The great columns of the terminus and custom house rose majestic into the morning air. Passengers from all over Londres carried heavy baggages, porters pushed trolleys, airship staff from numerous major lines swaggered importantly between baffled queues of auslanders and citizens of the commonwealth. Taking the broadwalk at a brisk stride Jones made his way up the route of the Holloway canal toward a bistro called Djelli’s.
———————————————

In the infra red darkness of the winter’s night there was barely a pixel of heat. In fact Soma Jones would have been undetectable if it hadn’t been for the “ho fun” pork with green peppers in a black bean sauce (number 73) that he carried in an aluminium foil dish in a white plastic bag in his old worn mittens.

He had waited for his food at the “lucky break”. Watched some dismal documentary about prostitution on the ill tuned Ferguson. Lads on bikes pushed past him to order their ships in curry sauce (number 118) and the crumpled black on the bench read a tattered crime novel. Its front cover was missing and only the Sun review and the blurb remained: “you won’t be able to put this one down as P.I.Debrowski cuts his bloody swathe through layer after layer of the hottest action…”

He waited for the train that morning and then he’d waited for lunch time. God, how he’d waited for lunchtime. Each hour his nerves had consciously traced the dial clockwise. Then he’d ‘phoned the bank and waited a half hour on the line to be told that his overdraft hadn’t been accepted. He’d waited until five o’clock for the day staff to leave and the last hour until nine o’clock he’d waited for the last customers to leave.

“Patience, my son.”

Along rainwet streets he tramped his heavy way. Trying to keep his toes from soaking in the dampness that had collected in his boots. He spread his hands over the surface area of his burden trying get the benefit of the heat it bled into the january night.

Reaching the top of the hill dullened by the long hours, aching and stoic he came around the corner at last into his own road.

Home.
———————————————
Through the portico of Djelli’s Bistro Soma Jones did go…

The low wooden panelled lower deck was shaded at this time of morning – in the late afternoon it was clustered with chattering Islingtonian socialites. A broad staircase rose into the round upper gallery illuminated by an enormous octagonal skylight. Post-qawali jazz played quietly on recessed speakers giving the quiet bistro a jovial atmosphere. Jones waved to Frieda as she carried a tall teapot to the hawknosed figure of Eliott Peacocke. Peacocke nodded to Jones and folded the rectangular sail of his broadsheet into a compact half-tabloid, he uncrossed his long legs as Jones pulled up a chair.

“You look tired, old chap.” Said Peacocke peering over his tortoiseshell reading glasses.

“I’ve been up all night”

“Reviving the lost art?” Peacocke drained his cup. Jones nodded – he wondered if he really wanted to be here. Peacocke always irritated him with his seen-it-all cynicism. “Still plugging away at those old technologies, eh? I thought you’d know better. These people,” Jones indicated a group of fashionably dressed students, “hardly remember what it was like before the waters began to rise. But I thought that you of all people would appreciate that we are living in a new era.”

“An undemanding era!” Jones growled.

“Have you been talking to Maurice again? There are far fewer of us now and all this has given Britannia a new lease of life – ruling the waves and all that.”
Jones waved the thought away with a dismissive gesture. He turned in his chair hoping to catch the attention of Frieda or one of the other waitresses instead he was greeting by Djelli himself – a broad smile and a not inconsiderable girth he had developed in his old age.

“Soma Jones, the not inconsiderable wanderer in the realms of cybernetics returns!” Djelli seized Jones’s sickly claw with a large dry mit. “What can I get you?”

“Ratatouille,” Jones spluttered with difficulty, “ratatouille and stewed fruit.”

“Old habits die hard.” Peacocke interjected prompting an unexpected explosion of mirth from Djelli. Peacocke smirked knowingly and Jones felt his thin lips crack into, if not a smile certainly an amused grimace.
———————————————

Soma Jones was strolling across the patchwork landscape of his dissolute youth. Unlikely connexions of road, park, river, café, pub and church dovetailed impossible combinations of landmarks and well-worn haunts into an ideal suburb unknown to public transport. His head empty and his battered shoulder bag filling with an increasing collection of small miracles: Ancient tape spools, well thumbed paperbacks, unidentifiable plastic oddments. Oh, this world was fruitful beyond contemplation.

Time had curved and concertinaed into myriad crystalline structures. The time spent at bus stations and waiting rooms had compressed and promised to fall away all together. The extended cross-sectional helix of time spent in libraries and bookshops eternalised into an emblem of the ideal. Internally lit familiar images scrolled beneath a bright blue sky blowing with a few early autumn trees.

Stepping up with dry-eyed nostalgia past afternoon yellowed brickwork of favourite bed-sits the day was drawing in. He skipped along well-worn short cuts, back ways, tow paths and behind a low brick wall Soma Jones spied an old church, a large church, virtually a cathedral. Pausing and looking back the way he’d come he realised he was lost. The distant traffic thrummed in the distance and late afternoon birdsong twittered in the avenues. It was becoming a little chilly and an orange light bathed the stone walls of the church and caught multi-faced and complex in the arched windows.

Up the steps and into the courtyard it was lush and grassy. There were no tombstones, no graves, only a closed off licence in the church precincts. Feeling uneasy he was about to return the way he’d come when he noticed a gaggle of canada geese cropping the lawn around the other side of the church. Jones smiled. The geese took little notice of him as he approached. Flying buttresses arced over the angular slate roof ending in an impressively gothic spire. Coming around to the high façade he could hear voices coming from inside. A large wooden sign read:

The Church of St.John of the Epiphany, Stratford Parish of Londres.

Soma Jones found himself kneeling in the midst of a square of kneeling celebrants. Ahead and to the right was another congregation stood in a square and at right angles to the first. Light, many coloured and rich, poured from a great round window high in the dark before him. All stood up…

“Lord have mercy.”

The man standing in front of him, long haired, bearded and wearing a dark raincoat, he recognised. But then he realised that this wasn’t Nathan, who was standing at the front of the other square in the robes of a priest. The man standing in front of him was Clide, Nathan’s brother. He turned and smiled.

“Clide, I haven’t seen you in years, how you doing?”

Clide, indistinct in the gloom of the chapel, limned in the firey colours of the stained-glass, smiled modestly. Jones looked more carefully, removed his glasses. He noticed that Clide was wearing the same type of glasses as him. Clide never wore glasses before?

“When did you get glasses?”

“Only recently, the frames are better than yours.” Clide removed his glasses. Jones compared them: He was right, where the crosspiece of his were rounded, Clide’s had a slight double chevron. The plastic of the top half of the frames was also a slight tortoise shell rather than black. Looking up again, Jones became uncertain that this was really Clide standing before him. His eyes and mouth seemed to change shape slightly as if they were still forming – a stranger whose identity was slowly developing before him.

“Christ have mercy.”

Leaving the twin congregations they walked up an echoing colonade towards a flight of steps leading down to the crypt.

“Your world is closing in, Jones. Every time you walk around your world it becomes smaller. You can’t sustain this vision for very long.”

“My world is non-dynamic. It has no need for development. The outside world might be larger in extent but it lacks the detail of mine and what’s your world anyway?”

“I am a bridge to the world of my Father. He brings everlasting life”

Jones smiled: Rich kids! Dependent of their inheritance for everything. “Well, that’s all very well for you. I never really expected this to last forever, nothing lasts forever.”

“Except for eternal life.”

Jones left quietly by the side door and went to look for a bus stop.
———————————————
Soma Jones finished his ratatouille and began to doze off in the narcotic drone of conversation…

“How are your explorations of the old tunnels progressing, Eliott?” Djelli asked.

“Interestingly. Some of the newer lines – the Victoria, the Jubilee and it’s extensions have survived quite well while the Bakerloo and Norhern branches have largely succumbed to flooding. But we are employing teams of divers and have met with success in finding groups of wretches still living in an air bubble under Pimlico station. They have found passageways leading to Victoria and into the crypt of Westminster Cathedral.”

“Has the cathedral been flooded?”

“Impossible to tell – papist gondolas have been moored off the top of the campanile tower for years. Locals have claimed to smell incense coming from there.” Peacocke finished his tea and rose to his feet in a deft single motion. Jones was slumped back over his chair with his head gazing unseeing at the ceiling – mouth open. “Shall we wake him?”

“Seems cruel. Let him sleep – I’ll wake him up before Melissa arrives.”
———————————————

Soma Jones had been lying face down in the cold alluvium of the Medway valley for two days. For some time he had forgot that he was alive, staring unblinking at a crop of chalk rising from the dirty weeds and scattered rubbish of the ambush. He became aware again when his leg was warmed by fresh urine that ran along his trousers by some freak of osmosis. He remained prone for some hours piecing together the thirty seconds of the firefight that had wiped out his unit.

The 53rd Stratford Rifles had been operating behind enemy territory. Like the Romans before them they attempted to cross the river Medway at Strood to make devastating raids on the City of Rochester. They had reckoned without the wiliness and viciousness of certain elements of the 28th Chatham Hussars who had sprung their trap from behind the broken concrete stumps of the old motorway bridge. Within seconds the vanguard of the Stratford infantrymen had been cut down by a withering hail of fire from the heavy Vickers machine gun camouflaged in the wreckage of the bridge. Sergeant Van Hoorn was one of the first to fall and Jones’s comrades Privates Bligh and Mason were also lost in those decisive moments of surprise as were many of Lance Corporal Baccioni and his cohorts who had antagonised him so cruelly in the barracks. Jones himself instinctively dropped to the ground and pretended to be dead. Before the minute was up it was all over. Jones hardly dared breathe as heavy boots trod around him, the groans of the dying stilled by the bayonets of the jubilant Kentish soldiers. That Jones had survived was a small miracle – the blood of Private Khan that splattered Jones drab woollen tunic apparently corroborated his act in the eyes of the roughly joking victors.

Somewhere in the hours that followed he began to believe in his feigned death.
———————————————

By the time the mid-day crowds had started to strain the wooden seams of Djelli’s bistro it had become quite warm outside. The light hazy cloud had dissipated over the process of the morning and now clerks, office boys, students and solicitors, employees of the council and the unemployed and the idle dilettantes made their way into the bars and the restaurants and the cafes and the tea houses of the Holloway Canal.

And still Soma Jones slept. The way he draped his small pigeonish frame over the back of the chair, head thrown back towards the sunny portal of the bistro caused him to snore quite loudly. The bustling Islington crowd edged around the recumbent Jones wedging themselves behind the round marble topped tables or slouching stylishly against the bar. Frieda and Beatrice juggled with trays of iced tea, fruit juices, coffee, croque monsieur, pasties and pastries and still Soma Jones slept.
———————————————

“Oh, speak to me,” Soma Jones sang, “Adam and Eve!” , the smell of drying linen filled the living room as the central heating began to warm. so cold for this time of year. The disturbances.

“That was ‘Missouri’ from the new album by Low on Radio Free Stratford. Coming up in fifteen minutes our continuing series ‘Art Muzak Poetry and the Land on Four Stilts’.” the radio spluttered with atmospherics and honked into Glenn Miller. Jones kicked off his work boots – sodden military socks rucked on his ankles long grey-green tongues extending from the toes. he padded duck-footed into the kitchen.

“I’ll kill you – you fucking cow!” the neighbours muffled bellows ended with a sickening thud. Jones instinctively covered his ears with the long sleeves of his cardigan and whimpered. Tea – he thought. Always use freshly drawn water. he lifted the heavy kettle from sink to the hob of his Baby Belling. the plates on the draining board rattled and sang as the 20:48 to Straford low-level rolled under the Victorian brick arc five storeys below.

“Soma! Soma!” mum shouted from her room. Jones placed crumpets under the grill and shook his long sleeves impatiently. “Don’t call me, Mum, you’re three years dead and you never drank tea!” he laughed shivering at his own wit. Kettle boils. Teabags from PG, Tate and Lyle sugar from Silvertown and milk from the cow. Moo!

“…and now part one of the new series of…” the radio hissed sadistically. Jones piled scones on his plate burning fingers. Turn off the grill – always turn off the grill. Coming into the living room the atmospherics were breaking up the signal. “I never want to see you again!” slam of front door and rattle of letterbox next door. Jones puts down plate and mug on the coffee table and wrestles with the knob on the wireless.

“Cark! ART MUZAK POETRY AND THE LAND ON FOUR STILTS…”
———————————————

Soma Jones pushed a Sainsbury’s shopping trolley across the zebra crossing loaded with a large antiquated wooden wireless set. He grinned from the depths of his green parka into the icy Stratford air rather pleased with his moment of inspiration. He had hefted the old box up the slope of his road some half-hour, a disenfranchised Sisyphus in NHS specs.

“Ding!” the bell of Super-fi said and Norman Paige sat up with a start from his newsrag. Seeing the shopping trolley burdened with a great heap of aged oak his forward curling eyebrows contracted his forehead into a concertina of wrinkles.

“You do wireless repairs?”
“I do.”
“Could you have a look at this?”
“I can.”
“Can you give me a hand? It’s rather heavy.”
“Certainly.”

Hefting the box into the small floorspace of the shop they looked down at the radio for some minutes hands on hips panting. Soma wheeled the trolley into the street. Coming back in he found the proprietor squatting behind the cabinet fiddling with a screwdriver.

“It’s very old!”
“Yes.”
“Valves – hard to find.”
“Yes.”
“It’ll cost you.”
“Yes.”
“Fifty quid.”
“Yes.”

“You could buy a good new radio for that.” Paige indicated rows of plastic boxes. Sleek angles. Digital read-outs. Sony, Phillips, Binatone, Osem, Hitachi. Jones shook his head. Paige scratched his scalp, “I could be some time working on this.”

“How long?”
“Two weeks.”

“A week?” Jones pleaded, “I need it by next week.” it was Paige’s turn to shake his head. He mouthed a silent “no”. Jones reached into his pocket for a humbug – offered Paige one, who refused – and took one himself. he sucked hard and concentrated: no radio for two weeks. He’d miss the next ART, MUZAK, POETRY & THE LAND ON FOUR STILTS and possibly the one after. “That’s a long time without a radio.”

“Can’t you borrow one from a neighbour?” Paige reached over his glass counter for his receipt book.

“Neighbour?”
———————————————

Horsefaced Elliott Peacocke strode out of St.John’s at Stratford into the church gardens – an enormous traffic island supporting the light stone gothic mountain and the eight-sided column dedicated to the martyrs of Stratford. Buzzing cars, motorcycles and roaring lorries carried a constant stream of pilgrims to and from the red brick mall of the Stratford centre and the aeroglide arc of the reconditioned Stratford low-level rail nexus. South to Leamouth, the Thames, the Docklands and to the North: Leyton, Walthamstow marshes and the great Essex lung – Epping forest.

“These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” Peacocke read, his brow creasing with high Anglican piety. Fruit salad reggae bounced across the zebra crossing from a stall set up outside the sliding doors of the Stratford centre. Stopped. There was a moment of still broken by a rattle of pneumatics from the Bovis development site.

“Hallo father Elliott!” a short figure in a green parka and thick specs greeted him from a memorial bench.

“Oh hallo…” Peacocke hesitated searching his memory and flicked his long scarf, “…Soma, what brings you to the house of the lord?”

“I was wondering if I could ask you a favour…”
———————————————

Raj opened the door of the house to find a crumpled suited Soma Jones standing on the doorstep with an enquiring expression on his bespectacled mug. Raj’s face opened into its customary sardonic leer: “That Soma boy is here again, ‘Liss!” he roared up the stairs. His features softened into paternalism. “Come on in, boy. we’ll have a cup of tea in the kitchen while we’re waiting for her ladyship.”

The hallway was spiced with the heady aroma of garam masala. Soma ran his fingers up the greengold flock wallpaper following the old Sri Lankan. The living room was all yellow bulblight crackling with the bluish glow of children television. Jamie and Lee hid behind the sofa shooting capguns at the screen. Escorting the guest down the stairs to the kitchen Raj feigned death from bullet wounds instantly recovering into a broadfaced grin. Soma looked back into the living room to see the boys pulling pigfaced expressions at him.

In the kitchen Edith waved a marigold clad hand from the sink. Great clouds of fairy liquid bubbles threatening the hard flashing chrome of the taps and draining board. The whole room was a friendly orange brown chaos. The blue of the twighlit garden peering at the windows. crash bang two cats chased in through the catflap.

Soma sat on the edge of a coat strewn bench beside the pine dining table. Raj bounded around the kitchen. Kettle and cups, Tescos coffee granules. Fridge door slam. Hassle of teaspoons.

“You come straight from work, love?” Edith drained another sinkful. Rinsed the basin and crashed more plates across the sink.

“Yes, i finish early on Thursdays.”

“He’ll be a manager one day,” Raj bustled, seemingly quite incapable of containing his mirth.

“I was thinking of leaving.”

“Going back to college? Better yourself? You have to these days dear. You can’t get on with a handful GCSE these days.” Edith poured more fairy liquid into the basin. The kettle clicked to a boil and steamed the window milkwhite. The stairs thumped: Jamie and Lee galloped across the floor setting the fridge door colliding with a fluffy black and white cat.

“I think I might leave the country,” Soma felt he might be developing a headache. Edith yelled something at the kids and Raj gave a roar of laughter banging a humourous mug of coffee onto the table beside soma: “Remember who’s boss!” it read. The sounds of the room were fogged as if heard from underwater – Soma hung his head and inspected the mustard and brown tessalations of the linoleum.

He looked up.

Floating through the doorway entirely removed from the family vortex of the kitchen there she was. melissa. Her gait lifted the simplicity of her blue Levis and AC DC t-shirt into a new level of revelation. Soma stared at this apparition floating across the lino – the neon of the glowbar turning her great blonde locks into a halo.

Soma could hear a whistling in his ears.
———————————————

zzzzkzkzkzk BVXRRRRRTZ xxxxxxxxxxctctct “…all yoo need is…” kxvzzzrzrzrrzt WHEEEEEEEEEZXT “…the prime minister, Mr Cornelius, in
negotiations with the Chinese Premier this morning…” kzzzzzzzzzt “SATISFACTION!” zxxzxzxzx PWEEEEEEEEEEEEzzzzzzzzzzfzkt “…trailing
suspect near Stratford low…” PRRRRKZZZF hzhzhzhkhzhk PHIZZZZaaaaak “Shub Niggurath…” pwiiiiz “…he is the gate…”
BLKLKBKLKBBBBTKTKTKtktkkt “….Victor the Cleaner awoke to find his ear nailed to the…” ftftftft.

Raj had been very good to Soma Jones.

By the time Soma woke up it was 10.30 in the evening. Raj bought him some brandy and laughed at him good naturedly.

“You don’t want to be acting like that in front of the ladies, oh no!”

Their subsequent conversation, touched upon many diverse subjects: politics, religion, astronomy, fantasy, tealeaf divination, family history, shopping centre design and finally and most fruitfully their mutual interest in a certain weekly radio series. So Soma left that night, somewhat later than he had expected, with a handful of cassette tapes and a Philips portable radio-cassette to borrow until such at time…

krrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrzt CHAKRRRRTVVVVzzzz “…it was really screaming lord…” kzaaaaaaaaaaaaaakjj HJHJHJJHJJHJJttttttttkkkkkK K! “…what in
the gods’ name has happened to Agent Czukay?” bbbtwtwtwtwtwtkHSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! ttktktktktkktktk WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! phew
phew “…i want a station of my own…” kzaaaaaaaaaaaaaa kzaaaaaaaaaaaa “…originally a message board dealing with German…” buzzzzzzzzzzz ftchj
“…ALL WE HEAR IS!” btbtbtb WHIIIIING G G G “…since the destruction of the Kingsferry Bridge…” grrrrrrrrrrrrzzzzzzzzzzzzk!

He was just having a little problem tuning.

ssssssssshhhhhhhhhht WHOOOP! klk klk “…and now ART, MUZAK, POETRY & THE LAND ON FOUR STILTS!