Tuesday, February 22nd, 2010

Everything Splinters

Craig Woods


I caught my breath in the desert heat. A sickly breeze stirred tumbleweeds and whistled plaintive melodies through the myriad wounds which peppered this palace of rust. The rollercoaster track had come to a halt among the faded fairground cadavers, its inert carriages bunched up like the prone segments of a dead caterpillar. Around us the ancient carousels and soulless merry-go-rounds, empty stalls and driverless dodgems festered in moribund stasis, the angles and contours of each vacant machine coalescing into a timeless geometry. Against an equally rusted sky the Big Wheel loomed like a colossal steel spider web. Here and there the edge of a gondola twitched slightly in the humid draught, miniscule movements which coaxed desperate moans of mechanical misery from the corroded joints. My limbo waited eagerly for an end to all this… 

Striding purposefully in front, Soledad approached a vintage change machine which stood apologetically to one side of the Wheel’s entrance gangway. Occasional spots of bright candy apple red paint could still be identified among the machine’s coat of rust, circular patterns like static renditions of exploding suns in a galaxy of corrosion. With characteristic swiftness, Soledad drew a revolver and slammed the butt hard against the machine’s front panel. A shower of ancient coins burst from its innards, filling the dispenser tray with a thousand metallic death rattles. She scooped up a firm handful of the coins and regarded me with a resolute stare.

“Nos viajan gratis.”

From the tray, a glimmer attracted my gaze. Among the dusty coinage sat a clean ten pence piece, its surface as bright as a star against the stained skins of its tarnished brethren. The coin had been compressed, its body flattened by an incredible weight. Impulsively, I retrieved the deformed disc and raised it to my face, recalling long ago childhood afternoons spent placing coins upon the traintracks which ran through my hometown. Holding the coin aloft, its rounded edges silhouetted against the orange glow of the sky, I could just make out my own reflection in its corrupted surface: a hazy ill-defined visage morphing and swirling in the liquid mess of a temporal world which had melted around us. Though Soledad was standing directly to my side, there was no trace of her in this makeshift funhouse mirror. I turned and levered the coin between my thumb and forefinger, inclining it towards my sublime guide, but her dark features evaded reflection. Quickly bored of my fascination with this obscure artefact, Soledad pulled on my arm with a determined hand.

“Aquí es donde se rompe todo. Aquí es donde nos dividen.”

She propelled us both towards the Big Wheel’s entrance turnstile. Intuition drew a hand to my chest where I stashed the flattened coin in a breast pocket.

Soledad shoved a clumsy series of coins into a slot and the turnstile admitted us with two prolonged groans of oxidised agony. Somewhere across the tombal arcade a fleet of crows responded in portentous throaty chorus. 

The radioactive sun blazed its face in our direction as we climbed into the stale husk of a gondola. For a moment nothing happened. Despair seized my heart as I contemplated that our entire journey might transpire to have been the most fruitless of follies. These fears were dispersed by the morbid shudder of decayed metal and the supernatural grinding of gears as the wheel began turning, the gondolas trembling outwards and upwards to the aching sky. As we ascended, the copper scent of rust intensified to a blood-like tang and I realised we were witnessing the rebirth of the universe: a cosmic heart flooding electric veins with the liquid fire of revolution. Soon the arcade spread out before us in a vast panorama, its alleys and alcoves now flourishing with a lushness and vibrancy which illuminated the farthest edges of the ever-expanding horizon. Nearing the Big Wheel’s apex, I succumbed to a vertiginous sensation which was not entirely unpleasant. Closer now to the ailing sun, the heat became drier and a cloud of sand whipped up around us, scouring our skins lightly. 

Without warning, the wheel’s gears jolted to an abrupt halt. The wind grew more aggressive, the sandstorm intensifying until it obscured our view of the arcades below. Finally I shut my eyes tight for protection. I could feel Soledad’s hand on mine, gripping my fingers in stoic reassurance. Though muted by the wind’s howl, her voice resounded tenaciously against my ear: 

“Somos la tormenta. Somos el viento anunciando su existencia.”

The sky surrendered to a tempest of images and sensory fragments … zodiac smiles across empty stations … dream vapour wrapped in metal snakeskin … stink of wild dogs in the arid gulf …flesh mounds a desert track in the lustful forays … war nerves shackling infernal bodies … jaws of time between her mutant thighs … bone trap yawning wide … the universe gaping with her … an ersatz house huddled among vulture silhouettes … dead mannequin eyes reflecting psychic zero … Poppy’s memory washed up on the shore of a test zone …amorphous reflections bleeding in other streets, other names … stage partitions braced for the bomb blast … this is where everything splinters …

©2010 Craig Woods 


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