Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Both Sides Of Midnight

There must have been a full moon the day I was born. If it were not for the screaming, the doctors would have heard themselves tell each other that it couldn't be judged where my body ended and my mother's began. Her extraordinarily fulsome pubes and my fur, at the best of times, were difficult to distinguish apart, even by stroking, let alone at eye's length. And, growing up, you see, dear soul, meant my memory became longer and longer, its starting-point disappearing, as it did, beyond the womb itself - like a limitless umbilical of dead-end thought: dead at both ends.

Some people are so moribund towards the middle of their life, they may as well have died properly in some otherwise unplanned schoolyard playtime accident in their youth. But those, like me, who live life to the full, do not have sufficient time to worry about such concerns. I always knew, without even trying, exactly what sort of creature I was. Life, you see, was not only constituted of waking hours but also sleeping ones. I lived existence to the full, not merely life. I gritted my teeth and stared God full in the eye and expected Him to pray to me, whilst at my school, they taught us that praying should actually be the other way round. I laughed. Yes, I laughed - not out loud, but behind my praying hands, as lessons came to the end for the day, and we were told to perch our tiny chairs upside down on the desks - ready for the school caretaker's broom. My chair, however, I always balanced legs down on the sloping desk, the way God meant it to sit - more precarious, true, dear soul, but much more thrilling to see whether it toppled before Miss Crossbrow saw my wicked prank.

I had a special school friend whom I tutored in my ways. Harry was his name. There was often a pinafore-frocked girl tagging along with him and she was called Tara. Neither of them, of course, possessed the nature of the thing that I'd been born as. Neither of them, come to that, suspected anything untoward from their point of view with regard to myself - nor that on some days I slept even less than simply not sleeping.

Yes, on nights when dreams became real, instead of placing my palms flat together in mock prayer to God, I coiled them into conch shapes and horned through them - a baying, a howl, a wail, a roar, a siren screech: or all of these things at once. But now I'm older, wiser and fully aware that, if I am to go on living an existence worthy of you, dear soul, I need to make human dreams as real as mine: so that their dreams can later flesh out my own dreams when the need comes - since it is true, you see, that without such sustenance, I must eventually release hold of the umbilical universe, having by then only brittle claws to cling on with.

Harry married Tara. I sometimes wonder if it was my doing thay they fell in love in the first place. With my presence making them second best to each other, this factor became common ground between them.

Later, I grew to need their protection as a couple. When the three of us were still ten, I whispered secrets in their ears, first to Harry, then to Tara, secrets which inevitably became their own secrets from each other, dire secrets, deadly secrets, secrets that bound them inextricably to you, dear soul. Thus, I should not have been surprised when they invited me to live with them as their lodger, after the marriage. But they had, by then, forgotten the childishness of secrets transferred at playtime in the schoolyard. Humans always devalue their past that way. Only special creatures like you, dear soul, can remain endebted to your circle of durations: pasts, presents, futures, all wheeling around the moment that is none of these things, the continuous moment of fear and sorrow, the core moment which the evil of joy cannot possibly besmirch.

Yes, Harry and Tara became my step-parents, in all but name - and their own eventual children were my siblings despite these siblings calling me Uncle. It was as if Harry and Tara instinctively felt some responsibility to the lost soul that had once befriended them when they needed it most amid the dream-ringed islands of childhood.

If Harry and Tara remain mere names for cardboard cut-outs, I shall not be able to cast them into the roles I have in store for them. Even actors need the underpinning of their own personalities to bring to their parts. They require strengths and weaknesses: the latter to prove them real, the former to stiffen the vessels they will provide for my dreams, dreams that might otherwise burst like bubbles. So, yes, dear soul, we must spend some little time fleshing out Harry and Tara.

Meanwhile, I escape into the monthly punctuations of my endless night. But you have no need, dear soul, to be put through such ordeals. You simply watch, for your own benefit, seeing the creamy-pink skin choking and sprouting wiry fluff, as if the pores are lakes of sea and the flesh an intertissue of connected islands ... and the monsters bristle their backs: a hirsute archipelago of antipodal angst. Yet you feel my teeth with your finger-ends, fast finding my fangs with your claws. Swabs of tangled hide corrode your throat, worse than gagging on cotton-balls. Pubes forest out into bouquets of undead passion-flowers. You hear the Devil bending your ear: not praying to you, as God sometimes did, but urging, exhorting, whipping you up into a frenzy of fur...

Harry and Tara, inside the house, hear you howling from the other side of the parlour window. They shrug. They believe all their children are tucked up safely together in the nursery upstairs. Like most people nowadays, they stay home at night, for the simple fear of going out. The television keeps them indoors, not only through the sheer delight of its entertainment but also with its frightening depiction of the so-called evil that lives outside both sides of midnight.

The beast they hear every month within the precinct of their garden is, they believe, just another case in point: probably one of the many unemployed on a drug gig. Tara shrugs. She has shrugged so often, her shoulders are level with her once beautiful eyes. She turns up the volume of the mind-snatching television and then, as if in challenge, tries to speak above it:

"There's never anything on."

Self-evidently, there is at least something on. What she means is that there's nothing on she wants to watch, but watch it she does, nevertheless. Harold nods in agreement. He has nodded so often, his nose is in his lap.

He says nothing: Shall I try another channel?

And without waiting even for a silent reply, Harold remotely zaps out, eyes glazed, mind in suspended animation ... finger pumping uselessly upon the numbered pads of the remote control. The scratching on the parlour window goes unnoticed. The rising shrieks from the nursery, too. A nightmare of rough schoolyard play. Followed by a dream of Father Christmas coming down the vestigial chimney like Red Riding Hood in drag. The Soot Queen.

I could no longer foist myself on Harry and Tara - nor blame them for the strange twists of reality dressed up as imagination. They'd never be able to be vessels for anything but themselves. I wanted to smash through the couple's double-glazed windows and somehow prove I wasn't snug as a bug in a rug with the rest of their children upstairs - although, dear soul, you were up there, weren't you, aren't you? Nuzzling those very children: disguised as a pet puppy dog with praying paws - a chip off my old furry block. You were to be a Christmas present from Santa Claws. And, with a smile of near compassion, I snuck away into another part of the benighted suburbs to find stronger story characters than Harry and Tara.

The Lady of Night: your real mother of death: she opens her largest valve and draws in the umbilical blood-vessel upon which you've been threaded since that terrible day in the schoolyard when your neck snapped beyond redemption of either pretend play or priest. The Lady of Night pushes your huge bristly outer innard so that it is now within you: whilst snatching out the previous contents of your body, dear soul, to make room for it - those human contents that made a simple kind wolf into a person-tainted monster.

Meanwhile, having found more human creatures to flesh out elsewhere, I wonder whose soul you wield now, dear zombie.

(published ‘Enter The Realm’ 1994)

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