Moon to my Waves

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I sit downstairs in a lonely, low-lit bar, nursing a double whisky on the rocks. A damp smell oozes from ageing posters of Frank Zappa and The Rolling Stones, and my feet are sticking to the floor. I’ve put Real Love by Swans on the jukebox. I don’t hear the lyrics, but its sombre tone is the moon to my waves. They rise up in my throat – salty lithium water – and the bartender looks concerned. Inside, there’s a trickster laughing at me, smothering me. See, I can’t even enjoy my last drink without being a bother to someone. I down the whisky, though it is but a homeopathic remedy in the sea that drowns me. I feel for the knife in my coat pocket and head for the bathroom. I’m ready.

***

It’s 3 am. The stereo is loud and my eyes are shining wildly in the moonlight. Real Love comes on at random and I pause at the top of my ladder. I have a paintbrush in one hand, a pot in the other, and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. There’s a distant pang of recognition at the song, like the flinching of a deadwood puppet in my mind. I let it play through, not because it fits my mood but because it’s a fleeting pleasure to mimic my other self. I glance at the scar we share on our left wrist, and I think of him sitting in the dark, sinking into the ground. The poor shit couldn’t see colour for all the pity and spite. I should look after him better next time. Then again, it’s entertaining as a replay. I toss my head back in laughter, and a faint voice tells me I should be careful, I’m toppling. But then the track flips over to Super Charger Heaven and I go back to making the grey walls blue.

*****

For more of my flash fiction, check out my book Fragments of Perception: out now in paperback and e-book.

On 20th February I will be attending the Virtual Future ‘Near-Future Fictions’ event in London, where my brand new story Toxic Duck Inc will be read to a live audience. Tickets are available here.

Polyphony

C.R. Dudley author Orchid's Lantern blog

Creative folk bounce in and out of one another’s lives: sometimes collaborating, sometimes revelling in symbiosis, and sometimes breaking one another’s hearts to discover new building materials.

And so, when Claude left Nancy, there came to be a trail of red paint on the carpet from the kitchen to the front porch, all the way out to where his beat-up hatchback had once stayed. Artists don’t like to walk around the outside of houses. Given the option of using a path or pulling waves through the floorboards to walk upon, they’ll go for impact every time. Luckily Nancy, being a musician, decided she quite liked the sound of the stain once it had soaked in. When she put her ear to it, it sung in mysterious tones; like sunlight hitting the moon. All through the winter she hummed along, accompanied by the new rhythm of her aching heart.

She was still humming it when she met Terence by the pond the following March. He was photographing the surface of the water: not the water itself, he stressed, just the surface. He was endlessly fascinated by surfaces of all natures, and fancied if their essences could only be isolated then our understanding of beauty would improve threefold.

Terence moved in with Nancy the very next week, and he covered her walls with home-developed photographs in black and white. Images of pavements overlapped with images of skin overlapped with images of the sea; all of them, he claimed, depicted something identical. He stuck them over, under and around the curly letters Stephanie had written a year before, making a brand new dancing visual poetry of the house. Nancy had a different tune then, and she hummed it with her fingers upon ivory keys. It still had remnants of the dried red paint, but this time against a quickened heartbeat, and with a distinctive smattering of surface qualia.

*****

Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is available now in paperback and ebook! Visit my books page to find out how to get your copy.

Broken Sleep – Bruce Bauman

Book Review Blog


Broken Sleep came up as a recommended read for me, presumably due to Bruce Bauman’s association with one of my favourite authors Steve Erickson. It is described as an experimental, kaleidoscopic epic, encompassing art, madness, philosophy and identity, which sounds like exactly the kind of book I enjoy.

‘There are many dimensions of ‘reality’ we don’t understand. Odd things occur that can’t be explained. That does not make you a candidate for a mental breakdown. I believe in what can be proved and I’m agnostic on what cannot be disproved. I do not subscribe to past life memories, extraterrestrials, time travel, ESP, or any other speculative sci-fi concoctions. That doesn’t rule them out for eternity. It rules them out for now. There’s more in here – he pointed to his head and then to the heavens – than there is out there.”

It is written from three different perspectives; two of which are first person an one is third. Salome Savant is a sex-obsessed artist who has been in and out of psychiatric care for most of her life; Moses Teumer is the son she believes was stillborn, who is now seeking a bone marrow transplant from his biological family; and Ambitious Mindswallow is bassist for rock superstars The Insatiables and a close friend of Salome’s beloved son Alchemy.

Despite the head-jumping, this isn’t at all difficult to follow. The characters are colourful and relatable (with the possible exception of Alchemy the rock star who can do no wrong), so the technique succeeds in giving a multi-faceted view of events. I don’t consider it to do anything ground-breaking in terms of style though, and its tendency towards anecdote over immersing the reader in a scene is a little disappointing. The character back stories are interesting for sure, but I was expecting a gripping plot to be laid over them and unfortunately that never comes.

Strangely, Broken Sleep as a title seems to have very little to do with the content; the Savant family do share a tendency to slip into daydreams and sleep poorly, but this is alluded to only sporadically and I didn’t consider it a key part of the story.

Politics, art, medicine, corruption, the press, the music industry, insanity, and family life are all incorporated into Broken Sleep. The multiple points of view enable us to see each of these from hugely varying perspectives, which is a big task to take on as a writer. For example we are shown the formation of a left-wing political party beside the musings of a former Nazi officer with no regrets. Elsewhere, we observe someone who does not believe in time living every moment to the full, beside someone who is running out of time but never using what he has to make it count.

The problem perhaps is that the themes are too broad to be meaningful in any one area. It almost has something to say about nature vs nurture, and it almost has something to say about the impact of personal relationships vs the impact of politics on our lives and our sense of control: but not quite.

“Inside every human, without exception, resides the essence of what moralists call evil. Herbert Spencer, in classic English linguistic perfidy, declared this drive to be ‘survival of the fittest’. I witnessed this exhibition of spirit by the delighted participation of women and children in acts of murder and debauchery. This empowering drive to vanquish and control is encoded in our blood and far outweighs courage or human generosity, or, for Christ’s sake, loving the enemy.”

What it does manage to demonstrate, I think, is how subjective life is. Everyone thinks their own logic is perfectly defensible, and everyone thinks they are the ones who need to wake others up to truth. Everyone tries to protect their loved ones in the best way they can, and everyone is torn apart by being lied to and having their worldview turned upside down.

Reason is powerless to repair the ruptured heart.’

I did enjoy Broken Sleep on the whole. Although it is hard to justify the length (620 pages), it is a straightforward read with short chapters, and I kept turning the pages once I’d picked it up. It’s just unfortunate there is very little in the way of suspense, or even open questions to make the reader desperate to go back for more.

Shadowbahn – Steve Erickson

Twenty years after their collapse, the Twin Towers mysteriously reappear in the Badlands. Thousands gather to witness the sight, describing them as an American Stonehenge. What make this even more strange – and haunting too – is that music comes out of the buildings that no one can quite place, and is experienced slightly differently by everyone present.

Which ghosts are being summoned is unclear: the spirits of the Towers? Or the phantoms of the Badlands? Or do, within the buildings, the spirits of two decades previous meet the phantoms of more than a century past, and do they embrace in spectral communion, swap tales of their lives, commiserate and comfort each other over their deaths, display for each other photos and engravings of wives and husbands and children, some wrapped in animal skins and blankets and others donning Mets caps and The Blueprint sweatshirts?’

This event is the ‘landmark’ of the novel, and the blurb. But in itself, it isn’t really what the story is about. As I read it, the story is about the road not taken. Every person, event, and creation has a twin: a shadow which is essentially made of the same principle but has different situational factors acting upon it. Shadowbahn bravely explores this idea on multiple layers.

Continue reading “Shadowbahn – Steve Erickson”

Mixtape: Something I Should Know

Apoptygma Berzerk – Something I Should Know – 1st November 2002

Got a feeling deep inside

That you know something I should know

I know that something isn’t right

Coz I hold secrets too and you know


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I’m on a bus ride home. It is dark, rainy and windy outside.

Cold.

An hours’ journey ahead when I’d rather just be home.

Limbo.

The usual crowd get on the bus after a day at work. I recognise many but speak to none: there is an unconscious code for commuters by which we never speak. We all look equally as miserable and desperate. Dishevelled. There’s a man about my age who has a familiarity to him. He looks smart in his suit, yet somehow dwarfed like the world of business is eating him right up. I sometimes think I would like to talk to him – I can hear from his earphones that he has alternative music taste like me. He keeps his eyes down, playing snake on his Nokia. I wonder if we could have been friends or maybe more if we had met under circumstances other than the shared rat-race transporter. Then there is the woman with the Armani handbag, which is either a fake or she has spent all her money on one item and has to make do with supermarket basics for the rest. There is the woman with the perm – she looks pretty drenched and is out of breath today – and the man who only gets the bus on a Friday, and calls his wife as we set off to let her know he will be on time or late. Continue reading “Mixtape: Something I Should Know”

Mixtape: Opening Skit


Some of my deepest thoughts have occurred while travelling. Perhaps not the most meaningful, but the deepest in the sense that they literally felt like they were slicing right through me. All those people sitting opposite me on a train or bus, who have seen my blank stern face say ‘please don’t bother me’; they could never know that inside I was floating upon the most raw emotions and experiencing the most rich thoughts that would go on to make permanent connections in my mind.

Memories of such times I recall with a mixtape playing in my earbuds. (ok so it’s a playlist these days, but doesn’t mixtape have a lovely nostalgic feel to it? Besides, there’s no skipping tracks on a mixtape and that’s important. Unless you are armed with a pencil, patience and a good sense for guesswork). Music was an ever present travel companion. And now every track is its own portal, which when entered, reactivates the particular dimension of emotion and depth that first experienced it.

In the original times of which I speak, I wasn’t in a position to create symbolic artworks. I was too busy being the symbols. I was fastened into my seat with little room to move, or I was being regarded by other passengers, or I was busy digging deeper into the metaphysical elixir-mine for Future Me to come back to and reap the treasure years later…

Hideous Gnosis – Nicola Masciandro et al.


On December 12th 2009, a symposium took place in Brooklyn NY to discuss the philosophy behind the music genre Black Metal. This book is a collection of essays and other documents from the event.

Unlike some who have criticised this book, I do think analysis of Black Metal is worthwhile from a psychological standpoint. Black Metal is dark, atmospheric, extreme, visceral and controversial. It provokes reaction. And that, to me, is an interesting phenomenon to explore in terms of what it says about us as cognitive beings who create and enjoy (or repel) such a sound.

The first problem I had with the book however, is that it’s a struggle to understand who it is for. I am an avid listener of the genre in question, and am fairly well read in philosophy. And yet, I could not grasp the point of most of these essays. There is no introduction to explain what the symposium was about, or who the speakers/essay writers are. There is little in the way of building up ideas and making clear cut arguments, and the writing mostly comes across as incoherent and bombastic. It is very heavy on quotes, from both black metal lyrics and philosophical works, but often without explanation as to the relevance, or else used out of context. One or two of the essays are also excessive with footnotes, to the point that the addenda take up more of the page than the article itself, which makes for unnecessarily difficult reading. Continue reading “Hideous Gnosis – Nicola Masciandro et al.”

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