Tag: fiction

Memoirs, a Soviet Sci-Fi trip.

Jetstream rain fell for weeks, a flood of black dogs ran riot.

I thought Spain at first, but……..

Hiding in books and films, Soviet sci-fi, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky took me on a Roadside Picnic with Stalker as guide under the direction of Tarkovsky.

There were bottles of booze at a bar then the trip began in a cloud of green weed smoke. It led to the Zone, nothing was as it seemed.

Nuts led the way, yes nuts like the weatherman. Radiation would be highest on the copper mountain wastelands, in another world.

Parys Mountain lit up, unbelievable colours, barren piles of ore. The sun shone, the dogs hunted under the cloud shadows.

The poison pools gave cover, a good place to sleep. Orange nebulae grew in the water at never ending depths.

A presence lurked and came with a net, a surreal image, was it from Figueres? The seams against the cloud edge gave it away.

The China Suite.

She’s the Baron’s daughter, Kathryn, standing there by the window, scratching a name into a glass pane with a diamond. From her spot she looks down to see the gardener’s son planting a beautiful plant in the middle of a flower bed.

She remembered how they played as infants, her only friend on the great estate. He’d shown her how to sow seed later, ploughing a furrow, scattering the seed and gently covering them up. Her father had stopped all that, she was to be the lady of the house and must keep her place.

He had been away inspecting his interests in China, from where he had sent back magical gifts and an artist to assemble them. From there he had gone to the West Indies, to oversee new work on his plantations. Now he was returning to the castle built from sugar, an urgent matter had been the word and home he sailed.

Kathryn was confined to the China Suite, the upper floor of the tower, the rooms her mother had died in. They had been redecorated by the Chinese artist who lived somewhere about the grounds. The young Miss had gotten into trouble, the house keeper found out, locked her away and waited the return of the master.

The faces looked at her from the walls, eye’s followed from the fields, rice planters in paddies, from tea houses and from palaces. All of them watching, from the peasants all the way up to the emperor himself. Fish jumped out of water to see her, animals wandered closer and birds flew by, wings flapping. They all wondered,

‘what was going to happen now?’

The life in the hand painted, papered wall covering continued, the sun came up, the days work continued, all the industries of life and death, wealth and poverty carried on and all watched Kathryn and talked in whispers about her. Eventually they started answering questions she posed, with secret signs, left in secret places, on the sunrise seas and in the deep tree lined valleys and on the tables tops at banquets. She only had to listen and a whisper would move her eyes to a spot, un-code a message.

The China Suite was a Godsend, keeping her sane over the months she waited for her father to return. One day a whisper from the wall alerted her to the sound of hooves and the rattle of a carriage coming up the main through fare toward the gate of the sugar castle. The creaking doors were opened to the sound of hurry inside. The stairway thundered under the baron’s force and the China Suite door was thrown open.

He just stood there and looked at her standing, back to the window, blocking out the light. The walls now became coloured wallpaper, her eyes looked in dread at the new reality. He stormed across the room, she cowered and he took her in his arms and gently held her, cradled her. He looked out of the windows and said,

‘It will be made good.’ He paused, stood up releasing her. ‘You are my flesh and blood, my only child, I love you. Rest now child, I’ll see you in the morning.’

The walls were now dead to her, she could not see them anymore, had she gone mad too, like her mother, and now her father has come to rescue her. She slept comfortably, no conversations and secret signs, no cows pulling ploughs and no peacocks standing proud.

A commotion woke her up, it came from the garden, all the way down below the tower window. She struggled to get up and as she walked to see what was happening outside, the door burst open and the baron stood there with a covered tray. He bellowed,

‘Sit girl sit, I bring breakfast.’

He smiled, she smiled back and sat waiting. He placed the tray before her, looked into her eyes and lifted the lid.

‘Isn’t it pretty?’ He laughed

A plate of meat was surrounded by decapitated heads, flowers, from the plants below her window.

The sun rose out of the China Sea as the artist walked in, carrying a long hooked needle.





The conversation talked Darwin on the car radio, the case for selection, when suddenly the car coming the other way flashed it’s lights and a black car cut in right in front of me and sped off, the plates read F3 SAD. That’s a third generation symbol. The case for selection continued in the background as the black, race trimmed car disappeared around a bend up ahead.

I drove at the regulation sixty MPH max. following in the tracks of F3 SAD, round that bend and there not far ahead, there it was crawling along behind a tractor. It weaved in and out looking for a gap to overtake. I joined behind the racer and trundled on, a pair of eyes flashed at me in the rear view mirror. Then a chance came, he gunned the engine and motored out into the other-side of the road. His speed increased and he swung in front of the tractor leaving only horror on the face in the on-coming window screen and the mouthed words that looked like FFFFkingELLL.

The farm vehicle turned off up a track and left the road ahead clear as it wound bends, descending a hill and there a red light shone and I pulled up behind F3 SAD. The eyes glanced, the motor revved and when the colour changed fumes spewed and he was gone with lead boots. I followed and saw the heads in the cars I passed shaking.

The road continued and there on the right was a truckers fuel station, wagons moved about in the yard. A little further on, the tall wide backs of hauled trailers came into view and as I came closer F3 SAD sat behind them. He weaved out now and then to find an opening but was stuck with everyone else behind the trucks. The convoy rolled on through villages, over bridges and followed long bends until a roundabout came up that had a junction for a fast bypass.

Round the lorries went and so did F3 SAD, I drove along too and saw him pull straight out into the oncoming traffic and roared ahead. The traffic coming hugged the curb in panic and F3 SAD just drove through a no-mans land and on into the distance.

It started to rain and began to darken, wipers on, lights on, follow the traffic, turn a junction and across a roundabout onto the mountain road. The space narrowed along the valley, around a few bends and there ahead a warning sign flashed, ‘SLOW’. There was a red light ahead and a line of cars leading to it. I pulled up behind the rear car, F3 SAD, the eyes glanced in the mirror and fists started to bang the steering wheel. The light changed and the flow of traffic moved on, F3 SAD let them go and when they passed a junction he sped off and pulled a handbrake turn into it, the rear end swung bouncing over the curb and hit the wall, the rear bumper ripped off the back.

I drove on, following the tail lights in the distance. The radio conversation had changed to the parasitic effects of toxo-plasmins on the human brain.

Where the Ghost Grass Grows.

Where the Ghost Grass Grows.

Charlie Wildfire had inherited land and went to the valley to find it. He drove along the road and parked by an old church, now a modern house. He double checked the directions on the map and headed off around the bend to the other side. The entrance to a track appeared and he followed it through thorn bushes that seemed to open and lead the way.

The thickets ended at a hillside and the moorland on the other side stretched far to the distant black mountain peaks. The sun shone in a clear blue sky but a shadow hung over the place, clinging grey, hiding the colour there. An old house stood where the old map said it would. Half the roof was missing and Charlie peered though the broken rotting windows that framed a time gone by. The upper floors had collapsed onto the furniture below and time mulched it down into a smell of damp fungus. Where the kitchen once was, only a cooker stood complete, leaning awkwardly against a door, a pair of footprints were clearly imprinted standing in front of it. There was a creaking sound and a beam fell, knocked the cooker over and squashed the footprints flat.

There were no other signs of life, not a single soul had been here for a long time. The sun still shone in the clear sky and the shadow still cast grey on the land. He walked towards the acreage, the inheritance and felt it growing inside him, until the breath was taken out of his body and made his head spin. He fought for air and his eyes saw the change and enveloped the scene in front of him, like a fairy tale in a paperweight. A great hand must have shaken it up, a new land appeared, the shadow was gone and clouds filled the sky and cast a new shadow over the surrounding world.

A harrier hung over the moorland grass now a luminous white that glowed. The were sounds that came from a place he struggled to see and the grass moved violently in waves but not a breath of wind blew. He reread the letter that hadn’t made sense when the lawyer gave it to him but now he read the words out loud and the land shimmered as he read.

“Now you must go and watch for flow in the place where the ghost grass grow and watch for sights, your inheritance rights.”

Then he read the last line to himself. ‘Take it with the love from your mama Hazel Wildfire. Till we meet again.’

He had no memory of his mother, they said she was insane after the killing of her husband in a churchyard. They sent her to prison and one night she disappeared from a sealed cell.

Then a breeze did stroke his face and he looked out across that glowing sea and there through it, a line grew , the grass pushing side-wards as if by single steps one after the other and it was heading towards him. A flickering apparition came in and out of sight and he saw a young woman, hair like fire, wearing a long skirt, waving a flat hand, stroking the heads of grass, a piebald horse followed on a long halter and she looked up and stared and smiled at Charlie Wildfire.


Cooking with Wildfire. Where the Ghost Grass Grows

Cooking with Wildfire. Where the Ghost Grass Grows

She cursed me that morning, my gypsy wife, Hazel Wildfire. I only heard a part of it going out the door. Something about a new cooker and as I walked off she shouted,

‘I’ll never let you rest, even when you’re dead.’

I’ve heard it all before, it’s never ending, what with the want, want, want and curse, curse, curse until I give in for a bit of peace and quiet.

All this started a while back, a couple of months really but it feels like a life time of rant, rant, rant. I’d come across these gypsy boys who were selling a horse, I didn’t need one but there was this absolute beaut, a piebald with patterns that danced, hypnotic in the eyes. I just had to have it. So I asked,

‘how much?’

They mumbled together in a language that only a gypsy can understand and said a long speech to me that ended with,

‘then we’ll be brothers, so give me a hundred and shake on it.’

I thought ‘deal’ and followed his lead and spat in my hand then we gripped hard and he held tight and said,

‘ you better look after her well.’ And he stared hard into my eyes to show he was serious.

I paid the money and took the horse and walked on along the road, past the old church, towards my place. I could hear all this muttering behind me and foot stamping like a child’s. I turned and looked to see this wild looking, red headed girl, well woman, stomping along, skirts flying, boots scraping, carrying a bundle. I didn’t think more about it and carried on, turned up the track and onto the moor where the house was. I went round to the stable, put the horse in, fed it some oats, filled a bucket of water and gave it a big kiss on the nose. It laughed like only a horse can and nodded it’s head. Then I went to the house and that girl was standing there hands on hips, a furious look on her face. She began to curse me….

I’ll cut a long story short here and save your ears and cultured sensibilities from that foul mouth. The fact of the matter was that she was found by the gypsy’s at the side of the road when she was a toddler, they took her in and raised her as one of theirs. Well she had the gypsy gift too and had cursed them until they didn’t want her anymore, she was bad luck. The sale of the horse wasn’t a sale of the horse at all but the sale of her and the horse, their very best, was a gift, a dowry if you like.

With her non stop shouting at me, I open the door and hold it for her to come in. She looks at me and shuts up, looks duty bound and steps in, throws her bundle down and closes the door.

‘You paid the money?’ She asks.

I nod.

‘That’s only half a marriage, it’s like an engagement. Now we marry for real.’

She lifts off the skirt and flips off the boots and shakes out her hair. A goddess under all that and mesmerised I stand and she pushes me down,  unbuckles my troswers and before I know what’s going on, it’s all over. She gets up, opens the door and jumps in the trough outside. She come back as I’m fixing my things up and she just stares and says,

‘now it’s done, the deal is sealed, you are my husband and what’s yours is mine. I will love you till your dying day and you will never touch me again.’

With that she gathers her things and walks up the stairs, goes into the bedroom and shouts down,

‘ the bedroom is mine you can sleep down there, husband.’

I didn’t see her till the next day, I was sure I heard her crying in the night but left her to it. Then it started the nagging, on and on and on. I want this, I want that. I bought her this and bought her that just to keep the peace and have a quiet life. It was never enough and then one day she said,

‘I want one of those new gas cookers.’

There wasn’t any gas supply so I refused.

‘No! There’s nothing wrong with the range and it heats the house.’

But no, it wouldn’t do, she had to have it and that brings this back to the start where I’ve been cursed again and I’m storming out of the house.

I goes down the track round the bend and into the church yard for some quiet. There I fall asleep in the warm sun among the gravestones. That damn cooker comes into my dreams and begins to haunt me. Damn cooker, damn cooker, it begins to weigh me down deep into a pit. I hear voices and a bit of singing and the organ is playing like they are rehearsing. Then it stops and the cooker comes back and goes on and on and on like eternity in my dream, there’s no peace but I can’t wake out of the dream.

There’s this rumble and loud cracking noise and after a little while I hear voices in the distance.

‘That’s worth a fortune, it’s all lead, I’m gonna get it down the scrapie’s, com’mon giz a and.’

‘It’s bad luck, shud’nt do it. And there’s all those gypsy knots engraved in the casket, me da’ told me ov them, said there was the red gypsy witch down ere a whilst ago till they run er off.’

‘Don’t talk wet will ya, giz a and, we’ll weigh it in and go for beers, get a rite skin full tonight, and there’s those birds, the fit wans.’

‘Oh yea, come on then get yor ass in gear.’

So I’m awake at last, those boys been robbing lead off the church, that’s wrong but you got to make a living somehow. I get’s up and walks out by the gate and there’s a scream from these kids who run into the church shouting mama, mama there’s a ghost. They must have been the ones practicing for the service earlier, I walk out and head home.

I’m going to give that Wildfire a bit of my mind when I get there. Enough is enough and I’m going to put my foot down, no more this, that or the other. It’s time to have it out and get this settled. Maybe that’s what she’s waiting for, for me to stand up and be a man, be a husband, be strong and stand my ground. She may thank me, she may respect me for standing up and not taking anymore of that nonsense. She may be a real wife to me too and show me again what Wildfire is like. Yes that’s it, the time has come to…… A cat shrieks on the track in front and jumps three foot into the air then bolts into the bushes. Crazy thing, now here we are coming to the house.

I slow and look then walk on slowly,

‘What on earth have you done woman?’

There’s a big hole in the roof where slates had come off, the front door is hanging off it’s hinges, the stable has tumbled down, the place is over grown with ghost grass and litter is spread everywhere, the windows are all broken. I walk closer, there’s a warning sign that reads ‘CONDEMNED. KEEP OUT.’

What was happening. I squeeze through a gap in the door, the ceilings had fallen in, a rat ran for cover, the furniture had rotted, everything else lay scattered and broken. I go into the kitchen and on the wall is painted a sign, ‘YOU WILL NEVER REST.’ I turn and there behind the door, standing at an odd angle was one of those new fangled gas cookers.