Tag: story

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.

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.





Signs of Destiny.

Signs of Destiny.

I drove up through the whole of Scotland the day before independence. The fields, walls and houses yelled Yes or No in big letters, blue flags with white crosses and union jacks fluttered in the wind. A heavy fog rolled in off the sea just past the Dornoch bridge and visibility reduced dramatically so I turned off at a junction that agreed with my decision with a Yes painted on a wall. The road headed up onto high moorland and narrowed down to lanes with passing places. The fog thinned then cleared then thickened again closing off the view and opened it again. I got lost and decided to follow a course of destiny dictated by Yes or No.

If I came to a junction and a sign read Yes I carried on and if the sign read No I’d turn left or right or if a crossroads then I’d turn the same direction that the sign appeared on the side of the road. The mist rolled in and out, lines of stone fence appeared then disappeared. Wind turbines turned and flocks of geese spread out across the sky. I drove through villages that looked depressed and deserted and turned left or right or carried straight on as the signs dictated. Night began to fall and I passed a pub in the middle of nowhere at a place that was famous for being the coldest place in the land. The road carried on and No led me across a bridge at the Kyle of Tongue where the Aurora Borealis was visible in the sky over the sea.

I stopped and made a brew and watched a blue diagonal line cut the sky in half, star constellations began to move and spin, then stop, I rubbed my eyes and looked again and they spun again. There were a couple of islands out in the bay and an orange sail appeared between them and slowly grew bigger as it approached and became a deeper orange. The blue diagonal line quivered, the stars turned and the sail crept closer until I realised it was a slither of moon rising out of the sea. The show in the sky continued and the moon appeared in crescent shape above the sea and took its place in the sky-scape art piece. I drove off following my destiny along the road.

It hugged the coast and went over high moors with startled stags running, passed derelict buildings and down dips with houses grouped together, TV’s flickering in the windows. Then round an enormous loch that went for miles with houses scattered along the shore and onto a rocky sided road with white sandy beaches below. I drove through a village and a No made me turn off down a narrow road that ended at a fence with sand dunes beyond. There was nowhere else to go, this was it, this was the end of the road, the edge of the world.

The night was clear, the sky was now just full of stars that went on forever, waves crashed a fluorescent white in the distance. Tiredness began closing my eyes, sleeping bag in hand I went to the dunes and fell asleep.

The sound of footsteps, voices and barking dogs woke me and waves crashed in the distance and the dune grass ‘shhhed’ and danced patterns in the wind. I got up and saw people gathered outside a small hall where a sign was being unfurled that read Polling Station. The group grew in size and split into pockets, chatting and smiling, a lets move on aura filled the air. I gathered my things and returned to the car, cleaned up, ate and made a coffee then returned to sit on the dune overlooking the beach and the hut polling station.

The doors opened to a cheer and the people filed in, in orderly fashion, the excitement visible, then filed out again and resumed the chatting. They hung around and fell silent as cars pulled up and the other people filed in and filed out again and drove away without a word. This continued for the rest of the morning and around noon an old kilted man rode up on an antique bicycle and received a big cheer from the crowd. He took a tot from an old hip flask, laughed, danced a bit of a jig and went into the station to make his mark and came out again with arms aloft. The group then moved off and onto the white sandy beach, gathered driftwood and set a fire ablaze.

It was a small community and all the people had voted, the polling station doors closed and a police car arrived and escorted the officials with the ballot box to their vehicle and drove away to the main town for the count. The people cheered from the beach and talked of their hopes for a new country, a new ideal. A voice shouted out and all eyes turned and rested their hopes on a large dark object in the water. A flock of seagulls hovered above it and then a spout of water shot into the sky and the sucking of air could be heard. It dived and surfaced again and swam back and fore in the small bay.

The joy and hope of the day exuded into the air which now took on a strange hue. There were no clouds but the light seemed a little shaded as if the sun was waiting at three-quarter power. The tide didn’t seem to move but just hung not knowing which way to turn, the waves rose then fell flat without breaking. It was as if time itself was standing still waiting for something to happen. The people stood about the fire and seemed to levitate, their feet unsure of where the ground was. Then it seemed only minutes since noon but the night began to fall.

More wood was piled on the fire and the blaze lit up the whole bay. The whale kept swimming in the unmoving tide, splashing with thwacks of its tail, spouting and taking in air. It was night now and suddenly the water began to recede quickly and retreated from the people and the fire. A shout went up and everyone ran down to the water and looked out. The old man in the kilt was the first to go in, the tartan rising like an opening flower on the water. Then the others began to go in too, towards the whale which thrashed in the shallowing sea. They splashed towards the beast, falling over and getting up again. The bay was a shelf of sand and the water only as deep as their waists, they pushed on and gathered about the stranded whale that whipped its tail knocking some of them off their feet. They got back up and pulled and heaved and pushed the beast and rocked it back and fore. They tried to lift it and failed, they grabbed the tail and tried to pull it around but was knocked down again as the animal whipped it violently. It made a noise that no-one had ever heard, a loud high pitch long even scream that sounded like a city of towers were bending. Then it thrashed and thrashed and bounced it’s body from side to side throwing all the people off onto their backs. The sun was rising and the water was only ankle deep and the people cried as they scooped water up onto the whale’s back. It just sucked in the air now and made groaning sounds.

A quad bike hurtled down the beach towards the crowd and the beast that lay dying on the dry sand. Groups consoled each other and sobbed for the dying creature and the man on the bike stood up and shouted that there was to be no independence. He then pointed at the old man, Scotland himself, wearing the kilt, collapsing to the floor next to the whale that was now dead.