Friday, 24 January 2014

Prolegomenon to an unfinished novel…


The conscious stone

Towards the distant coast winds a river, painted glaring, blinding bronze: brightness in the dull shades of evening grey. Widening through shapes of chalk-orange, resting on the weary land, this silvered ribbon pillars heavy, slow-moving cumuli that obscure the sun, the source of day – and, although man’s star hides, seemingly averse to viewing the twilight it has created, filtered beams silhouette reaching mountains to a greyness darker and more melancholy than evening should allow – even in its dying.
      On this landscape floats a pale drift of mist: smoothing the closing of day with a uniform, nebulous blanket. The phalanx of rising hills surrounding the river plain cuts sharp through this haze, though: casting a stark, undulating, steely blackness on the earth, which blurs into a mottled presence pervading all with an air of finality.

Time flows smoothly and strangely over life: dying always – yet always quick with the living joy of present love. Falling slowly into sleep, ever wakeful it lies, bedewed with a tender, glistening warmth.
      Sound – of birds returning to nests and night-dreams – falls with the clarity of light; and time slumbers fitfully into night’s angry void.

A lone figure meanders along the river’s rough edge, below the grass and sand seemingly hewn by some blunt, inaccurate blade away from the water and stones. His feet crack the surface of pebbles constantly: a shattering but non-destructive noise echoing in the dusk. He is trying to walk away from his past, and a future that his withered history seems to have forced upon him. He takes little account of the land – dimming and darkening under the grip of arriving night – his feet propelling him instinctively over the uneven ground, beneath the bruised clouds: ripping pink, soft flesh from his hands as he falls, suddenly stumbling, perhaps prompted by the sudden distraction of a stray flicker of silver-and-gold orange light glistening on a strangely clear pebble now immediately before his eyes.
      The fingers that groped emptily through the air as he stumbled now reach for the sudden stone.
      Walking along the pebble-dashed beach, he had only been looking for some general resolution of his tangled and mourning thoughts; and yet this imparticular search had led to this strange, clear pebble: small, wondrous and quite, quite beautiful. Still prone, he fingers the stone with his torn skin; gazes into it, not knowing its purpose, what to do with it. He knows, though, it has relevance and importance. He stands, puts it in his pocket, wipes his hands clean on his coat, and walks on.

The stone hides: both from its previous owners – the unthoughtful tides of sea, sand, salt and sun – and the new: quite unaware and forgetting man. As he walks, more frequently and more frantic in thought, the pocket lining which cocoons it also nurtures it: drying, protecting, preening and polishing; bringing out, in the darkness, secret effects and energies to be released only for him.

And, as he walks, time passes still. As the river it passes: leaping over obstruction almost with joy; then resting slowly and sometimes sadly in pools and smoothness. As the river flows even when not seen, so the stone’s warmth begins to burn into the man’s consciousness; and so he wanders.
      Many such journeys are travelled before the inevitable hand of time forces his to grasp the hidden pebble. It lays in his palm, warm as a new egg, and as precious, as fragile. What he suspected before seems now obvious: and he is proud. He knows why, he thinks, it lies there, pulling him and the thoughts deep inside. He transfers the cleaning and cherishing from accident to intention. He knows what, after time has danced so long, the attempted catharsis of his meditative rambles has finally achieved. This concrete cathexis must be his salvation.

As time continues to fulfil its wanderlust, the man hides away in his room, cleaning and polishing, night after night; but the glean and shine have reached stasis. However hard he works, the attraction cannot be refined or improved. But the suspicion of meaning he has imbued it with is now a certainty. The inkling is definite: he knows the relevance, the values, the worths. He is thus content.

A sadistic wind, cursed with a primordial sadness more ancient than the firmament’s very existence, pulls wildly at the night, whipping up an evil gale that arches clouds violently across the peering, thin moon-face. Although its greatness is veiled in a ghost-grey turbulence, a serene light lies on the land, under a bronzed orb of dark, blue sky. Whispers of primeval rites – echoes of foreboding – rise and fall in the swell of air, pulsing and breathing. Yet these murmurs are stifled by a rush of intoxicating fury so full of strength that the universal cyclorama seems to scream with the torment and anguish of Erebus: translating the sharp, cutting pain that grasps the travelling soul into sounds terrible and piercing.
      The air weeps as a young child: large, emotional, spasmodic gasps interspersed with moaning sighs and silence – sobbing for the man’s sorrows, his sins. The night breathes: in aweful grief and sufferance.
      Rain spits grey on the land – not in tears though: these writhing clouds sweat in conquering their hurt – misting the not-too-distant hills and mountains; and, as some benign drug, blunting the stabbing blade which pierces the man’s almost unconscious thoughts – as the moon can night.
      But, gradually, the storming ceases, and rapidly twinkling eyes now mirror new celestial harmonies. Silence reigns the humble kingdom of man; sleep, its chancellor. Soon the Plough and the jewelled belt of Orion glimmer above as if touched by some faint ethereal breeze born of the former chaos.

It is this glimmering that the man now holds in his hands: a new sudden stone, strange and clear; small, wondrous and quite beautiful; and yet, to his fog-bound eyes, utterly, utterly different; and, in its way, more obviously lustrous. Another pebble.
      His increasingly habitual, thoughtful meanderings, have led him to this spot, and he has lain for hours, staring at his answer.
      And he stares.

Time flows smoothly and strangely over life: striding quickly – or stopped still. Standing this night, borne by a glowing earth-shine sphere, the crescent moon beams brilliant on time; whilst a sister planet cruelly transfixes the brittle ice of Earth’s darkness. All is gagged peace: as dead time.
      As the dawn scurries, pale and white, over the wakening hours, the man’s fixation fades quietly, ebbing as the tide of blackness. Gentle birdsong glistens around him, aspiring to lighten the crying shadows of the mind; and echoing replies shimmer as sun’s painted dew. These are the morning’s crystal teardrops. These: the beautiful, incandescent, softening comforts of living.
      ​And as the light arrives with the explosion of sun over the hills, the man also rises; and runs.

A lone figure stumbles incautiously, seemingly trying to escape life; trying to run, to rush, to race away from history. His feet and hands propel him instinctively over the cropped grass, the stones and rocks: up the scree, towards the bruised clouds, ripping pink, soft flesh from his fingers. Fortune clambers with him. But such a god is more fleet of foot, more nimble than a more mortal, and soon wins easily ahead of his breathless companion. Into the haze scampers Fortune, apparently deserting his charge – disappearing.
      Without luck, alone, lonely, the man is lost. In his maddened dash his body stammers. Again, he falls: groping emptily. The sharpened teeth of the mountain’s side pound him unremittingly. A lifetime passes. He is silent. Torn physically and mentally, he lies in agony and hell at the foot of his would-be murderer: the earth he supposed his friend. Fortune watches; but sleep wrenches the broken man’s consciousness from him; and his soul, now a lone wanderer on the air, surveys the dismal scene, as if from afar.
      And he dreams.

In his mind, his feet take him home to his room, his hands clasped tightly around his new treasure. In several continuous day-nights he gives to it the many months of care and attention afforded before to the other. He struggles to find the corner of his dream wherein lies this other. The precious previous. Gathering dust.
     With his love, the stone grows and grows in richness and depth. The beauty rises every morning with the sun, but never fades. A continual growth. Eternal. Were his imagination concrete, he would be dumbfounded. He would not know how to deal with this set of packed images, were it real. The reality overwhelms the man. The stone grows in beauty; and takes him over from sleep.

The stone grows and grows in richness and depth and beauty beyond his love: beyond the love he is sure he deserves.
      Eventually, he sees the first one, lying passive, with innate knowledge of its influence upon him. The thought of this image comforts him, but somehow lacks the obvious excitement engendered in the second.
      And he cries.
      He tries to polish the original with all his remaining might; his tears falling like the original rain and night on the stone. Is there then a new, trying glimmer, a new effort of attraction – or is it just the salt in the man’s eyes?

Two pebbles side by side. Time is passing inevitably – flown to this point. The man wipes his eyes, and looks down. Side by side are two identical stones. After, through, all this time, he still cannot now differentiate between them. Such different initial qualities, such similar final attractions. Why are they now the same? Knowing that, for his secret purpose, he should only require the one.

Towards the distant coast winds a river, painted glaring, blinding bronze: brightness in the dull shades of evening grey. Widening through shapes of chalk-orange, resting on the weary land, this silvered ribbon pillars heavy, slow-moving cumuli that obscure the sun, the source of day – and, although man’s star hides, seemingly averse to viewing the twilight it has created, filtered beams silhouette reaching mountains to a greyness darker and more melancholy than evening should allow – even in its dying.
      On this landscape, though, floats no pale drift of mist: the closing of day brings a sharpness and clarity of earth; the phalanx of hills rising and surrounding the river plain stamping its giant’s feet firmly on the land, cutting only into the cloud and sky. The stark, undulating, steely tear-salt blackness cast on the ground, a presence which pervades all with an air of never-ending finality. A phoenix may rise.

Time flows fitfully; and there is utter quiet.

A lone figure meanders along the river’s rough edge: the feet cracking pebbles; the hands fingering two such that are now symbiotic. From some inner impulsion he drags one from his pocket. For the first time, the man is seen to speak:
      – Before we part for ever, this you must know: that I have loved you beyond knowledge.
      Knowing not of the future nor of the past, he throws the stone as he would have rid himself of Excalibur.

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