psycho-bubble

Words we don't always think.
Steve Thorp:- poet, therapist & beach-dweller.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 16

The world freezes. The hurtling arrow slows until Adam can see that familiar face, and beyond it a thousand others just like it. Giant, winged creatures, with human faces; some of them almost recognisable to Adam; reminiscent of some vague knowing from way back.

He feels thrust back in his mind into tableaux and scenarios from a life half remembered. In one flashback there is a party with Julia, and a man hovers in the background with the face of the vulture creature, a sly hurt flickering across his face as he holds a drink. In another there is a crowd of boys spitting at him, covering his school blazer with their saliva, as he sinks down in shame.

There are others, but there is one that stops the others in their tracks.

In this, a giant figure, his mother, looms above him, snarling. Her mouth is moving, he can barely understand what she is saying, but the words form: Don’t you ever; she says, don’t you ever take me away from him, again! And then the snarl turns to a smile and she reaches out and picks him up, and all Adam senses at that moment is the warm sweetness of her skin.

The horde of winged creatures speeds up again for the briefest of moments and then there is turmoil, as they are flung aside amidst the roar of fire and fearful screaming. Most plummet to the ground, their bones and entrails smoking. The others wheel in the air and beat their hasty retreat on giant wings; the vulture man at their head amongst them. He looks at Adam and calls out something in a voice colder than ice, a screech of frustration and promised revenge, and then he, and the remains of the host, is gone.

The world turns quiet, and the boy turns to the girl and smiles. But she is not smiling, she is looking over his shoulder at the figure striding towards them. She sees the tall, beautiful figure of the Queen approach, - her hands still glowing with the power she has just expended - and stop before them.

Adam turns, but the Queen looks at the girl. Don’t you ever; she says, don’t you ever take me away from him. And then she looks at Adam with a half smile, and sees in his eyes that he remembers. This battle has been won, and she is back in control, she thinks, and she has saved her son.

Perhaps this world is not so bad after all? 

The girl notices something: that whilst the Queen could devastate the host of monsters, she can only whisper threats to Adam and her. She has no real power here. The pendulum swings again.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 15

At the top of the world

Eventually they stop climbing. The boy and the girl with the serious eyes have reached the top of the world. Out in front of them lies an endless plain of meadow and small clumps of normal sized trees that don’t seem lead to other levels of existence. There are no buildings, no tall trees, no human noise – no humans that can be seen in this wide expanse.

There is a light, cool breeze, the sun is warm and there are small clouds in the sky. Adam looks at the girl, and suddenly feels the same age as her. Her feels as if he could walk forever with her, hand in hand, across this world above the world, and never need to reach an ending.

Endings seem, to Adam, to be unnecessary, right now. He is vaguely aware that beginnings are also difficult, but he pushes this thought away and loses himself in the utopia he has created for himself.

The girl, on the other hand, seems agitated. It is the first time he has seen her like this in the hours they have been climbing together. Till now, her self composure has been a reassurance to him; has taken away the need for him to make a decision (beyond the initial climbing of the tree) or to do anything but follow her surefooted climb up into the world above the world.

She sniffs the air. Her dark eyes bulge. Her body is taught. Waiting. She has been here before. The appearance of heaven, she recalls, is always deceptive.

And now Adam is beginning to feel…unsafe. He is certainly not grounded, even though there is grass beneath his feet, for he is aware that thousand of feet separate him from the world he knows to be real. He remembers Julia, wonders where she is, how she is, wants the safety of her holding him. Feels like this is a nightmare.

Now Adam is watching too. Sniffing the air. Looking out onto the empty plain; into the empty sky; testing out the grass and the ground beneath his feet (did it move just then, was that a tremor?).

There is a long pause, as if they both have had their breath stolen from them, and then a scream. The girl is screaming and pointing into the distance, and there is a moving wedge of black, like a skein of geese - but these do not seem to be geese: the perspective is all wrong and there is malevolent purpose in their flight. They are heading out of the sky and diving towards them. Descending gradually like a giant spear arcing towards its target.

Run, she shouts, run. And Adams turns, and just before he turns to run back towards the canopy of the giant tree they have just emerged from, half a mile or so, he sees the face of something he has only ever seen in the dreams he wakes from, screaming. He sees blood on its face, and doesn’t know that it is Julia’s blood; but he runs anyway, runs like he has never run before.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 14

Vulture dreams

They are watching as the boy walks on through. The queen and the feathered nightmare; the mother and the ghost of the undertaker bird.

He stalked Julia long ago, and later died from wounds inflicted by her indifference. She had held the knife, even as he plunged it into his own wrists, and scored it upwards, gasping through the vodka haze at the sheer terror and pain of it. He did not die until the throbbing agony had reached a point at which death was welcomed as relief as much as for revenge. Poor Julia, she never even knew him. Such is the madness of the love of a carrion bird!

Death was a bonus. He realised that, here, he had access to dreams he could only have dreamed of. When he was alive and mad, he only wished to be the ghost-bird-made-flesh; to rip her face for turning it from him all those times: in the street, and the coffee shop and the parks as he followed her round the city.

He found his way to Adam’s dream, and found the crack of insecurity and longing that was the boy’s weakness: the vulnerability that allowed Julia to love him, and that made his troubled need open to the skies.

From then, the troubled nights that had been habit for Adam since childhood (muffled birth and baby screams; separation and greedy longing) became so much worse. The vulture ripped through the troubled, muffled home in his mind, and there was blood, and pain and, worse, a total lack of comprehension at the sudden fuckup of feather, claw and clamour that his nights had become.

No wonder he held Julia, tight, no wonder he needed her more. He never knew that, in a screwy sort of way, it was her fault that he was having the nightmares in the first place.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 13

The vulture man

The thing that killed Julia swooped down from a surprised winter sky and tore her from the pavement on which she walked. The people who saw it could not believe it – a thing half-man, half bird plummeting into the city, talons the size of knives, a greedy beak ferocious and hateful, wings that spanned the road and darkened the street as they carried the vulture man down to claim his first prey in our world.

Julia had met him before, of course, and this was an act of jealous revenge; she would not have known what for unless she had time to ask, examine and remember, and time was something he did not give her.

First, as he landed, his talons pierced her shoulders, and for a moment those watching had the impression that she was carrying him, her face rent in a silent, final scream. Then he pecked at her head, and tore away her face and the screams of those watching were matched only by his Caw! Caw! as he raised his head and screeched triumphantly into the city air.

He then began methodically to tear Julia apart. She was dead now of course and felt no pain, but the horror was in the watching and the vulture man was aware of this. He wanted to become a legend, a feared myth – to reinstate the deep archetypal terror into this world where it has long been sublimated in the machines of progress and the modern demons of reality, and concrete experience.

He wanted to become fear itself, the embodiment of an emotion that has long lost its potency, and has been lost in a forest of secondary emotions and symptoms – anxiety, stress, frustration, dissatisfaction, loss and longing. Nothing but a traditionalist, he wanted a return to deep fear, despair, hate, revenge and loathing.

Later in that day, in another world, he watched from high up as the boy and the girl walked along wooden pathways through the roof of a forest and thought of how he could make revenge more delicious. He could still taste Julia’s blood and it made him smile and want for more.

We will think differently of him now. He is, after all, Adam’s worst nightmare made flesh and feather.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 12

A question about Julia

Did the Queen make this happen? Does her influence, her magic, reach into our world too? We can hope that she is still only powerful enough to open gateways and talk to her son, but we have our doubts. We think of her already as evil, though all she has done is create a world in which her eldest son can walk. She has a task for him, that is true, but what is that she has she done to warrant our hatred?

Was it she who killed Julia? Did she cause Julia to die? The answer is no.

There is a hint, then, that she is not evil, that she is only doing what she has been called to do – which is to meet his calling in her own. In her land destiny cannot be denied as it can in ours. There, the price of failure is eternal limbo of the kind that our religions calls purgatory.

In our world we can deny our destiny and all that happens is that we die suffering, regretful and screaming against the sudden realisation of what we have lost and could have had within our grasp if only we’d had the courage; but in death the suffering ends and then what is left is the regret of others.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 11

Julia

As a little girl, Julia had been precocious and admired. Luck stayed with her all her life and her promise grew as she did. Always true to her character, her daemon had no need to intervene on behalf of Julia’s soul. In this existence, the god in question had chosen an easy and rewarding vessel.

Of course, in the world of the falling stars, life on earth is not judged by its span, rather the quality and integrity of the life that the chosen has lived on earth. Had Julia fulfilled her destiny? Was she all that she, Julia, could be? Had she grown down into the world?

As the answer to this question was, yes, there was no tragedy in the fact that Julia died young; though that was not how those who loved her experienced it at first. The shock of someone in their prime dying - and in such a sudden, senseless way – reminds us that we too might die young, and that for us it might be before our life has been lived. For our destiny is not a predictor of our time on earth, rather the mapping out of what we might become if all things were equal.

In Julia’s case all things were equal, and if she died in awareness she would know this and would not have regretted her passing.

And perhaps she crossed over to somewhere, and was still in the world (a world) in essence? Now there’s an intriguing thought.

On that morning Julia drank tea with the boy she had chosen to live her life with. Adam was beautiful and dark, as she was golden. They were each other’s other side, when they made love they crossed over and became the other. It happens in this world, but is unusual as in most couples at least one of the partners are feeling caged. That is one of the pains of this world, and people like Adam were never prepared to accept it. Perfection, the perfect romance, the perfect life were all within his grasp, he believed, which is why he was with Julia.

But only Julia was complete. Adam was only complete when he was with Julia. That was the difference, and it made all the difference. It was why, on that day in the city, Adam walked across to the other place, helplessly following his mother’s voice, his life-task still unfulfilled, while Julia was able to die.

When she walked to work, she looked up into the blue fresh morning and could feel her love for the city. She had a fresh smile and her hair was how she liked it best, loosely curled and bobbed long to her shoulders. She could still taste the tea faintly; and Adam’s flavour clung to her hair – that beautiful, twisted boy who she alone could make happy.

Call for Submissions – Unpsychology Magazine, deadline extended till end of February!

We’ve extended the deadline for Unpsychology submissions till the end of Feb - good, well written, new thinking on wellness, mental health, therapy and ‘wild mind’ would be very welcome! Contact stevethorp (at) lifescape (dot) org (dot) uk with any questions!

psycho-bubble:

A journal of post-civilised neurodiversity and wild mind

Unpsychology is an attempt to scavenge our own consciousness from the ruins of industrial civilisation. To trace a path through our current climate crisis of the mind, and find ways of living in whatever lies beyond.

In some ways, our…

Boy in the world - a fiction - 10

When Adam was eight, his mother had another child. A brother. The early December night he was born was bitterly cold and snowy, and she went into labour at around six o clock. David left the house at about seven with a pile of coins to go to the phone box in the village. Adam, who was a good boy, went to bed at eight. It was a long, quiet night.

David could not get through to the midwife, or the doctor’s surgery for ages and when he returned, frantic and apologetic, two hours later he said that a midwife was driving from B…., but would take at least an hour in the snow. Lucy, his mother, was getting regular contractions. She did not cry or moan however, but looked at her husband with ferocious love and held onto his hand.

Later, much later in the night, the midwife had arrived and, into the morning, Adams’s brother was about to. Adam lay in his little bedroom next door, awake he thought, perhaps drifting in and out of dreams, but aware all the time of how quiet it was next door. Occasionally a voice he assumed was the midwife’s would say something, and sometimes he heard David’s more familiar tones, but it was eerily quiet. Adam could hear his own breath and this seemed so noisy and disturbing that he almost willed himself to stop breathing. Something like fear welled up but he knew that he must not express it, no crying, no getting out of bed. The fear disappeared somewhere inside him, as if absorbed by his body and he entered a kind of trance in which one voice was heard, one figure was seen. She was grey, and shone coldly and he knew her so well. She soothed him in her fashion.

Once, that nigh,t he heard a click as his father left the room and his footsteps echoed down the hall, and they felt like they belonged in the same place as his mother spoke from.

Next door, his mother was determined not to make any noise despite the pain that was ripping through her body, She must be strong, she must not be defeated as she had been with Adam. She bit one by one on a pile of David’s handkerchiefs until they were sodden and was pleased and triumphant that when the baby was born at three forty-five in the morning she had shed not one tear.

When, years later, his father had told him this story of his mother’s silence in the face of the pain of creation, he was filled with a sense of cold power and awe and the thought of her determination scared him more than anything in his life. He felt sorry for his brother and the burden he had been expected to carry.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 9

Child

The best days for Adam (he remembered) were when he was a little bit too sick to go to school. Then he would be put to bed, where he would sleep for an hour or so in the warm, welcome fug of a low fever that he loved so much. Then he would allow himself (or was allowed - he could never quite recall) to creep out of the covers and gather up his toys, books and games. Then he could start to construct his imaginary worlds on the candlewick counterpane, and play quietly for the rest of the day. On a good day he could fill his room with a marble runway that stretched from the chest of drawers to the floor, improvised from piles of books and boxes and other furniture.

His mother, downstairs left him alone, only coming up occasionally to bring him hot milk and ‘light’ food to settle his stomach – scrambled eggs and white bread and butter. She hardly spoke to him when she came, but sometimes he would look up at her and see her standing there staring at him. On her face a expression that he read as love and…something else: fear, uncertainty, hate even? Certainly there was a question in her presence, as if she was uncertain of him or needed to keep him in his place.

Which is where, of course, he stayed.

Her world was a mystery to him. On his ill days she would not go out and all that he heard was the faint sounds of cleaning or kitchen clanking. No voices, not even a radio. It was if his mother’s voice could not make itself heard, even by her own house. Other mothers sang or played the radio full blast and sang along to that. They welcomed friends (like Adam) and gave them treats. Adam’s mum did not encourage his friends to come, and when they did she would leave them to play, leaving milk and biscuits out for them on the kitchen table. She would be somewhere else; Adam was vaguely aware that in a small house there were not many places to be unseen, but his mother managed it.

Once he saw her walking downstairs and she seemed translucent. A kind of grey light seemed to surround her, and she seemed oblivious to the stairs, the house, to Adam to anything. He remembered this image well into his early adulthood and, on the one hand, held it as a fond memory of a perfect mother who shone in her child’s eyes. Yet underneath he knew that she was not really there and she had never shone – not for Adam in any case. The sadness he felt when he thought this was so overwhelming that he preferred to live his life around the first explanation and this is the one that he stuck to, until in time, the more accurate realisation faded to almost nothing and, like his other emotions, were tucked away for another day.

The days his father came home from sea were the only moments he saw his mother come alive. Once when he was about seven he returned from school to find his father in the front room, sitting with his mother. He turned and smiled at Adam and seemed about to speak, but Adam’s mother looked at him with a kind of greed, pulled his face towards hers and kissed him. Only when the kiss was over did his father, David, get up and greet his son, shrugging a little apologetically as if to say, what can I do son?; but Adam saw that he wanted her hunger as much as she wanted him. His eyes shone, but not for Adam.

So both of Adam’s parents went away. Adam’s father went to sea. Adam’s mother to somewhere else entirely.

Boy in the world - a fiction - 8

The green path

She whispered to him. Climb down, she whispered, climb down and continue your journey. The boy decided instead to follow the light. He could hear her insistent voice, but she was too late, she lost her chance and, for now, he was free of her.

He gazed up and saw the dancing, green light far above and began to climb. His limbs felt strong and lithe and he made good progress but the light did not come much closer. He climbed on all fours, walking up a branch as wide as a footpath and using his hands to steady him and guide him. The branch felt smooth between his hands, and although it got darker the further he went up, he could see that the surface of the tree was covered in a grey, mottled bark. The tree felt so alive, so safe, so wonderful – and Adam felt the beginnings of joy breaking as if through a cloud – shining awake a memory in which he saw Julia dancing, smiling, loving. In this sun they both were held, contained – dancing together, clasping each other.

Each trembling, dark leaf was ecstatic as he climbed. It was like a meditation with two rhythms: the first, a drum beat that carried Julia and Adam on their dance to heaven, the second, the shuffle, shuffle of his climbing feet as he rose up through the tree towards the light. As the pool drew nearer, his mind grew clear and Adam woke - for the first time for decades it seemed - on the pathway through an ancient sentinel, along a road as worn as time, as new as spring. The air smelled verdant and wonderful.

Adam was breathing deeper with the effort of the climb, with the passion of his memory, and then suddenly the air became fresh, and he emerged out into a new place, a landscape of green, stretching as far as the eye could see in every direction. He watched as two kestrels courted overhead, deep in the valley of trees - swooping and teasing each other in a slice of time. He listened as birds called to him, to each other – their songs lifting above the drumbeat of desire that still echoed. He saw insects on the surface of the branch which held him steady, and could hear them rustle and hum as they scuttled, like him, towards the light.

When he looked round there was a girl. She had a familiarity about her, and a serious appraising manner. She also seemed to know him very well. She wore a grey robe that matched her serious little eyes. She had black hair, and olive skin.

She spoke. Who are you, man? she said. He found that he could not answer, but then she smiled. You are Adam she said, I knew you were. She reached up, held out her hand and Adam took it. They walked along the treetop paths and alleyways towards a distant cloud that hung pink in the morning sky. As they got closer he saw that the cloud was shrouded round an even bigger tree whose top was obscured in its midst.

Shall we climb this one too? She asked. Where shall it take us?

From above them the vulture man watched. He had expected them. He had heard the queen’s whisper, felt her helpless rage as the boy climbed up out of her reach, out of her creation. I will wait, he said to himself, perhaps I can profit from this.