nemesis

The Shah's True Love

I was playing a computer game with my friend where we had to invade a Nazi stronghold, and we could never get past the final stage, a train station full of guards in turrets and behind barricades, the air full of bullets. Finally I dived into the water of an open stream that ran parallel to the tracks, the bullets making tracks all around me as I stared back up at the helmeted soldier whose machine-gun was pointed at my face. I spoke to him through the water, marvelling at the fact that the AI of the game was so well-designed that the soldier seemed as complex and real as a character in one of my dreams. To get away from him, I swam deeper, searching for an exit. Finally I saw one,

and surfaced in the swimming pool of the Shah of a hot and isolated country. The Shah has wonderful gardens in his palace all ringed around with pools and vegetation and gifts and dedications to his ladies - he looks like Burt Reynolds with a fake tan - I am a visiting prince petitioning him for a bride from his harem and to show the intensity of my intentions I water the flowers from a can into which I draw the water with my own breath. He guides me from garden to garden and shows me where the names are carved in stone: her who he loved and left, her who he worshipped and discarded. I swim in the pools and water the plants until finally I let my guard down and fall in love with the only woman he has forbidden me: the wife of his heart, small and dark and full of gravity and electricity like the black sister of the sun. I painted white and orange flowers for her on the side of the pool, and when they were seen the Shah and his servants were full of anger and recrimination, and I had to make explanation and reparation, but behind her dismay I heard her soul singing back to me.
 

Bone Machine Operator

you aren't going to hurt us, are you? we of the rngs and gauges and endless interphysical circuitry. lurking in some vague electricity. listen to me carefully. I am looking for a virus. I think it's inside me, a cancer of my marrow. I want to know what's wrong with me, why I want to blow it all away. destroy myself, destroy everything else, I do not want to be this murderous impulse but I can no longer deny it exists in the robot core of me. we're not in the present now. all of this has already happened. the shotgun and the baby falling through the broken floorboards. the. we're animals, animals, animals, drugged and broken and translated into a million forms, and yet we have a key, we have been given one last chance, here. now. last chance. GO!

beaten senseless naked under neon and neoprene maybe we are crazy, finally and dreamily. all wars one war, all books one book, all minds one mind. time is a gap between memories of gaps between shapes and colours of photographs of frozen instants of time. in a voice bubbling and choking the bone puppeteer sings that the earth died screaming. while I lay dreaming. in the underworld chapel of rape and sulfur and snow churning out guerilla fighters for the futile snowball fight at the end of the world as the lava tsunamis lean over the horizon and blot out the sunspots. a monkey and a roast beef sandwich and a midnight run through luminous mists. sparkling stars in the gaps between trees and dogs running between split seconds of thermonuclear futures. I am insane. wouldn't that be beautiful?

scrabbling for leftover croissant in the bourgeois bins, fingerprints shaved into a bloody unknown, lost faces scattered underfoot. underwater. drifting down with lit candles in their mouths, teeth locked and lips stretched into endearing grins. we relied on our wit and charm all our lives hoping no one would see through us, praying we would go unnoticed, lying and acting even in the clenching jaws of the crematorium. candlelight fusion to sift us gracefully to ash. the shadow of our death writes the story of our life. the future causes the past. that's vertigo. that's hindsight. that's the triumph of the chaos lion, paw raised to tear down the screen, the maddened roar of the unwinding reel, the flickering tail of filmstrip consumed by a soft flame. the director and the scriptwriter give their lives to summon the animal army. I never knew what he meant: the sad quiet beaten morphine addict who shot his wife and only wanted to stare at his shoelaces for the rest of his life. for the eight hours it would take the blessed grains to sink into his innermost marrow and cross the barrier into the western lands of his soul. born cognizant of his own death. suicide re-enacted daily in his pages and his goodbye kisses. the smile she gave as his finger squeezed the trigger. palm touching palm in trust. her thoughts painted on the wall behind her. her thoughts that he would never tire of travelling in his opiate dreams. he's missing his teeth and his makeup is running under the spotlights and he's been high for so long that the earth is screaming for the touch of his whole body. it wants to love his bones into powder. he owes it an entire lifetime. her dark matter draws him back to its mercy. its mercy is the circle of dreams through which he will chase her. real and unreal bound together forever. or as long as he loves her.

Nemesis

Something was chasing me through underground catacombs, the same vaulted, rough stone that I always found myself running through, with muffled detonations from the surface shaking my breath in the cold air, and my family trailing behind me, half-conscious and vulnerable, hardly even alive in the same way as me. I'd shake them, "This is just a dream!" but they just looked at me reproachfully and turned their faces back towards their destinies again. So I'd stay with them, and sink back into the story of the dream, losing my wakefulness, until all that remained was a numinous awareness, an ability to communicate that exceeded most other beings in the dream.

Except the creature that caught me, finally found me, in some deep, fluted recess in the underground passageways of a forgotten citadel. It was golden and yellow and orange, shaped like an eight-foot-long lionfish, and it floated in the air, moving with implacable swiftness. I had been running from it for a long, long time, and I couldn't run any more. It was the end of a thousand dreams of flight from death. It had been following me all this time, and its purpose was to end my life. We had both always known this.



We spoke. I found that I wasn't afraid any more, now that it had caught me. I asked it why it was following me, why it had to end my life. It couldn't really answer the questions in the form I was asking them. I knew that I had once been a very different person, but to save my life, my whole psyche had been replaced, wiped clean. I could no longer remember anything about my old life and the person I had once been, so I asked my Nemesis what I had done in my past lives. It knew m,y thoughts and everything about me, but it wouldn't answer me. I kept asking, and he showed me images of a sick young man hanging around a school playground, tempting children away, waiting for them to wander over to him, the sun bright on their legs. As soon as I saw the images, I said "Yes! I knew it...I knew that in a past life I abused children," and it said, "You know everything you've ever done. You could tell me right now the whole story of your past lives."

>-<

The baby crawling towards the jagged hole in the upper story floorboards, like a scene from a movie rolling in slow motion through the water of my mind, and I spring forward to cath the child, but it's too late, it falls through the hole and falls three floors to its death. I stare down at its broken body, waves of horror and nausea washing over me. This baby was my mother's, and it had been entrusted to me. I had allowed something to happen that I could never get away from. I knew that I was as good as dead.

>-<

The man's body, bones broken, at the bottom of the deep, long staircase, where we had pushed him to his death. The air smelled musty and cool, heavy with memories from my school days, and around the corner was the tiny room, hidden in an alcove, where we played chess on Wednesday afternoons. It was a time without threat. Now we had murdered this man, and it was as if his blood became a tide washing over my mind, so that everything became dark and fluid, and the connections between my thoughts and my identity were lost. When I returned, and my mind was healed somehow, I was standing in front of my girlfriend and my father. They were crying, and lookinng at me, and I held up my hands in incomprehension, looking at the lines on the palms while they explained what had happened. I'd been in a lunatic asylum for the last 20 years, after something terrible happened in my past, something my mind couldn't bear, and sent me into darkness to keep me alive. The shock of all those lost years came upon me in that moment as I saw my own face, lined and full of sorrow and waste, and I looked at the people who loved me, and felt ashamed. But at the same time I felt free, like a soul coming out of purgatory. I'd gone as far down as you can go, and the sky was still blue and I was still loved, no matter how many years had gone, or how undeserving I was. I cried until I woke up.

>-<

I was crying while my nemesis talked to me. My mother was there too, and she told me that it wasn't in a past life I had committed these crimes, but in this life, only my memory of it was gone, destroyed. She showed me a bunch of small, plain flowers and a book of handwritten poetry that I'd sent to the parents of the children I'd molested, after I'd been caught and punished. I'd repented and become self-aware, and I'd been healed somehow, and that old me was dead, literally dead. I was crying really hard, because I didn't want to have done those things, but I knew that I had - that this was my legacy, my karma, my story that I now had to deal with.

I spoke to my nemesis some more. It explained that it was trying to find a way not to kill me. Its only purpose was to kill me, but it was trying to find a way out. I said "Is it something to do with stories?" and it replied, Not exactly, but close. It was something to do with stories and thought, and the inevitable repetition of old patterns and stories through the mechanism of thought. If I could change the nature of my thought, I could escape the destiny of the death that was waiting for me.

>-<

I went walking with a shifting-girl, an amalgam of several people I know, trying to explain to her the nature of thought. We wandered through nameless suburban estates full of white houses and walls covered with graffiti - "TEEN BRIDE IM SORRY", "CIRCULAR SELF PORTRAIT IN GREEN", "GOURANGA". I pointed out a tree branch, and said that in the mind, this was an 'image' or 'thing'. The image was made up of 'feelings' - the feeling of the bark, the feeling of the knots and shapes of the branch, its colour and weight - all feelings in the mind. And then I explained that when the branch moves or is seen to act, sprouting leaves, or moving in the wind, the mind tells a story to represent that action and explain it. "The branch is moving in the wind". But the story is false, because in reality the branch itself does not act, and there is no story governing its movement. It isn't even a 'thing'. Thought warps and alters reality by isolating portions of its flow and calling them 'things', and then telling stories to interpret the seeming actions of those things. This is the nature of thought. And it locks us into our already-written destinies, our personal stories, in which we are isolated actors reciting our doomed soliloquies to a presumed audience, poor little branches doomed to wither and fall, unaware of the life we share with the root, the blossom and the bole.

This is what my nemesis was trying to tell me, and I woke up explaining it to the shifting-girl, so that the last words about the branch were spoken into the silence of the bedroom before I even opened my eyes.

>-
 

Forcefield

I was rearranging the furniture in our house and eventually I had moved everything out of the sitting room. It seemed empty and for some reason we thought we might have to move out of there soon. We were renting from a landlord we didn't know very well. When I went looking for the landlord, I stepped out of the door into a totally different place. It was a strange, heavily built-up urban area that looked as if it had been bombed and then left to crumble - there was graffiti all over the walls and only a few of the street lights were working. There were groups of people hanging around everywhere, as if it had turned into some kind of squatters' community since it was destroyed.

I found my landlord outside one of the buildings. He had multiple piercings and short-cropped hair dyed bright red. He was standing talking to a very large woman whose hair was tied into short dark read braids that made her look like a Medusa, who didn't say anything but glared at me, and disappeared into the tenement when I approached to talk to them. The problem, as I now understood it, was that someone else was living in our house, but I was sure I could prove that we were supposed to be there.

He seemed surprised when I described the house to him, and then when I said "We're your tenants," he understood. Immediately he invited me in "to go to the beach." We walked through the house, which was darkly lit and unfamiliar now, and he disappeared into a bedroom saying he'd follow me out. I saw that the large woman was in another bedroom so I peeped in, asking "Do you know if this house is going to be available to rent again? Are you moving out?"

The woman's head was upside down on her shoulders and she had a demonic grin. It looked very unnatural. I looked across the room to a smaller bed where a strange child was sitting looking at me. There was something wrong with its head too - it was too narrow, and seemd deformed, with strange lumps. My landlord came out of his bedroom and said "No, go outside now! GO!" so I left, walking through the back door on to a wide silver beach with rolling dunes, which looked like a desert in the night illumination.

I looked back to see that the weird child was following me. I considered running, but then I thought "What have I got to be afraid of?" so I just waited to see what it wanted. I looked behind it to see a dragon approaching - a fake one, like the ones at Chinese Pageants. I said "Gargamel" because that was the dragon's name. I remember now that that was the name of the evil wizard in The Smurfs. Then both the dragon and the child disappeared. My landlord came out and we went out to lie on the beach together.

I remembered after a while that I'd left Liadain behind so I said to him "I've got to go and get my wife, she's waiting for me," and he said "Sure." He gave me a piece of paper with a lot of numbers and information written on it - paperwork so that I could get back in to the house and the beach again if I wanted.

When I was on my way back through the tenement building, something strange happened when I was going through the entrance hall. People were unable to get out of the doorways because a force field of some kind was holding them back. I tried to walk through the door, but it was suddenly like walking through treacle, or pushing against an invisible membrane. At first I thought "it's a magnetic field" because I thought I could feel it dragging on my belt buckle, but it still affected me even when I took off my belt.

The force field turned into a pressure even inside the building. Everyone was starting to scream. It was like sinking under deep water. It felt like my skin and bones were being crushed slowly, and I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak, except a kind of strangled gasp. I managed to heave myself out of the door, then felt myself rise up off the ground, and that's when I thought "My god, it's Planet X...these are all gravitational effects...Planet X is passing, it's all true and we're going to die..." I looked up into the sky but I couldn't see anything up there but stars.

I was rising further off the ground, and my body was still being crushed. I said "Liadain!" because I didn't want to die without her being there, or maybe I thought she could help me. She appeared in my arms, and was frightened because she didn't know what was going on. "What's happening?" We were both floating in this immense pressure, and so was everything around us, people and bricks and cars floating around as if in a slow whirlwind.

I said "I'm sorry...I'm having a bad dream and I called for you, but now you have to share my bad dream." She hugged me and buried her face in my neck. I felt a tugging on my hand and I looked up to see a falcon or a hawk, some kind of bird of prey, grasping my hand in its claw. It was trying to pull us both up and away to safety. It was finding it very difficult, but it flapped as hard as it could and slowly we were rising out of the influence of the force field. At that point I woke up.
 

Gravity

The lights are streaming past,
burning sodium starlets hurled
by the hand punched through the membrane
of the bedroom scene;
the bright faces plunging through the tunnel
of limitless space and time, forever;
the fabric glimmering of the air
and all those who slay in her.

The driving thrum of guitars,
the energy in her eyes, holding the wheel,
facing unafraid the darker coastline;
rising out of the warm, luminescent water,
stepping into a held towel and a kiss,
asleep in our wilderness, my companion,
stopping in the downpour to see the islands,
the sun holding the hills, the sun on her hands

In one moment to see it shake to a halt
her eyes curiously regarding you –
how suddenly you fell into the future of her,
stars and water and stone and all
blurring and flowing towards an invisible image –
the unknown heart of her,
her thoughts when you kiss her forehead,
the feeling in her when she smiles:
the sun’s dark sister, drawing us near.

Infinite Eight

When I was a teenager my mother saw I was sad,
and told me to draw figure eights on their sides,
over and over. "It makes you happy," she said,
"Psychologists are just finding this out."
I drew the eights on my books in school,
at chess tournaments, on toilet doors,
even on my own skin, until the ink sank so deep
that after a week it still showed, like an old tattoo.

Owl eyes on the blackboard in maths class,
moth wings traced on the window with a fingertip,
sycamore seeds spiralling on to sterile concrete.
An old photo of a birthday party, taken
just before I blew out the candles - "I am 8"
on a red badge pinned sideways to my t-shirt,
like an affirmation: "I'm still alive. It's not over yet."

Around the sun and its dark, smouldering twin,
something orbits in a vast, endless figure of eight -
remembered in myth as Marduk, Sekhmet, Nibiru, Rajah Sun,
the great red dragon, the fiery cross,
the one who came and will come again,
something barely remembered, like childhood trauma,
made unreal, fading like ink into skin, waiting for renewal.
If it didn't exist, something else would take its place -
another comet, another nightmare memory, to fill the orbit
linking our bright and dark suns:
the life we know, and the death we fear until it finally comes.

Undine

Granny turned a golden astrolabe slowly in front of her face, her eyes calm and curious. I wasn't sure what she was looking for, but her eyes seemed fixated on a point deep beneath the metal. I was reminded of a fortune teller, and the astrolabe became a small crystal sphere, full of light and tiny, tiny stars, which could be used to examine the heavens and predict the weather. Aunty G came into the room with her arms full, and sat down in front of Granny, letting everything spill out on the floor between them. The light from the curtains was brighter now. It was the middle of the afternoon, a time when their house was always full of the deepest peace - a peace which came from years of order and quiet, with no unexpected noise, no dust in the crevices. They were looking at a map of the heavens that was criscrossed with lunar and stellar transits and arcane astrological symbols. Aunty G and grandmother started to place small blue buttons on the map, looking closely at them first, and chatting softly. Occasionally they would turn to me and say something about the past or the future, which I was having increasing difficulty in following. I wondered where my girlfriend was. The light in the room seemed to be growing, reflected and contained in the deep glass of the astrolabe. It grew brighter and brighter until there was nothing to be seen anywhere but light, almost making a sound, like planets drowning.

>-<

The prince is screaming. He looks like Jude Law, that high-cheekboned, blonde-haired, perfect-skinned arrogance that seem otherwordly, unquestionable. Maybe this is why royal families were sometimes thought to derive their authority and their bloodline directly from God - he seems so perfectly evil and destructive, but immune to ordinary criticism, as if the normal accountability of human beings to their fellows just does not apply to him. He's the prince. He's screaming at his wife, his mother, a witch with flaming orange hair and gaudy, heavy makeup, dressed all in black and dark veils. Their relationship is rich and ambiguous, the result of dozens of lifetimes spent in various configurations - mother-son, father-daughter, lovers, friends, enemies, killers of each other through time and space. The woman with the orange hair is grinning like a pantomime witch, her eyebrows nothing but charcoal smudges on her forehead. Her spirit has been killed and her brain is full of demons. I think of Tom Ripley, how he slammed the edge of the oar into his friend's head. How the wound was a thin line at first, like a slice in a steak, and then filled with blood, while the realization hits him - there's no going back now - and nothing left to do but let the demons rage until it's over. The body drifting slowly into the clear darkness hundreds of metres from the mediterranean coast. The usurping prince left alone, lost in his labyrinth, running from the minotaur of his own shadow.

>-<

Lying on my stomach on the diving board, I can see to the bottom of the deep blue chamber. I've been swimming through the catacombs of a drowned city for hours, maybe even days, but I'm not sure why. I think I'm just trying to get out. The water is iron-cold and dark because we are at the bottom of the ocean, and the city is lit by vast underwater floodlights which fade away slowly into the endless black. At the bottom of the chamber is a drowned woman's naked body. I am filled with horror and shock, and I feel myself fall towards her, through the cold water.



She's dancing, suspended in the ocean depths like a light on a wire, glowing, on fire under her pale skin. She is moving like a fighter in a video game, precise and unwavering, but slow, pirouetting at half-speed, her foot reaching out to touch the lintel of an invisible doorway. She knows how to open doors in the dark. There's no way back to the surface, no way to the bottom of the sea, and there's nothing all around her but the unknown cold, but she can open doors. Her skin shines like a beacon. She's opening a door. She doesn't even know how she knows how. Without her, there would be no other worlds than this one. I saw her once years ago, when I was asleep in a strange country. I was walking along the shore of a gentle blue sea, where there were many strange and exotic colours in the sand that made the frilly waves warp like rainbows. She was asleep under the water, floating just below the surface. She was asleep but awake - aware of me, but not fully conscious, a being of function and symbol, a determiner of meaning. Not like me. A different form of life, unaccountable, like the prince screaming, the girl who opens doors. She stands up in the shallows, water pouring from her white robes. Her eyes are black. She holds up an unrecognizable symbol written in charcoal on a piece of paper, and says "I don't think you quite realize who I am." Behind her a door opens in the sky and empty space begins to pour through in great waves. I feel a growing lucidity, a weird awareness of what is happening. I realize that she is a part of me, always present in my psyche. I don't know what it means that we've met, but I know it's important. I wake up.
 

Nemesis

the sun has a sister
a dark little petal
of a white spiral rose

her heart never exploded
like her effervescent brother
a trillion miles away

she looms through the comets
invisible, planet eater
silent in dreams

she knows what she is -
dark matter
for crushing the universe again

Peristalsis

slipping in mashes of rotting chestnut leaves
halo of orange street light mist
“You’re pathetic, you’re so - fucking - juvenile,
“You know that? You know that?”
smaller monkey bows, lowers head
witnessing trees shiver into moon-darkness

girl getting high picked up on security camera
leaning on shiny black sacks of leaf-rubbish
eyes exploded; the ‘other’ world until dawn
and head-sick under hallucinated neons
closed shop-fronts, decayed fruit-smells
distant conversations in no language

priest finding baby rats drowned in a puddle
pink-brown, twitching in rain as if alive -
‘other’ - church turned black like a bad tooth
damp wooden stone, voice-loosened
foundations broke and it fell into the sky
showering maggots and skeletons - accelerating -

scream from an endless runway
aeroplane door bursts open in green UFO light
woman without gravity drifts gently out
stretched forever in three bare dimensions
- motionless - “they took my whole life.”
Quantum children finger the mystery of her skin.

religious vandalism of cars - the ‘other’ -
bricked-up flats; cellars and attics haunted
by suicides and bindweed; boys and girls
hand in hand from the Hypermarket:
enamelled meats; Teflon; curtains
of cured human skin, surgical weaponry,
orchid seed for shit-filled window boxes.

Krishna - Shankara - Akira - Sega - the Other -
heart-filled children in a perfect circle -
the last freezing fog touched the morning grass
and gills formed on their wrinkling necks
“The New Genetics!” and no horror left - except -
pianos loud in the emptiness - cats smiling
through skinless pain - slave ships sailing again -
unholy patience in the face of a dark sun: