Novel In Broken Furniture

Dreamt about driving and dreamt about a crab and then dreamt a whole vivid computer game on a vinyl record. Woke when he heard the sound of voices outside. Two girls staggering down the street, the sound of high heels on the pavement, the sound of their late night tales and impulses –

“I just want to sing now,”
“Shhh, you can’t, you’ll wake everyone up,”
“No, it’ll be fine,”
“It won’t y’know,”
“It will, because. I know that if I start singing now then everyone will open their windows and join in and they’ll come out on to the street and everyone will dance all around us,”
“Come on, let’s get home.”

Lay awake in bed, feeling like a drifting point in time and space and trying to remember the dreams gone. The crab which was supposed to be for dinner but turned out to be still alive and it started moving in the fridge and then it managed to get out and danced sideways down the street. The car-driving which followed and which was somehow loose and soft like freewheeling and bumping softly into the kerb and into other cars, all in the pursuit of this bloody crab. Couldn’t remember the dreams properly, couldn’t get back to sleep, got up and walked around.

Soft footsteps around the apartment, touching the walls with his hands, feeling the doorframes, his his his. Sat awake at the kitchen table and the air and the light and the sounds changed around him.

The fog horn began to sound. Couldn’t see the sea from there, couldn’t see a thing, everything further away in the fog. Made a breakfast of crisps and drank a coffee and took his tablets. Tidied up before he left.

Ate squares of chocolate as the boat chugged out of the harbour, swigging through the fog. He just decided. “Just decided one day to get up and leave and maybe it was the fog and maybe it was his dreams and maybe it was the way he felt when he woke in the middle of the night,” someone was saying as the boat chugged out of the harbour. And he sat and ate squares of chocolate and thought about being there and not being there and leaving it all behind, and voices.

Got off the boat and made his way on the island, found somewhere to stay, changed his clothes, went for a walk. Around every corner a mystery, each fog-covered inch a new discovery – here, a cockerel that used to be a man; there, a wasp that was brought up among bees; across the path, a boy who had decided to leave his family and live in a tree. Everywhere tracks of bushes with all these berries on like it was lit-up and Christmas.

Walked up the hill to the top of the island and the fog was clearing now and the sun was coming out and the wind was up. Felt exposed up there, could see for miles, could hear a droning noise all around him as though he had gone too far up and had broken something – some part of the world or some part of himself. Sat on a rock and thought about what he was doing out there on that island and what was going on across the water and he, “Just decided to get up and leave one day and maybe it was something to do with a dream he had or the way he felt in the night or perhaps it was the fog.”

Went back to the place he was staying and slept for a while, slept and then fell into a sleep within his sleep, deeper and deeper, then woke up, woke up and ate squares of chocolate and picked up his book and decided to go out. Went to the beach and lay in the sun and the weather was fine enough to lie on the beach and read and this is what he would do for the rest of the day, week, month, life, all of time perhaps.

Staying there forever, watching the tide come in and out. Perhaps of his own free will or, otherwise, perhaps cursed somehow and as the time passed on that beach he would become something else, some part of a myth in the history of whatever that island was meant to be. His story told in books and on tea towels and depicted in friezes and told again and again by old men, sung, played, filmed, sonneted, re-written, modernised, put into a spreadsheet, told in code, condensed until the fibres of his tale became part of the electricity running through the wires in the walls.

Crab danced along the shoreline as if in a dream world where everything moves from side to side. A group of children came running out of the sea, their faces painted to look like fish, ran and laughed and pushed and shouted and made their way up the beach.

Put down his book, got up and walked slowly through the crowd of children. Entered the sea as the children left it. Feet first, then ankles, calves, knees, thight, groin. Gave in, dropping his whole body into the water. Sharp, quick, stabbing cold hit him but he was off and away, bones and muscles working against and through the waves and again he felt like a lost and wandering point in time and space. Swam, turned around and looked back at the island from a distance, a whole new way of seeing it. The abandoned stage of the last adaptation of the myth of the beach-bound man, forced to sit and watch the centuries riding in on the tide.

Went looking for trouble. A new land of new stories. Swam out. Far away, far away from, “I suppose it was something that happened in the night and then the fog and then he just went and.” Him out there. The waves like days. Swam back in, came ashore further along the coast. A little set of caves screamed with tiny, indestructible hollowed-out myths.

Swam in until his knees ran aground on the rocks and then he stood up and walked in to the cave, movements like a microcosm of the evolutionary process. Walked into the cave, deeper and deeper and it didn’t matter if the sea might rush in because he was so far away already, so much now like a tiny speck, a floating point in space and time that was no matter to nobody and nothing more than ordered matter in some kind of order as the universe is nothing more than the brief and random order of things. My head spins with it all.

Further and deeper into the belly of the island. Heard the sound of singing, some kind of worksong, perhaps imagined but then he was so far from anything his that he wondered if any of it was real. “Suppose something happened and he just went and,” unless he didn’t go anywhere and had just stayed where he was. Further from the sea, colder and colder into the cave. Went. Used to stay still but now he went.

Cave ballooned all of a sudden, ballooned into a big underground hall with rock walls and a lake and people, like the world had broken again, or he had and this was him and the end. Stepped closer towards the people, some kind of work going on, some kind of industrial process, something being made. They didn’t notice him and he made his way closer and closer expecting any moment to wake up somewhere else. They turned and saw him and not much else happened, they didn’t rush towards him and attack him or anything like that, one of their number sidled over to him. Spoke to him, and he spoke back and was almost surprised by the sound of his own voice –

“-doing down here?”
“Making gin, we are, just making some gin,”
“Are you trapped down here?”
“Ha ha no no, we’re free, we just come here to make gin,”
“And that song-“
“It’s what we sing when we’re making gin. Gin from the berries. Staying on the island are you?”
“Come and make some gin with us, if you like.”

Turned, followed the man back to where they were making the gin. Found himself in the middle of them all, and suddenly he was making gin and singing, and singing and all the gin-makers in their cave on the island were dancing around him and he felt a madness and felt everything with the joy of it all, a point in space and time that he couldn’t name and didn’t recognise. Crashed and broken somewhere, but somehow good, good. My head spins with it all. Traced it on a map in a book balanced on a broken piece of furniture and the night turned over in its sleep, “and he just decided to get up and leave.”


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