home paintings poetry short story
geoffrey gilmour b.1947
                                              Four As he opened his eyes the roaring pressure in his ears was beginning to abate. He thought he was descending, as though the plane was coming in to land. What plane? It had been at least a month since he’d flown home from school. Home. Ah yes. The drawn curtains of his bedroom rippled lightly in an evening breeze. Outside it was dark. Inside it was dark. The neighbour’s dog barked a couple of times. Slowly he stood up and went to the door, switched a light on and looked back into his room. Then he remembered. The seed. It’s glowing heat. Where was it? As he approached his bed he remembered something else. A fragment of…was it a dream? And Babu. There he was, Kejebba’s grandfather, on the beach. How? Just then he spotted the sock lying just under his bed. There’s my sock he thought, not lost at all. But he’d left the shoes behind on the beach, and the other sock…whoa, that was a dream. He slumped onto his bed picking up the sock as he went down. The marble was still in it. Cool now. Just an opaque sphere. A benign presence. Heavy. He heard his mother sing out, calling everyone to the dinner table. As he tucked into his food, flashes of the very vivid dream kept silvering his mind. The atmosphere at the table was complicated. He could see his mother had been crying, her eyes red and downcast. His small sister was unusually quiet. His father seemed to be concentrating hard on cutting up his steak, as though it might leap off his plate and escape. The frail clatter of cutlery on crockery filtered the air disturbing his recollections, holding his attention in the dining room where the mood was a tangle of crossed emotions. He began to wish the meal was finished and he could get back to the shelter of his room. And the unfinished business of the seed. He knew it was unfinished because he’d remembered the last thing Babu had said in the dream… “Just another beginning”. If that was a beginning, the prospect of a middle and an end was pretty bloody scary. He finished off his meal and excused himself. Nobody said anything as he turned from the table and headed for his room. He heard his sister get up and make her retreat as he quietly closed his bedroom door and turned out the light. Then he heard Babu say ‘another’ beginning. What could the old man have been talking about? Serial beginnings? He recalled the time, years earlier, when Babu had tried to explain the seed’s power, telling Heath it had something to do with ‘spiralling time’. He lay down on his bed. It seemed that rather than clarifying the situation his explanations opened up greater confusions in the boy’s mind. He’d said the seed made a straight line through spiralling time. Completely incomprehensible. As he tried to relive the dream he began to feel the strangeness of the character he’d inhabited in the bus, wandering the beach. Himself but not himself. Full of a deeper vein of experience. More like his father, he imagined. In an instant he was once more standing on the beach riding the soft sand into the distance. He reached another dune crest and saw a number of people playing silently on the sand. All he could hear was his own breathing. He began to count. In breath, one, out breath, two, in breath, three, out breath, four... he walked on towards the little crowd. By the time he’d got to one hundred and fifty he was among them, but still they seemed to make no sound as they played. They didn’t seem to notice him either. He arrived at a break in the beach where a river ran out into the ocean. To traverse this river a narrow plank of wood had been laid, a small bridge suspended only centimetres over the rushing water. No handrail. He stepped out onto the timber and began his crossing, arms out for balance. He’d only made half a dozen steps before the plank began to sink into the river. In a moment he was submerged and the current was dragging him out. A desperate effort got him back to the shore from where he could see the rest of the makeshift bridge disintegrate and get carried away on the out-going tide. Nobody on the beach appeared to notice this event. As he retraced his steps to seek another means of crossing, he passed two young women lying on towels sunbathing. As he walked past, one sat up, seeming to notice him, her breasts plump as she turned to gaze. A few steps later he turned to see her. She was once more lying down, his passing apparently forgotten. Before him stood a sheer cliff. He began to climb. Half way up a couple of young boys climbed past him and were soon at the top laughing and looking down the other side. As Heath arrived next to them they both leaped into space and disappeared with a distant splash into a deep, black-watered pool at the foot of the cliff. It was a mighty drop and the tight clench of fear in his gut froze him to the rough ledge. The height of the cliff top began to unsettle his balance. He had to hang on to the rock-face behind to steady himself. He had to stop looking down. As he lifted his eyes beyond the pool, the well- grassed landscape created a gently sloping parkland. He could see a number of nude women. Lying down, sunning themselves. He wondered if it was a women-only park. As he watched, one of the women began to move towards the pool. She had no legs. Powerful arms carried her forwards. The mesmerising sight was only shattered when another of the women stood up. She was tall and strongly-built, handsome he thought; he nearly retched when he noticed she’d had her entire abdominal area…cut out. He could see her spine pressing through the healed wound right down to a thrusting tuft of pubic hair leaving a grotesquely hollow space under her ribs. Her face, as she drew closer to the pool, began to bend and scar with determination. She quickly crossed the water and began climbing; towards him. Heath could feel his leg muscles contract in readiness, in fear; he’d already imagined himself well gone, half way down the cliff, down the way he’d come, fleeing. She was coming straight up the cliff directly at him, looking up to where she could get the best hand holds for her climb. He thought he might shit himself, but then the crescendo of fear peaked and began to ease. Somehow he realised she wasn’t coming at him. The closer she got the less afraid he became until he was standing patient and quiet, waiting, watching. When she was only a matter of meters away and he could hear her panting breath, see her rolling eyes, she turned to face out from the cliff and without a second’s pause, leaped away from the cliff. Her mutilated body struck hard on the rocks beside the pool below, not moving, a bloodless wreckage of broken flesh and bone. A thinly marbling suggestion of passionfruit played at the edge of his nostrils. He woke up in the dark feeling remarkably good. It made no sense to him. He’d dreamed a truly awful scene and it felt like he’d just had a shower. He felt refreshed. The house was quiet. He flicked on his bedside light and began looking for the seed thing, imagining the gift he’d received from the stranger Babu had called a Ngede might afford some insight into this bizarre, perplexing experience. Heath stopped. Maybe it was the seed thing that was causing these dreams. Whatever the cause, he decided, he was well and truly gripped by the intensity of the narrative coming at him through his dreams and he’d follow the thread wherever it led. He remembered Babu saying that the seed would have little regard for whoever held it. At the time the warning had slipped right past him. But now he found an unquestioning readiness to pay whatever price might be demanded, cross whatever terrain he might be asked to negotiate. This surprising, kamikaze spirit disturbed him. It was an element of his character not encountered before; he usually took a more circumspect approach to challenges, perhaps even preferring to avoid any confrontation or difficulty or at  least delaying the moment for as long as possible. His love of counting was a means whereby he could put some space between himself and the turbulence of events. To afford himself time to consider. He’d thought of himself as thoughtful. Now it seemed he’d suddenly become a little reckless. Prepared to abandon his tentative ways and go without constraint into the unfamiliar. Where was the damned thing, he wondered as he reached under his bed to scratch about, waiting for his fingers to jag on its sock. Outside an early morning bird was trying out its song on a still black sky. He could smell the dawn coming lightly through his window as the edge of his wrist brushed against a cold hard surface. He quickly scooped up the marble and brought it up in front of his face. By the dim yellow light coming from his bedside lamp he could see it was not radiating any light of its own. It was just a dull, opaque and spherical mass, quite heavy, but inert. The arm holding it up began to ache a little so he lay the smooth ball down on his chest, sitting it on the solar plexus where it rolled into the inverted ‘v’ groove created by his dividing ribcage. The moment it settled he thought he heard, far off in the distance, a plaintive whisper, as though the wind had drawn a breath. The seed came alive, warming by the moment, its heat seeping across Heath’s chest and dropping deep into his lungs, his breath seeming to reach into every cell of his body drawing him in with it deeper and deeper, saturating him as he felt himself spiralling in. The terrain was vast. Its light glowed effulgent. Vague buildings soared over his head reaching to a distant sky peppered with busy, scintillating presences, spinning in infinity. But a moment later, like some spectral advance, colour began to fade from the world. Heath looked about and saw down the road a small congregation. The air was cooling rapidly as he stepped towards them. “Hello Heath” The voice startled him; it sounded familiar. He swung around to see Kejebba smiling broadly and reaching his hand out. Standing just behind his old friend was another. Small and delicately done, she stared through the fading light at Heath’s bemused face.