Oeo

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

I hadn’t visited it for many years. It’s like anything I suppose, the more time rolls forward the more things get left behind. But this place was special and I never should have left it alone for as long as I did.

My grandfather was a fisherman. Not one who owned or worked on a boat. Not one who would cut out into the waves and feel at perfect ease as the land fell away far beneath. But he was no less hardy as he waded into the swell up to his knees and whipped with awesome might the great rod in his hands. Forever searching and dreaming of those great snapping beasts that shone as they were pulled to the light.

As with all lovers of the the catch, my grandfather had a favoured and secret spot where he would go and hide and fish. This remote tiny cove upon which I now stand. And, again, the wind whips the foam from the waves and drives its salt sting to my face.

My grandfather has been dead for many years now and so I guess it’s OK to tell you about Oeo. It’s not a town, just farmland and I think there was a pub but, maybe, now there is not.

Oeo. My grandfather would joke relentlessly that it is the same forward as it is backward. Not so much a joke as it was a statement of fact. But, then, he could make anything fun.

We had family friends that owned a dairy farm there and my grandfather would drive me in his blue station wagon through the hoof worn muddy rut of its fields.

He was a maniac. Hardened by war and a youth of devil may care, he’d pummel that old car at breakneck speed. Only to swerve and slide to a halt just feet from where the cliff-top slumped and fell away beneath the chomp of the Tasman Sea’s relentless decaying bite.

Then, with his backpack filled with the stench of bait that permeated the sandwiches my grandmother had made and his rods hoisted atop his shoulder, he’d disappear down the sheer face of the cliff.

A makeshift ladder of driftwood led us to this secret spot. This parapet outcrop of boulders from atop which we’d sit and wait for the tug of the fish.

I stand here now with my young son. His hand blue in mine and I look and I see my Grandfather up on the rocks. He is not someone else nor a trick of the light through the lash of the rain.

It is him.

In this moment I know. I know that memories can curdle and rot. That precious moments don’t fade in time, they linger and wait.

His skin is grey and paper-thin and riddled with holes and his ruined shirt flaps as the salt and wind seep through and crash and beat in the hollow of his chest.

“What are you waiting for, old man?”, I shout out into the wind and the tiny blue hand it tightens.

He turns and he smiles. I love this old man.

“It’s the same way backward as it is forward!”, he replies.

And the words that carry on the icy gusts warm me and the tip of his rod suddenly cranes and points out into the swell.

“You see him, right?”, I say to the wide-eyed boy at my side.

“Yes Dad, I most surely can and I think that he’s got a fish.”

The Canal

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

The craft shudders as it nears the centre of the universe and a plume of ice sheers from its skin, sparkling out and dissipating into the nothing.

This place where all matter and, subsequently, all life had bawled into existence. The exact centre of the perfect gargantuan sphere of energy that trailed in the wake of the ever outward pushing expansion of all things that ever were. A vast plain of the darkest pitch. No planets, no moons, no tumbling lumps of once bigger things.

Nothing.

Centuries of planning had gone into this instance, this momentous achievement that had weathered the peaks and troughs of funding and public favour to place our finest and most keenly intelligent at this precise place in space and time.

“Are we there, yet? You know I still have no clue what they expect us to actually do when we reach this thing. Put a flag in it?”, yawns 1st officer Kim Harrison as she picks at the cryogel that stubbornly mats to the deep groves of her snout and glues at the corners of her lips.

“Just thank Keanu that ‘Big Bang’ didn’t catch on. The entirety of the universe expanding equally from all points. How quaint. We’d be out of a job. And just think, at one time your god-knows-how-many-times-great-grandmother was sat in a cage modelling rouge for some bastard cosmetics’ conglomerate and now look at you. The biggest banana in the bunch”, sniffs Flight Commander Helena Warren as she thumbs the ship’s primary thruster down to a gently thrumming hum.

“It is fascinating, I’ll warrant you that. My line evolves from ape to human and yours from human to ape. Wasn’t your god-knows-how-many-times-great-grandfather a President or some such? You know the rumour is that he was the great orange bonobo, you’ve heard this right?”

“Oh, look, a strobing warning light, isn’t that pretty?”

“She says, deflecting like a true politico.”

“It’s the forward scout drone. It’s picking up something, something big.”

“What the hell is that?”

“Well, I can certainly tell you what it looks like.”

An opening undulates and glints at the very centre of all things.

“Is that a…”

“Yes, I believe that it is.”

“Earth will be wanting a statement. But what in the grey sage flecks of Mr. Anderson’s beard do we tell them?”

“Do you have any concept of how long it took our collective races to overcome our innate instinct to explain existence via some sort of higher power? How logic and science had to claw and beg for acceptance? And now a sky vagina? Mother of time… fertile ageless loins… purger of particles…”

An alert siren trips and suddenly the bottomless silent void is anything but.

“Stern drone is picking up something. Approaching fast. Something big.”

“Seriously? The Big Bang?”

“Kind of like walking in on your parents, isn’t it?”

“Earth is hailing… what in the hell do I…”

“Tell them… tell them… tell them God did it.”

Nature’s Candy

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Hook stemmed wild blackberry reaches up to pull me down into the barely visible ghost footprint of her home. It has been years since I’ve stood here. Years since we did what we did and cackled and spat as we did it.

If I’m honest, the hint memory of our dirty deeds still aches at my cheeks. It wasn’t funny. I know that but, sometimes, even the foulest of things overwhelm and bring to us a sickly after-taste of joy.

If we are to be honest.

I stand in this now long empty place on this ruined and long forgotten avenue behind the great factory and I remember her porch and her door. I remember Halloween…

I recall how she decorated her tiny cottage with the most insanely ghoulish horrors. Again, I dampen my smile. All year long she would toil to craft the replicas that she’d sit in the old rocker on her pouch. One year it was Freddy and the next it was Jason but the most grotesque was when the skinned corpse of Mylène Jampanoï from Pascal Laugier’s ancient classic Martyrs sat and dripped on display. The dear old thing, ever the literal.

“Hello, Miss Grunes”, she does not look at me but I feel the peel of her gaze.

“I’m…”

“I know who you are, child.”

“… so happy you agreed to see me. I’ve travelled a very long way. I want to tell you I’m sorry. I know I’m not obliged to but something about how it all ended stayed with me. We were children, Miss Grunes. Just kids, though I know that’s no sort of excuse”, I cough into the ball of my fist.

“You are wrong. Youth is a satchel that must be filled with wrong doings. These are the things that define you. The things that conduct you into becoming your true self.”

“You do not show your age on your flesh but you do in your words. I expected you to be more… worn, or something.”

“Oh, I’m worn, child. I’m all but worn right through. But your coming here today has certainly perked me up.”

“We only visited on Halloween. Though, we knew that you had no one. That you existed in your little world all alone. That the company had put you out to pasture, as it were. Did you know we were your tormentors? As we gobbled down your home-made treats. Nature’s candy, right? The graffiti was cruel. You’d served this community so well and so long. But killing your cats was evil. We knew that you had connected with them. We saw how you petted and cared for them when no one else would. Did you love them? Do you even love?”

“I think about them often. But, in the end, they were but cats. Meaningless creatures to make you feel wanted when you are not.”

“We reduced your house to cinder. I’m dying, Miss Grunes. I’m sorry. I really am…”

“All your little friends are dead. Not one came to me as you have now. So, thank you for that. Funny, isn’t it? How just because something is natural does not mean it cannot bite. Just look at this beautiful tasty bramble as it gnaws at your heels. You need not worry, for in the end I am nothing. Just an outdated service synthetic. I have no feelings. I cannot love nor shake uncontrollably from loss as you can. The cancer, does it hurt? Dear sweet child, are you not just so very impressed with the slow, slow drip of my revenge?”

Dresden Doll

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Once on my way to school, I happened across the body of a newborn baby bird. I thought it badly made. Its cold flesh hanging too loose as it slid atop a fragile frame of barely formed bones.

I felt it again. The kiss of bloodless skin as it writhed in near freezing embrace against mine.

“Can you hear that? Clink, clank, that scraping tap…”

Mother collected dolls. She called me her little Dresden Doll and I guess my pale face and sullen pout did echo these most treasured porcelain creeps.

“… it is a metal plate attached to a pole with a single word… Dresden…”

We are toxic in death. Long dormant instincts revived and we grope for the ladder…

“… I hear the slip of the chain as you pump your beautiful legs into the pedals…”

… the twisted helix that animates our corpses so as to drag us back to the exact place of our births.

“… You pant and you bite the thick roll puff of your lip and the pollen catches like gentle lost stars in your hair…”

We are abominable weapons. The perfect spore dispersion system… we will rot the Reich from the outside to the in and it’ll fall away into dust.

“… I watch as you stand high astride the saddle and your dress pulls tight at your back…”

Plate Rack, Plate Rack…
A lot of search light and fighter flares; OK, boys, come in and bomb glow of red target indicators… Dresden is hot …
Bomb doors open!
Bombardier.
Steady… Steady…

Dresden. The word such truly wicked torment. I remember correcting her. Parian Dolls… no such creature as a Dresden Doll. That day she ruined my voice.

The doors opened. We fell. There was a kind of peace as the air pummelled in throbbing waves and ripped the stink up and away from the poor scabbed pores of our flesh.

“… you sing through the humid stick of your lips…”

Fire. Blanket of seething orange. Roaring ordnance and I sink down into the furnace mist and smell my hair as it melts.

People trample and fall and ignite and flare. A man with his face burnt away clutches a photo in a frame. Falling ruins and a gale of flames that runs as liquid. I saw the dead. We who fell from the sky. I saw them move and the contamination split and spat from our skin.

We create a swath of our plague clean through the belly of the enemy as we drag our bones back to dear England. We’ll never get there… but the Nazi’s will fester and fail.

Fire does terrible things to the body… it contracts… it compacts and the doomed fuse together and children contort to the size of… dolls…

A wicker basket with a baby inside… hurriedly staved beneath wet sheets… and my body fills with the greasy steam scent of its death.

“… I love you…”

I grappled like a clicking slug across the earth until the meat rolled from my fingers. I ripped the bones from the waste of my legs and used them as stakes until I tumbled into this peace – a girl and her bicycle.

“… Blood beads at the graze on your knee. What shame as I look upon you unasked, hidden wedged down in this drain. Hooked tight beneath the bramble and sucked into the mud at my waist. But know this. I am everything as I deny the choke of my instinct and I forget about home and all I can think of is you.”

Universal Convergence

Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Frances Bone lays on her bed. Her stomach hurts as she constricts and her fingernails dig in as she pulls herself ever tighter into herself. Tight as a fern fronds suffocating spiral and like it she will become a fist, balled and bristling and shunning of light.

She blinks and her self-pity flows into her snot and then through the grooves in her lips before coursing down into her throat.

Her neck lolls and she gazes up and her look catches on the webs that hang heavy and dead with the dust. She traces the line where the wall meets the ceiling. She follows it into the spot where all points converge, she follows it into a corner.

“I am mad!”, she cries out.

“You’re angry?”, frowns the Corner.

“I’m bat-shit fucking crazy.”

“Oh, you’re that kind of mad?”

“I’m talking to a wall, aren’t I?”

“People talk to walls all the time. Sometimes they shout, sometimes they swear as they try and take money out of them and some even poke them full of messages to their gods. At least, so I’m told. Don’t get out much.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“You’re painfully thin”, retorts the Corner.

“Your conversation is painfully thin”, snaps Frances, rolling onto her back, cracking the bones in her neck.

“Do you mind if I…”, begins the Corner.

“… smoke?”, finishes Frances.

“Do you mind if I lie to you?”

“Go ahead. Why not? I have no idea what truth even is.”

“OK. So, one day very soon a man will approach you. You’ll know him by the way in which his nose dips with every word that he utters. Like he’s sending Morse code with its tip.”

“Is he sending a message?”

“No.”

“Your lies are very specific.”

“This man will offer you a card, it is an ornately embossed business card. Take it. There will be a number on said card. Ring it. The voice that answers will be that of a woman of Eastern European extraction. She is Montenegrin and she will tell you of a place. A black doorway that will lead you down and into a vast underground hanger. There, you’ll discover a craft. Your ship. A great neuro-plastic surging beast that you will grip and wrestle into submission. More than a ship, it will become your dearest friend and together you’ll reach out and map the great expansive nothingness of forever. Yeah, so that’s what you’ll do, you’ll knock around the universe discovering shit and having adventures, like forever and ever.”

“That’s it? Kind of lost me toward the end and the start didn’t make much sense and, well, the middle that was just lazy.”

“Told you it was a lie, I was making the bloody thing up as I went along. Felt good though, right?”

“Good?”

“Stepping aboard your ship and feeling its anger and fear bristle up through your fingers as you calmed it?”

“No. OK, it did, a bit.”

“A bit is OK.”

“I see what you’re doing, you know?”

“We’re an enlightened lot, we the confederacy of the cornice.”

Frances grips her pillow and she cries a bit more and she hates herself a bit and she picks away at the scabs of her scars a bit, and then she smiles – a bit.

“Might just go out later. For a walk, or I might just not”, she says.

“You’re the captain Frances, just…”

“What now?”

“Just that, well… these cobwebs aren’t going to clean themselves. Just saying that throwing a broom up here from time to time wouldn’t hurt”, coughs a grumbling echo from the darkest corner of the ceiling.