Disguised as a clock – he checked it out of the Metaphor Bank, dropped it in his Translation Pocket, and moved through the Parse Doors towards Egress Point One.

Fifteen Stories up, and no one willing to tell the prologue. He throat punched three unreliable narrators on the way to this place, and climbed through three framing devices, and now he is stood ankle deep in some of the most cliched similes you could imagine, getting ready to pull the old deus ex machina move just to jump-cut in through the fourth wall.

He straps a book to his back and hopes that the the sequential flutter will start to riffle the pages and slow his descent. Anat is a Bookmarker – punching through half finished narratives into the realm of ideational space, where authorial hooks dig in and start to pull things into being. Muse is an old word – quaint; not useful; barely indicative of the hands-on bullshit they have to pull on a daily basis.

He lands feet first in a meandering digression that is trying for post-modern, and coming off instead as self-indulgent. He has to hit the ground running – they have this one marked up as possessing a pivotal character who is going to have full on Mirror Conversion Potential in the real world, so they have to make sure that it comes off like it’s supposed to.

Through deep golden fields under Van Gogh swirls of cerulean he runs, deep bass cetacean music from some non-descript ocean that will be developed in later drafts sounds through this world, and he sees him. He fires a descriptor anchor at the guy; locks him in, and then initiates a back-track protocol that fires hard and fast out of ideational space at the writer – whoomp! Right into his authorial process, and there you are … Canaster Perflume becomes a fixed point in the fiction. And he drops that thing in his pocket – a link root; a link route, and it binds to Canaster, and it binds to the writer. And all anyone knows is that the writer has an idea for a fantastic wristwatch.

Anat can run now, before the riptide illogic always on his heels catches up to him, swirls around, and locks him into a story he has no place being in. He detonates an Exit Wave and rides it into some notional space that no one can point to, but which works for the translation matrices, and hey presto, he is folding in through the tesseract barriers and arriving back where he started – fifteen stories up, staring at the rococco designs on the door near Egress Point One. Anat is happy – job done.

talk talk

‘I was born in the Tower Of Babel you know, it is why I am multilingual – there is not a language spoken under the sun that I do not understand. My tongue is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to linguistic professsors.’ ‘So, how old are you?’ ‘Quite.’ ‘Quite? You’re telling me that you were born in Babel and you say quite – I’d say that makes you fucking ancient.’ ‘Oh, my, I have found myself an uncooth one here.’ ‘Are you English or something? You sound distinctly fruity, and I don’t like fruits.’ ‘Chocolate starfish quivering young man, is that it? The old brown eye winking at me while the mouth expresses denial of all homosexual tendencies? Don’t worry, my friend – I would rather stick my penis in the necrotised snatch of a scorpion infested Egyptian mummy in preference to getting intimate with a neanderthal like yourself. Besides, despite what your insecure brain is telling you are signals of my gayness, I am rampantly heterosexual and have bedded more women than you are likely to have sniffed the seats of. My – I had thought you might be an intelligent one; seems my radar is somewhat off today.’ ‘I think I might just punch your teeth down your throat.’ ‘You’d be better served by moving seats. I very rarely have recourse to violence, but in that eventuality I assure you I could quite easily kill you before you even flexed a muscle.’ ‘I hate flying.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because I always end up sat next to unpleasant people.’ ‘Oh, I am quite pleasant, but I give as good as I get. That was the mistake you made – you imagined that you might get away with dishing out your particular brand of smart-arsery and not get any dealt back to you. One must always be careful and sound out an opponent, before they carelessly reveal their hand.’ ‘Okay, well imagine you’re me and you just heard someone claim they were born in a place mentioned in the bible in reference to its destruction – it’s not that you experience shock it’s that you experience incredulity.’ ‘That I suppose is a fair enough reaction. I suppose without any evidence I might too be somewhat skeptical; but I feel that it is highly likely I might manage to avoid being quite so insufferably rude.’ ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘That’s more like it. So who are you and where are you travelling to?’ ‘My name’s Barnacle – Smith Barnacle, and I’m actually travelling to New York to check out a lexicon that one of my friends has for sale; he’s giving me first refusal.’ ‘A lexicon? Interesting. Strange coincidence that you and I should be seated next to each other, eh?’ ‘I suppose.’ ‘Hmm, supposition – such a flawed method of thinking, almost apathetic in its dull energy. Ever looked at coincidence and its likelihood? Ever wondered, if you suppose every particle to quantumnally entangled with another, exactly how unlikely chance really is?’ ‘So, you are saying that you and me being sat on this ship is not a coincidence?’ ‘Is that what I am saying? Mayhap it is. What, pray tell is this lexicon all about that you are going to check out?’ ‘Some alien Proto-language, that is what they tell me – until I see it though, who knows? Could be a load of crap.’ ‘Oh, of course; it’s true all of it could be an absolute pile of tosh, or it could be the very thing that we need.’ ‘Meaning.’ ‘Well, back in the day, back before I was made this message of a body that I know use to communicate with this ageing world, what we were looking to do was to find the tongue that would help us to communicate with God. We all spoke one tongue but it was not the language of the gods, or the language of angels that some believe. Was it some form of ubersprecht? An overarching architecture of sonic and subsonic speech? Sure, that you might be able to say quite confidently, but is it the ultimate form of communication? The thing that we were building an aerial to transmit? No, it was not.’ ‘Ah, so we have become partners now, it seems.’ ‘Partners? I said no such thing – but why not? Would it hurt to pool our resources and to step onwards together? Might make the walk a little more interesting.’ ‘Well, my life hasn’t exactly been a game of golf by any standards, but …’ ‘But you’re not exactly finding things quite as interesting as you would like, eh?’ ‘When are things ever as interesting as you would like? You live a noisy life and soon all those noisy parts become a background turmoil of nothingness.’ ‘So, who is this person that we are going to meet?’ ‘Percival Arrive.’ They disbarked from the plane, got a taxi, and headed out to the home of Perceval Arrive. The city moved rapidly, seemed an argument against the journey, and then gridlock (a choked movement, and a single struck note, and it moved again). On through the buildings made of mirrors, towards a single unreflective tower stood like a black molar rotting outwards from its core. ‘We’ve been here before, haven’t we?’ ‘Something does seem familiar, yes.’ ‘Time is folding, unfolding, dancing around us; making us into shadows, casting us as reflections.’ A man stepped from the front door of the tower, a rose in his hands; a small dog by his side, and a guard at his rear. ‘Welcome, visitors. Smith?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And this is?’ ‘Ah, my name is Gabriel.’ ‘The angel charged with the word of God?’ ‘Once maybe. Now? No, he doesn’t speak to me since my affrontery.’ ‘This was all planned, wasn’t it? There truly wasn’t a coincidence that put us on the plane next to each other, was there?’ ‘Well, who’s to say? I fell from on high a long time ago. I tried to build a bridge back and over the head of the one who pushed me and I failed. I scattered people throughout the world into differences of meaning. This journey has been coming for a long time, and I just needed you to bring me these last few steps.’ ‘Why all these games?’ ‘I had forgotten. I did not recognise you. This place has a strange effect upon the memory.’ ‘Yes, it does – you can remember forwards here as well as backwards – you just have to attune yourself to the different frequencies that nestle within the datapacket of this location.’ ‘This place is interfacing with us, isn’t it?’ ‘This place is interfacing with everywhere and everywhen.’ ‘Has it been talking to us before we got here?’ ‘It sometimes does that. It is a communicative system spawned in the informational confluence of a billion consciousnesses.’ ‘Ah, that is interesting.’ ‘Well, my friends, now that you seem to recognise each other, I might introduce myself a little better. My name is Percival Arrive, one of the masks that I wear as I walk through this world. I am the seeker knight delivered, this is the Chapel Perilous you see behind you; and the book which you have come to purchase is none other than the Holy Grail.’ ‘It’s a book?’ ‘Yes, why not? God is the word, Jesus is the body, and the Holy Spirit, well, no prizes for guessing what that is all about. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense that an informational supercontextual entity would distill itself into a vessel containing the words which provide the key to understanding itself?’ ‘Oh, yeah, that makes sense. OK, so how exactly does one go about purchasing the Holy Grail.’ ‘How else, Mr Barnacle? One must pay the price.’ ‘And what is that price?’ ‘Why, how else do you gain something like that? You must make a sacrifice.’ ‘A sacrifice?’ ‘The blood – the ink of the Christ, that is what was used to write this text. The informational subtext of the whole human race written in the sanguine fluids of Adam and Eve. Christ was an answer to a question posed in a garden. When Gabriel here sought to reach an understanding with God and broke the communication into a hall of mirrors the word could no longer be passed with ease; so, what is this that is asked of you? You’re an answer. Gabriel thinks he is the bringer of the word and that you brought him here … wrong. I brought you both here because you, Barnacle, clinging to the side of an angel, are a smith, someone to forge the world anew, and it is written deep into your core.’ ‘And how do I pay this price.’ ‘Well, I have my friend Excalibur here.’ ‘I have to shoot myself?’ ‘Well, I can put one through your skull but I can tell you that someone else making the choice for you doesn’t quite cut it.’ Perceval handed him the weapon. He hefted it in his hand. He pressed the muzzle against his temple. ‘You know, when I started off on this journey I did not think that it was going to be quite so weird as it has turned out. And then this – this is a whole other level of weird.’ And he pulled the trigger. The black surface of the tower swam with the light of a thousand stars; a thousand details … informational points of corellation, of differentiation, of individuation. For a few seconds each of those stars in the great constellation that mapped the fates of the human race glowed brighter, was drawn into a single point, and then seemed to be extinguished. ‘Ah, watch Gabriel,’ said Perceval ‘See how he is rearranging himself, and in the unspooling of the nested archives that reside within himself he is reorganising the rest of us, do you feel it?’ ‘My palm is tingling, Perceval.’ ‘A new chapter is about to be written in that book I was talking about. I have a pen ready for you – that is why you are here.’ ‘Angel of the lord, messenger of God, come to write a new chapter in the book of the word? Now why would that seem strange?’ ‘Good, welcome to your writing room.’ ‘The tower?’ ‘As it was written, so shall it be.’ He stepped through the door and the tower collapsed down to a point, folded through that point out of existence. Barnacle Smith picked himself up and dusted himself off. ‘That was pretty painless. Where did Gabriel go?’ ‘Inside the text. A period to mark the end of a period. A sacrifice of flesh and a sacrifice of thought.’ ‘And me, walking away from this with a book?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And you?’ ‘I sought and I found and I waited; I am a memory (an intersection of a past spacetime mental awareness projected into the current spatiotemporal segment of reality) … I will return whence I came from, where I already am.’ ‘And mankind?’ ‘Ah, well, you could always read the new chapter if you are curious, but that isn’t really a part of the deal here. We are in the arena of epilogue. Farewell, Barnacle, good reading.’ He awoke on the plane, having drooled down the front of his shirt. For a second, readjusting himself, getting his bearings, he wondered whether he had dreamt it all, but then he tapped his backpack and the book was a solid truth he had carried away from it. He smiled – what an interesting journey this had been.

unreal boys

one of them was made of gingerbread and the other one was made of wood and both of them were weighed down with that biggest of existential questions: why? just because they weren’t made of the more traditonal materials people abused them no end and they were sick of it. but how to change? unlike in the fictionalised accounts of their lives there was no happy ending – no transformative experience which saw them liberated from their strange predicaments. pinnochio had furnished himself with a lumberyard in the telling of that story – blue fairy indeed. and here they sat, sharing a pint – hanging out with all the freaks that imagination had cast into the role of scapegoat, feeling sorry for themselves and drowning their sorrows. it was a common problem out here – that feeling that no one understood you because everyone, listening to the accepted wisdom, thought they knew you. suicide was rife, drug use was astronomical, divorce rates were through the roof. peter pan had been thrown in the slammer after a domestic with tinkerbell got out of hand; huck finn was on the run; mickey mouse was running the local crimeworld. how had things gone so far south? pinnochio had turned to honesty – the novelty of having a lie detector growing out of his face had grown tiresome a long time ago. the gingerbread man kept trying to tell people that he wasn’t like a bloody lizard and, yes he might be able to regenerate whatever they ate from him, but that didn’t make it right. they were hungry and they didn’t care. ‘do you see this ever changing?’ he asked pinnochio. ‘sure,’ he said, slipping up perhaps because of the drink. his nose said he didn’t believe.

Tales Of The Knotlands: Bow Loin – 1. Channel Watching

Stood looking out over the Channel, that thin ribbon of water separating France from England – Angleterre; the Angled Tear; the Spirit Of Angle Hand sat next to him. Robespierre’s thoughts were guillotine edited; a swiftness cutting through the pretence he had been wont to display in the past. Wanker they called him – and they laughed as he tossed merde tete back at them.
How long was it since those forces had invaded his home and buckled the tower, razed the remains of their culture to the ground? Every single person with any kind of power suffering, it seemed, l’esprit d’escalier; tongue-tied when their words of power were most needed. France had fallen, like everywhere else, under the tide of shadows that swirled through the body of their planet.
‘So, exactly how fucked is it old chap?’
‘You are, how do you say, the spirit of the place? You should be able to sense that, non?’
‘Of course, Jacques, I was just hoping you might give me some conflicting information. Yes, cross to the front of me, dragon to the rear, I surely do have a good notion of precisely how far up the river we are without the proverbial paddle. it’s just not bloody cricket, is it?’
‘Hmm, je voudrais un biere, et tu?’
‘Anything stronger?’
‘Sure, why not? Can’t do any more bloody damage, can it?’
John let out a sigh that had so many things to communicate it wasn’t exactly sure what to sound like. The Spirit Of Angle Hand – they told him the piece of metal in his possession was the sword of King Arthur and that he could slay anything that threatened England with it, but the fact that he had been forced to turn tail and go to ground in this sympathetic hidey hole in France didn’t give him much hope. Seriously though, why was the bloody thing so small? If he was threatened by a slightly menacing cocktail sausage then he might be able to despatch with one swift prod of his trusty Excalibur; other than that he’d have to rely on a miracle to get him through.
Jacques returned with the beer and the absinthe. They’d bonded over their common roles; their common failures. They were both resurrected archetypes meant to protect their homelands but both countries had them set to revenge protocols which meant they were both activated once the damage was done.
‘You know, Jacques, old bean, I feel like I’m about as much use as soft toilet paper at a colostomy bag convention.’
‘I know what you mean; it’s like we’re patients on permanent bed rest who they roll once in a while to stop us getting pressure sores.’

Tales Of The Knotlands: Decanted Berry Tales – 1.Ushering In A Pilgrim Age

‘Pissheads are fiction factories, as are drug-users; we’ve been setting the seeds and then harvesting them later when they ripen.’

‘These motherfuckers that you call Pilgrims?’

‘Yes, they sometimes take a while for the calling to reach them, but the keywords are out travelling the land in many forms.’

‘What do you mean, Harview, the memes? The urban myths?’

‘The graffiti, the folk songs, the poems – anything that can convey information is used.’

‘And what are these fictions for? What do we need these psychic engines to do?’

‘Well, the forefront of this conflict is going to be fought in words …’

‘A debate?’

‘Of sorts. From the heads of these poor unsuspecting dreamers shall spring forth the saviour of mankind.’

‘Sounds a bit far-fetched if you ask me.’

‘You’re employed to be the cynic in this venture, Clint, so if you acted in any other way I would be somewhat disappointed – no, more than that: I’d be worried. Reliability is a key ingredient in what we’re doing here. Prophecies only come to fruition because we can rely on certain things – that’s how prophets operate, even if they don’t do it on a conscious level, they have an ability to analyse all the data which is there in the world and pick out the elements which are going to be of paramount importance in shaping things the way someone wants them to be shaped.’

‘This has to do with what happened recently in L’undone, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes. No point in lying to you we are readying a force to go after the Great Bittern.’

‘How? Why?’

‘Because it should have stayed dead. That was what was intended – but the way in which it was despatched was sloppy. This time we won’t make the same mistakes.’

‘But, Harview, this thing came back from the dead as a man, how do you expect to kill that?’

‘We have our ways and means – one man’s god is another’s devil, and we just so happen to know some people who believe that the worst thing to happen to this country is that thing coming back from the dead. These people have long known what to do were such an eventuality were to occur …’

‘Let me guess, they have some kind of sacred blade that will despatch their quarry.’

‘My, you’re a bright one, Clint – not much keeping things from you, is there? Don’t worry, the sarcastic tone from you doesn’t bother me – you don’t need to believe in any of the mystical bullshit as you so charmingly describe it – no, all you need to do is believe in me and what I say.’

‘Well, you can count on that.’

‘Good, that’s good to hear. And of course I already knew that or we wouldn’t be sat here having this discussion.’

Tales Of The Knotlands: Ah, Freak, Ah – 1. The Green Man

No one remembered what had burned this place so badly, but they did know who was reponsible for the healing of small parts of the country. His green skin marked him out less than his tribal scarrings did – some revivalist branch of one of the Masai tribes, so he believed. It was hard to remember anymore – there wasn’t anyone else to confer with and since the event, which remained large, though sketchy, in everyone’s memory most people had suffered some memory loss regarding what they did before.
He wasn’t really sure how much of the body he occupied was human anymore, but the genesplice which allowed him to photosynthesise had been a necessary procedure if he was going to be able to eke out a living. He’d been crossed with a particularly hardy strain of plant so he didn’t need much of anything to survive and it was rumoured that he might die without water only to revive on its return.
The dream: Africa. So many places huddled together inside the embrace of that word. The white man, the black man, the green man – all born here from inside the bustling skull of a dreamer that did not know whether it was Darwin, Hanuman or a waking Dogon prince come to reclaim his throne.
He called himself Sika, meaning honey, for he arose after the land had been stung many times in the dying throes of those who tended the flowers, brought forth food, drank nectar. Many confused mythologies, many roots hacked, many branches bleeding sap. His name was a backwards reaching link: an invocation of a past no longer close at hand.
They called him the Green Man; Vert – his visits were a benediction to most. Some hunted the rumour in hope of finding promise of a brighter future; some just hunted for him, wishing to do him harm. He was not easy to catch; he became many things as his homeland did. His long stride carried him across the vast plains, across the shifting sands; he swam Mother Nile, looked up at vast continental swathes of dream condensing into stars above his head.
They said it began here. They said it ended at the heart of the Knotlands – L’undone.

Tales Of The Knotlands: A Merry Curr – 1. Liberty

How long had he lived inside the hollowed out form of this ancient thing? He wasn’t sure it really meant anything to him or anyone anymore – they had stopped calling it the Statue and referred to it as the Shrine and he had become some kind of priest by default. It was true that he defended the thing but he didn’t believe in liberty or anything.
Seriously, what was it that they were free of? Authority had disappeared for sure – when it became obvious that a centralised power system wasn’t going to work anymore the country had fragmented not just into the constituent states which made up the country but communities operating on a much smaller basis and with a more local site specific set of laws. No one felt oppression being pushed on them from above – instead the thing that oppressed them was the all pervasive poverty and the lack of any route out of it. America didn’t mean much as word or a concept any more. Did he think they might be able to rebuild it from the raw materials that they had here? He doubted it – he didn’t actually think that anyone was even vaguely interested in that kind of horseshit anymore.
Vulture was out on a sweep to pick up what carrion he could – he was the best scavenger in the business, and Charley Stick did not think he would have fared so well for so long without him. Charley Stick: High Priest of Liberty – he climbed the stairs and went to light the torch.
He’d heard that packs of bootleggers were roving through his neighbourhoods; doing battle with a group calling themselves Prohibition. These rats weren’t bothered about being on a sinking ship as long as they got to call it their own.
The dry twig snap of gunfire in the distance was a daily thing. People being territorial in a kingdom of fuck-all; it was as stupid as it had always been, but it was their choice, and they held to it steadfastly.