Doilum night

Texting unlovely acquaintances, online shopping, visiting the less salubrious meat dispensaries of the city: all appropriate activities when viciously inebriate. But poking, tasting, and bringing to the light the mould of your mind online? Oh no. Here’s an appropriate story instead of others. It’s the second part of a story, but can be read separate in any case.

On paper (reprise).

 

[n]ot the person I wouldve been

 

“That seat, is it taken?”

 

There was no reply at first. The figure was sat alone on a bench, its oversized grey overcoat concealing either a man or a woman, of late middle-age possibly, with an intense, possibly fecal smell, and beneath thick grey hair, eyes wizened and furious that gazed intently on the conversations of ghosts. Only the black Labrador guarding the figure’s overstuffed trolley bag had acknowledged the polite request to sit by the young woman, who had been standing in the housing office for at least an hour now.

 

“Yes yes, yes”, came at last a hoarse, impatient reply.

 

Crevice-skinned, paranoid, these thin night-dwellers who had been calling themselves Papierists had been conspiring and plotting heady visions throughout the summer. The unusual skin complaints of many city residents were reflected in the built environment’s strange transformations according to a spectrum between decay and chrysalis. Increasingly incongruous and unrecognisable estates and malls, semi-occupied still, had experienced an unparalleled bloom of buddleia, bindweed, dandelion and other wild flora. On the outskirts, the number of hiding places were increasing, as organic matter reclaimed not the public parks, which were still meticulously kept in their primary and secondary colours, but in the old high streets and closed down libraries and leisure centres of impoverished locales. Matching the dirty violets and reds of the flora, new skin conditions mapped themselves on the faces, armpits and groins of residents unable or unwilling to seek remedies, causing the eyes to swell and become red, the ears to take brown hues, and the arms and legs to develop insatiably itchy patches of raised skin. The working-class suburbs were at times overwhelming by an viscerally pungent odour from these wild plants, sweet and rich like marijuana yet nauseating, painful to the eyes and difficult to breath. The air often hummed with it, transported by the winds. Superstitions festered and began to flower in the cracks between hope and reason.

 

Caught in a hyperopic eye like Keira’s, who had known a successful, ‘normal life’, with a son, who had taught God and the Devil to nervous school-children biting their fingers and whispering away in the schools, none of the above seemed of immediate consequence. These fools who had forsaken their gods and occupations had forgotten that a person’s first loyalty is not to their destiny, or to their true self, but to the hand that ministers them food, that points them to shelter, that commands them to fight or struggle in the name of the hand that ministers, lord, king, fuhrer, or God. Like a dog or any other mammal, like Doilum, her faithless yet greedy companion, who accompanied her when she sang in the street.

 

She only knew about four songs, or really three and a half – the chorus and bridge of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’ was usually sufficient. Her singing style was hoarse, sincere, she used to enjoy singing Sandy Denny and Joan Baez songs in her past life. Having the dog definitely garnered some sympathy and tourist’s interest, as well as the fact she was one of the few female street entertainers on that stretch. “You gotta roll with it, you gotta take your time…. thank you very much sir. You’ve gotta say what you sayyy don’t let anybody get in your way … thank you m’am, have a nice day now. So come with us, we’re here to stay (is that the line, ah fuck it).” Rooted by the trees and benches opposite the Royal Festival Hall, on a good hour or two Keira would make about a tenner in silvers and change, but she could spy only five in the guitar case, by which Doilum sat glumly. Her fingers wrapped around the stolen acoustic guitar, covered in a student’s finger grime, and she reached another bar chord. I remember back in ’66, in the government yard in churchtown … observing the lunatics … thank you sir …. and the good people in the street, altogether now … no woman no cry! This one’s for me son … no woman no cry! From a severe-looking family watching in the distance, a boy came forward to drop 50 pence. Some Dutch tourists were watching and clapping. Everything’s gonna be alright! Everything’s gonna be alright!

 

They were conspiring and plotting heady, vicious visions in the city that summer. Keira had slept in the cellar of a derelict pub, creepy enough to prevent other superstitious wayfarers from disturbing her and trying to steal, and once it was light enough the next morning she worked her way out up the staircases and across the glass and split tables strewn across the bar-room floor. The hypnotic drone of a drum machine or dance track looped continually in the early morning from a nearby sound-system. Outside, the urban backstreet bracketed into two contrary directions, where to her left pogoed a solitary boy, possessed by the beat from the upstairs part of the pub still, eyes disappearing into the back of his head, feet stomping against the playground in some substance-induced Saint Vitus’ dance. No older than sixteen. “You got a cigarette miss?” Three golden bows of dawn light heralded her right, a chill wind, the street full of parked cars despite much of it semi-occupied now. Doilum and Keira found a supermarket. The security guards had at first attempted to refuse entry to a dog, but Keira feigned blindness. That greedy Doilum had got distracted when they were leaving, a child of a anaemic-looking mother was pretending to have biscuits in its hand for the dog. Come away now. It was only when a bottle of milk fell out of the waist of her long-skirt as she hurried out that they were found out.

 

“You greedy bastard Doilum!” She crouched down and slapped the dog, who whimpered obediently. “Bad!” But this was always happening, and hungry Doilum was always eating most of their food, taking and not giving, the worst of all the sins, like the bankers, “Bad!” Another slap fell against the dog’s back. But despite the blows the dog was not learning, he would just keep on doing it, using her, using her up, like all men, the filthy, selfish bastard! “That’s enough! That’s enough! You cannot be kicking and hitting your dog in here madam, it’s against store policy!”

 

The security guards attempting to take her beneath the arms, but the small boy who had pretended to offer the dog food ran forward and ran its hands around the Labrador’s soft fur. “Poor doggie!” he cried, and began to wail. She had already raised her hand, ready to pound the dog a little harder than before, now starting to get into her element after just a few practice blows – the school had complained she hit the children too hard, but she needed to, it was the only way they would learn, it was the only way Doilum would learn his lesson, like Pavlov, when momentarily she saw not the dog and the boy crying, but a single figure, in a grey cloak like hers, vertical, ready to say something, a man, but its face concealed by a white mask, as if its head were being plaster-cast. The man looked up at her and over her, through her. “Death to the gods that made us”, words she heard momentarily, spoken in her own tongue, but from the man, Doilum. The security guards finally managed to pick her up beneath the arms and shoved her out. “I’ll sue that fucking crazy bitch!” screamed the mother.

 

*

 

Peel away the layers of comprehension, the layers of experience, and beneath those, the layers of memory and of feeling: Keira had discarded most of the unnecessary clutter of her psyche. She wandered through the evening in search of something to eat, Doilum limping behind her. She was tired and didn’t have the energy to walk all the way to the central train station cafe where she used to like drinking coffee all day. Exhausted, she sat on the raised step of an old churchyard, stuffed with anonymous poor, diseased whores and plague dead. Pages and pages of some old maths textbook were pasted against the church walls, over the windscreen of a parked car and adjacent recycling bin, and further down, the skeleton of a payphone booth. Someone had painted over the pages on the wall in thick black marker-pen DEATH TO THE GODS THAT MADE US, with two letters at most per sheet of paper. There was no moon that night, and without the light to guide them, the quiet streets were teeming with the forms of the dead, short figures, faded and unfathomable complexions in mean grey garments, hurrying hither and thither along the streets, great hoots of laughter and shouting rumbling through them. Their difference to the living was hard to state with accuracy, aside from that they had a kind of washed-out appearance, as if somehow out of focus, or wrapped in a thin sheet of cellophane. Their sadness affected Keira deeply in her heart, that last place where memory had been reluctantly permitted refuge, and she could not help weeping at their attachment to these cynical places, their vain attempts to reanimate and influence a history that was already written far ahead into the future without them. There was nothing for them except the repetition of their lives and habits, their children now passively repeating the same cycles of reproduction.

 

Doilum sat by the trolley-bag, coolly unaffected. The gold and silver hues of the street-lights and overhanging corporate high-rises began to intensify, a chill wind sweeping away all the pages into gutter and across the deserted street. In the distance, a pair of figures were arguing by a wall. Great sheets of paper were flying about the place now, old newspapers and burst bags of rubbish too. One of the spectral figures had fallen and collapsed into the paper. Soon it too disappeared.

 

*

 

“Fuck off mate, I already told you, I didn’t know it was a no-parking zone here.”

 

A blue transit van had parked just in front of the large bin behind which Keira and Doilum had been asleep. The driver seemed to dumping lots of full bin-bags and a well-worn mattress by the bin. Clearly, local parking restrictions were in force.

 

“As a road-user you must agree to the local government restrictions on your driving”, came the reply of the traffic-warden, with a particular acute emphasis on every fourth or fifth syllable uttered.

 

“Who the fuck you work for man? The council ain’t gonna do shit. Whoa, get off me crazy lady, shit, I ain’t got no change. What is wrong with this city.” The man had possessed an uncanny resemblance to someone Keira had known well, not her son, but someone else, like one of these figures from her dreams. Doilum knew well enough, but he wasn’t talking now, he always got self-conscious and wouldn’t talk when other people were around. “Go on, tell them! Tell them what we’ve been seeing!” she shrieked, and went to bend down to hit the dog, who quickly scarpered away back under the bin. The van had swerved out in reverse, and hurtled down the empty early morning side-street. “Wankers!” came the driver’s final goodbye.

 

“What are you doing here, it is not legal for you to be sleeping here”. His gaze lifted from his hand console up to the side-street, to the Papierist slogans plastered over the low levels of the office block and the bin behind which the pair had slept. “You need to go to a housing office and be processed there.” It was starting to rain.

 

“You don’t get it!” she shrieked at him. He was shaking his head and gazing back at the console again, which didn’t seem to even be switched on. “People are disappearing! Listen! He’s seen it, he can tell you!” The last comment seemed to catch his attention. “Madame, do not shout at me. That is a dog,” he said with a smirk. “Well he fucking talks when he wants to, when he’s hungry, don’t you, you daft cunt!” she shrieked back, kicking the bin, beneath which Doilum was cowering. “He turns into a man with no face and talks about God, the cunt!” “Madame, you are not allowed to sleep here, whether your dog talks to God or not. Local government regulations forbid it.” Doilum had now skittered out from beneath the bin and down the road. “See what he does, rah. Have you got any food, anything at all? Please, I’m homeless, I’ve to get away from people, the people doing all this” Keira replied, the anger and passion from her voice draining away by the end, finally looking at the middle-aged man in his lean, almost handsome face. “Madame, are you responsible for this, the illegal fly-posting?” His fingers were now tapping away codes into the broken console.

 

Beneath an ironically semi-topless photo of herself pouting in a nightclub, Lauretta began typing her latest micro-blog entry of her London travels. I don’t know what I am doing. I look back at the excitement of when I was younger, and my home feels like it is under a landslide, between Western freedoms and China. My certainty about who I am, and what I wanted to be, is shaking. My soul is lost… Nothing feels right. I cry, alone. A girl kissed me at the club. Who am I? Is my name Lauretta or Lin-Hui? Lauretta looked up from her tablet device and took another sip of her latte. Outside the window, she could see some dirty vagrant figure in a long grey smock shrieking and swearing at a local policeman. A mangy malnourished black dog skittered past the window and into the tiny coffee store, and began sniffing around her feet. Do the dogs have rabies in London? She took a photo of the dog and quickly uploaded the second of the two entries to her blog. Already her first entry had started attracting comment. She searched and quickly found a quote by the lazily misanthropic Charles Bukowski, which she attached to a picture of a popular female film star. One guy from her English college had already posted back a Nietzsche quote. She began replying back when the angry looking vagrant hurried into the shop, shouting and trying to kick the dog, called Doilum, which was cowering beneath her stool.

 

Keira was authentic London. After buying her breakfast twice over, she began to talk to the shy-looking Chinese student, who wanted to film, photograph and digitally record everything Keira showed her. The two bacon baguettes had taken the edge off her paranoia, and Doilum wasn’t winding her up so much now. They found a bench behind Leicester Square and she cracked open a bottle of wine which the girl had bought. “I’ve not got an alcohol problem, I quite enjoy it” Keira said, quite sincerely. Following the Papierist trends, London’s built environment was back on the cultural map, but so far the mostly international middle-class bloggers had either been too lazy or unable to actually talk to find a real authentic Londoner to feature – until now. Keira’s alcohol quote had already been retweeted by a notably pompous English celebrity writer. It was so amazing how the homeless woman always talked and shouted at her dog Dawkins like it could talk back. But it was when Keira began talking really fast, that no-one even on Twitter could understand her, that people increasingly started to believe she too might be a prophet, in that one could hear almost everything and nothing in the inebriated trance of tongues she talked in, phrases congested and curled in upon one another. What she said, about freedom, about the men with white masks chasing her, about the Gods and the disappearances, seemed to bloom from the same subterranean place as the Papierists, and that was so goddamn cool -_-

 

*

 

It was remarkable how the Londoners had all kinds of slang words for things that were bad, like shit, or crap, pony, poxy, and so on, but very few for anything remotely positive. Even nice one suggested a kind of reservedness, a suspension of credulity, a withdrawal – nice for you, but please don’t bother me any more detail of it. Most of the vagrants at the food donations spot near Trafalgar Square were drunk and cursing loudly, complaining at the standard of sandwiches being shared out by suburban guilt missionaries. Lauretta was filming the event on her tablet under the real cool caption the crows of London. An investigator, McGinty, had messaged her. He wanted to meet Keira. Lauretta advised bringing some thing to eat or drink for both Keira and the dog.

 

Arranging the meeting was the simple part.

 

McGinty held down the Ctrl and Del functions, cursed the laptop, then administered a series of kicks and punches to the motel furniture. The intelligence community and the government had been taken by surprise by Papierism. Although it had never been theorised, to McGinty’s mind there had been a mass desertion in religious belief following the discovery of the death camps, the populations of the developed world too exhausted and demoralised by two world wars to conceive of anything except short-term escapism that took one’s mind away from the gruesome blood potlatch and transcendental guilt which overhung the West. Again, in which table of the standardised report would such a peregrination fit in? Yet there was no denying that the responsibility of explaining the unknown, and providing remedies for it, had shifted from priests to scientists. So who could come forward and explain the phenomena of the burning man?

 

He rubbed his temples and rested back against the solo bed, his eyes wearied enough by the peeling mustard wallpaper. The footage must’ve been faked somehow. Yet the figure of the burning man had induced online hysteria. Unlike previous self-immolations, which were already increasing to a problematic extent, this burning man didn’t ask for sympathy: the global poor were too hungry and cynical to sympathise with anyone’s poverty except their own. His statement was that of a man. His prophecies were texts, disregarded and discarded pieces of paper, once stowed away in local archives by a post-literate generation, but now dusted away and forcibly inserted into the cracks of everyday life. They were simply inexplicable: perhaps that was the first point of provoking unrest. Everything up till now could be explained, and was explained rapidly, and repeatedly. The burning man was protean, his ‘prophecies’ emerging across the cities at any moment, long after his disappearance. Nature was a force, and energy that, when harnessed and applied in the correct way, could be unlocked by the truth-containing text. Life therefore had some value in potential, in an inner animation surplus to economic requirements. This therefore linked the burning man, the images and graffiti of the stick man and the flames, up to the cult popularity of ranting prophets, often vagrants in a state of narcotic or alcoholic exuberance, talking in tongues to cameras, out of which thousands of comments soon appeared interpreting their meaningless glossolalia into timber-shaking utterances.

 

The city was like dry paper, ready to burn. Yes, there were potentially a number of equally valid causes for Papierism. Despite its endorsement of physicality and the reclamation of urban spaces, its influence was primarily online. The inner city suburbs were rarely cleaned any more due to long-standing council spending cuts, and so the incidence of random pages and phrases being pasted or painted on disused buildings made little difference. Its significance was occult, not political, expressing some repressed need for bodily instruction and domination in the sickly urban residents. There was talk about climate change creating the vicious blooms of wild flora, former leisure centres and schools becoming like greenhouses of monstrously oversized wisteria, cow-parsley and knotweed. People had been going missing for years. Perhaps some of it could be explained by unrecorded suicides – like other mammals, when a colony was in decline creatures would lose their fertility or willingly end their own lives, through reckless conflict with others or through a more intentional choice. It didn’t matter, the people going missing weren’t people that mattered to important people. It was just life, like the weeds that hadn’t been cut back, like the striking factory workers in China secretly culled like cattle by their middle-class communist overlords. Some life mattered more than others, it was as simple as that.

 

Why didn’t they bloody get it? The traffic below the tenth floor window was thinning out as rush hour ended. Why bother. Most eras had their mystery cults. The arseholes would probably end up closing down the cities, shooting the ‘ringleaders’ (and here he kicked the radiator beneath the window again), and collectively punishing the rest through some embargo or other deprivation. “There will be vices as long as there are men”, he remembered his former Director telling him in their last performance assessment review. McGinty had since been on sick leave. Officially, this report hadn’t even been commissioned. His freelance colleagues in the British intelligence community had more or less abandoned him as a crank. But, all the same, he felt there was something potentially significant and explosive in this reclamation of the physical text. This rejected, negated life – this was what was reacting most viciously in these sorrowful suburban streetscapes. And it was all so damn easy, so boringly easy! He could hear a man and woman groaning and banging against the wall from the adjacent room. Even they would get it! Was it not peculiar that the new working-classes, mostly immigrants, had so readily adapted belief in a man who was claimed to be the son of a God, who was forced by his father to die in order to absolve the world of its ‘sins’ – and his church in which man’s worst sins have since been perpetuated in its name? Wouldn’t a new figure come around? The paper, the wild flora, the skin conditions, the near-universal occurrence of mental disorders and hysteria in the long-term unemployed in these ex-industrial territories, all signified to McGinty’s imagination a collective reaction to abstracted, digitised economies. Landfill sites were willingly poisoning agriculture, caught in the recent images of tyres, bathtubs and broken VHSs bursting beneath swollen strawberry fields. Oceans overwhelming coastal towns, destroying the derelict high-rises which had once been inhabited by holiday-makers from Fordist countries. All this life had become surplus to the production of wealth, now abstracted and digitised. But how was he supposed to write this in an intelligence report, not just a memo? Nothing could be clearly discerned or verified by any number of reliable witnesses. His eyes began to mist over, as if they were rapidly calcifying. He took a glass of water over to the bedside table, switched off the light, and poured the icy fluid over his face.

 

He wasn’t nervous about meeting the woman from the Internet. She was most probably insane, but could have some accidental insights into the Papierism and some of the new urban disruptions. He found Lin-Hui through her GPS, filming a filthy assortment of hobos and heroin-addicts by Charing Cross station. “It’s great going upwards”, uttered one middle-aged junkie to the camera. He began bending over backwards, slumping to his knees, hugging a lamp-post in a vain attempt to remain upright. Surprisingly, as the rotten reprobate fell into McGinty’s leg, he could see beyond the grubbiness a good quality suit on the man. There was a traffic of besuited bankers further up the street, streaming from Coutts bank into waiting taxis. McGinty was assessing the scene: a real security nightmare. He overheard one banker passing nearby talking on his phone, who in his speech managed to underline some phrases and place others in apostrophes, with a highly grating effect. “Listen big boy, YOU WANT THE SKINNY ON THE AGM? It’s a no-brainer. Those ponced up little pricks want heads rolling. We showed them the money and asked them what colour bog-roll the Pope brings when he goes for a number two in the school playing fields. COMPRENDE?” After brief introductions, and handing the case of dog biscuits, cigarettes and whisky over, Keira interrupted her silence to suggest they go to talk in a nearby betting-shop where no-one would care to hear them.

 

“How can you be a fucking investigator when you ain’t even got a badge?” The guy was clearly a prick. Doilum was just sitting there doing nothing, as always. But the guy had paid and he wanted to hear what he wanted to hear. “Paper babies, I’ve seen them. Plagues: have mercy on us. My heart could just burst with the sadness of carrying all these ghosts in its pockets.” Keira began weeping again. He felt she was causing a scene, and so after a couple of minutes he insisted that they get up and start walking over to Speaker’s Corner, where they could talk without fear of being recorded by any devices. He hadn’t even thought that Lauretta would be streaming everything live straight onto her blog.

 

Hideous clouds had become ensnared on top of office-blocks and street-lamps just ahead, the dawn’s golden bows giving away to the cast-iron melancholia of a cool overcast evening. Keira had a fondness for Speaker’s Corner. In a past life she had taken to the soapbox as a member of some left-wing faction she could hardly recall, but in these days it had become an easy place to steal from tourists, and this promised to be a good night. The area was fizzing with crowds desperate for easy answers, some even recognising Kiera from Lauretta’s Hamlet in London blog. Placards of the burning man were carried by angry, anonymous-looking figures. A teacher-looking scruff man struggled to shout loud enough for an impatient audience. Unused to being listened to, it took his fourth or fifth sentence before he finally made his point clear, by which time most of the patience in the audience has been exhausted. He explained that due to ‘unforeseen’ effects of atomic and anatomo-physical experiments, a reaction had undone the temporo-spatial fields that structure reality, largely assumed to have existed but lacking sufficient evidence to have ever been fully theorised. Time is layered, and these layers have become unstable. This had caused different exposures of time to overlap. Spatially, this caused the collision and combustion of materials relocated in recent times.

 

“I don’t even read fam! Fuck that shit!” punctured the audience’s distracted attention into sheets of spiteful laughter.

 

If the field wasn’t restored, unlikely given it was never properly understood in the first place, then earlier and earlier time periods would appear, or rather interrupt, the current. The spatial disruption would be devastating, never mind the psychological effects. The audience were unimpressed and annoyed at the length of his presentation, exceeding well over a minute. What are time layers? Why did this happen? How do you know? His inability to speak in plain certainties confirmed the uselessness of knowledge. The crowds found more satisfactory answers to their worries in the buffet of catastrophiliac conspiracies and hate-mongering on offer that evening.

 

Whilst McGinty gazed into the yellowy-eyed professor’s direction and Lauretta filmed the scene, micro-blogging Keira’s eerie utterance about ghosts in pockets, Doilum collided with McGinty’s leg, almost tripping him over. “Yes, lad!” Keira erupted. And in a dash, she’d pulled up McGinty and, in the process, pocketed either his phone or wallet, possibly both, the slow cunt. The crowd were surging forward to get a better glance at the humiliated teacher. Someone was heckling the man, and another had begun to tug away at his jacket. Keira and Doilum stole the moment’s opportunity and disappeared swiftly.

 

*

 

“What have you done to me, you fucking bastard?” came a woman’s voice from a second floor window above, one of the few still lit on the terraced side of the street. In the blue window, the outline of a man paced across a damask-flocked wall, until his stick-thin figure filled the bare window. His naked chest was covered in small red sores, with scratches and bruises on his back which now rested against the window. “It’s nothing baby girl. If I hadn’t given it to you, you’da just got it off some other feller anyway.” The nocturnal silence that was Keira’s alone returned once again, except for the scrape of her trainer-tread and trolley-bag wheels against the asphalt, occasionally kicking into a discarded lager can. The air hummed with dog shit. Doilum was quiet and brooding over some ill-omen, he was probably missing the on-demand access of treats from the Chinese girl too.

 

It was very late and the park seemed empty, though over the fence she could glimpse through the branches streams of paper hanging down, the red sky ministering its word through these Papier emissaries. “I don’t know why you’re complaining, Doilum. We can’t change what we are.” He looked up, and with his eyes gestured over the fence, which was assailed with difficulty, and for a while Keira had to untangle her impaled overcoat. When she turned around to face the perimeter path and the dark trees beyond, she could see that those awful wraiths had reappeared again. Great shrieks began through the trees, disembodied and scared. At last, Doilum had the nerve to speak, and took back on his familiar form of the long shadowy figure in grey hood, the man wearing the white mask.

 

“Have you ever thought to consider that the ultimate expression of natural perfection is not mankind? Instead, rising temperatures should be celebrated and accelerated as permitting new and bold expressions of life.”

 

“No Doilum, you bad bad man. I won’t allow it. The ultimate quietism!”

 

“Anything that permits life is beautiful, and that might not be humanity and its industry, which for the last century or two has posed the greatest danger to life.”

 

Deeper beyond the first perimeter path, the park increasingly hard to navigate through, the red night’s glare and the surrounding street-lights increasingly unable to penetrate the untended and overgrown thickets. Doilum had fall away somewhere behind. There was some answer waiting ahead of her, deeper in those unknown groves, that would unlock every past moment of her life, allow her to correct all that now blurred as bad histories – her parents, that holiday, marriages, work, words, breakdowns, words, words, all of that rubbish. She scaled a small fence and waded into dark waters, the cool tide never reaching more than knee-high, the grove-island ahead.

 

“A man is made, not born”, said the wind behind her. The spirit of the burning man was here. What did spirit mean? And yet they had always talked of it, the ancients and the analysts. Beneath a tree appeared a man in a long grey-coat, not like that of Doilum’s but her own, like a smock, his long grey-brown hair and dark brown eyes, her male double. “Only man and woman made me”, she replied. “The air is alive with it, don’t you feel?” said the figure, its words disembodied and swept swirling round by the wind. The figure stole behind a tree, the one tree that seemed to reside on the islet. Keira ventured closer, to the empty tree, and to the small shrub there, and below, beneath all the words and inscriptions carved into its sorry bark, a great pile of blue, brown and red hardback books, and the prone and unconscious body of Doilum the dog, and sat squatting, mobile phone in hand, McGinty. “So you want to do something about the misrule of men?” he said, mischievously.

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