December 27, 2008


Thread: Alpha and Omega,Equation,Game,His Silicon Hands,Mission,Paragon

There is an old shack and outside it sits a man in his late forties. He sits not on a chair but on a ground of dry dust. It is a sunny day. God made it so, thinks Earl. His tears are exhausted and anger has left his insides charred. Nothing churns within. His heart is dead.

From within the shack, a man who wanted to be God emerges behind him. Yet he is not God. He is Green. He came here out of what he considered free will, but recognised the deceit too late. He sits down beside Earl. Green is quiet, still holding the bloody, sharp wire between his hands. The wire vibrates.

Earl wants to hate Green for what he has done, but it was what God had wished. But to swallow tragedy as if it was just a sliver of beer is not something he finds easy to do. That was God’s lot. And that was why God had waited with him for so long, telling him stories.

‘It was the greatest sin,’ says Green, softly. He sounds damaged, missing the violent determination that had propelled him to his defining moment. ‘There was no grace in my work. I had only hoped to match the master… but I was one of his animals. Moving in his word, the final sound of his voice. I have done what I was meant to do. My purpose complete, I am extinguished.’

‘I don’t care for your talk, mister,’ snaps Earl. The sun’s rays are cold. The solitude is unbearable once again. His wife has been stored in a jar for two years. And now God is gone, his parables complete.

The Paragon, the Student and the Psychologist are dead, killed when they turned on their gods of Elvis, Bliss and Morta, allowing Nhil to rise once more. Weldon has done his father proud, saving one final life, defeating Dog in his last game. Alison redeemed herself, saving a planet that had disintegrated into anti-technological fever and anarchic chaos, but sacrificed things she didn’t know she loved to accomplish it. Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega’s global pursuit of Morgana came to a disasterous conclusion, as the three of them discovered that all things are terminal; the handle finally turned.

But Earl’s own story has not come to an end. He is still here with the tales he has learnt and no one to share them with.

‘It was his will,’ says Green. ‘I played my part. If I had not done this thing… He would have undone the Project. I carry His blood on my hands, this is my burden. It was His will, Earl.’

‘I know that!’ shouted Earl. ‘I made Him tell me stories for years to keep this from happening! That, mister, was my burden! I kept Him going and now you… you have taken Him away.’

Green stands up. ‘I need to go.’

‘Where to, mister? What’s left for you to break?’

‘The first stranger to cross my path. God returned her to life as part of his blackmail, to force my hand. I want to apologise.’

But Green does not move. Perhaps he is tired, perhaps he is scared. Earl does not know.

Earl says, ‘He was taken from us too soon. He had more stories to tell.’

Green turns slightly, but does not face Earl. Earl is surprised: there is shame hidden on the killer’s face. Green asks Earl, ‘Did He ever tell you about Hammerport?’

‘Hammerport? No, I don’t think so.’

‘It is a story of what men do when they have left their gods behind. He never told you this story because it could only be told once he was gone. It is about how men organise themselves and how this unmakes them.’

Earl looks at the greatest sinner and asks: ‘Would you tell me this tale?’

Green sits down again, careful not to catch Earl’s gaze. He places the bloody wire on the ground before them and stares at his hands.

‘No one remembers the town of Hammerport. Originally it was a small, sleepy town and the people there were neither happy nor unhappy. Little changed between days. This fact was neither resented nor loved by its people. Children were born, grew up, some of them left for bigger places. And then, one day, the shrewd eyes of industry noticed the town…’

The sun holds its position in the sky while the tale is told. Clouds drift overhead in mournful silence. Mountains weep streams into rivers. The human herd sprays signals through the air while the scent of decaying trash floats on a scorched breeze. There are still ashes in the urn but something has changed: a broken watch is ticking again.

These truly are the days of Man, for it was God that made it so.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1413

December 2, 2007

Paragon’s People (11 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

Outside, the night had grown a little chilly; there would be a layer of frost the next morning. The student asked the girlfriend, ‘What are you frightened about?’

She slapped him across the face. His face was coated in shock; before he had a chance to gather a thought, say something, anything, she slapped him again. Her furious glare seemed to heat his face more than the double-slap.

‘You’re a real bastard godless shit,’ his girlfriend said. ‘But I suppose I should thank you for bringing me here. I’ve never seen so much stupidity in all my life. They all really believe that.’

The student put a hand to his hot cheek, rubbed slowly and asked again, ‘What are you frightened about?’

She pulled her jacket a bit tighter and stepped away from the thinker’s apartment block. ‘I don’t know, really,’ she said. ‘It’s just so weird. I feel like something else is going on. Maybe the president was threatened or something. Maybe the “status quo” is coming back and will take their revenge on the America that voted for the president, you know, just like after Bush. I don’t like it. This kind of surprise… it’s not kosher.’

‘I know, I don’t get it either.’ He paused, and then added, ‘I’m sorry about being such a fucking moron. I’ve been going through some stuff. You know. Fucking retard.’ The words were too light in his mouth, refusing to convey anything of import. He was sorry and he wanted to prove it.

‘It’s okay.’ She sighed. ‘It’s okay, I guess. We all go through stuff.’ She sniffed back the sloppy mucus that was the aftermath of her earlier tears. ‘I’m just glad we can move forward. I understand a bit more about what’s going on up there. I don’t really, like, agree with all that stuff you were saying. But… but you were right about… you know, the sex. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about that ever since.’

They crossed the road, devoid of traffic, heading towards campus. She continued, ‘You made a point and I suppose it made a sort of weird sense. It was nice seeing you so… I don’t know… strong? Confident? It’s like we’ve been… hollowed out people before, with no real feelings. Now….’

‘Now we seem to have some life in us. Anger and humiliation does that to you, I think.’

‘Yeah.’ Her anger appeared to be breaking down, dissolving in a strange, new soup of emotions. The student felt it too; the presidential event had left them both struggling to understand the future, albeit for different reasons.

The student said, ‘I don’t know if what I thought makes sense any more. The President bowing out like that took the wind out of my sails. I’m more confused now. Shit.’

‘Oh you can’t stop now, even though I don’t believe what you believe. If I was as paranoid as your friends in there, I would probably be wondering right now whether “Paragon” could keep his nose out of politics.’

Electric lights flickered over head. He hadn’t given it much thought, events having mesmerised him. He found the shifting ground terrifying, because, even though it was what he wanted, it wasn’t on his terms. The president was to become a religious adviser to the government instead of leading from the front. Advising? How much control would the position of the Paragon have? It sounded like none at all. The president didn’t seem real any more. What threat was he?

And then the student’s girlfriend was kissing him. It wasn’t a kiss of love; it was of loneliness, one of affirmation and connection. Her grip on his arm was solid, needing. In returning the kiss, he was affirmed and connected. He didn’t know if he actually felt anything for this girl, but she wasn’t as dull and obedient as he had mused. That had to count for something.

She withdrew an inch from his face to whisper, ‘Do you want to try again tonight?’ and then returned to caressing his lips with hers. Neither of them were smiling and there was a disturbing emptiness about their intimacy, different from the emptiness of before. It was like he had ended all the play-acting, cancelled tonight’s performance, revealing the naked, bare stage. There was nobody there. Part of him missed the play.

The unknowable complexities of the world were as frightening as he had said, and they had to be challenged. But everyone needed a shelter, another body to bury themselves in for a few hours, to relax and escape the turmoil and torment of reality. He was okay with two hearts of empty holding each other in the dark.

She pulled away again and said, ‘We can always try again.’

He nodded in agreement, ‘We can always try again.’

The student’s arms wrapped tightly around the girlfriend. His arms were bindings, constricting her, preventing her from moving away, moving at all. And she played to it, enjoying not just tolerating, pressing herself even harder against him, desiring more pressure, wanting his body to crush and break hers.

And here endeth the lesson, he thought. We pretend to crave freedom, but our fear prefers to indulge in cultural sado-masochism, wanting to be constricted, throttled to choking point, to be punished, pounded, prodded, punctured. Belittle me, tell me what to do. Strike me and I will bark like a dog, happy in your service, master. In the end, it really is all sex.

Bliss. I understand.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2325

November 22, 2007

Paragon’s People (10 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The student couldn’t bear the repeated clicking of the remote – the thinker had kept channel surfing for the last hour, as if trying to prise out some truth of this strange and, frankly, unbelievable turn of events.


The President’s chin and calm, friendly white teeth smile filled the screen as his recorded address calmly explained his reasons for standing down and handing the reins over to the Vice-President. Talking heads droned over him, as usual adding nothing to the reported news, but subtracting everything they could to bolster their own celebrity status.

‘God fucking dammit,’ the thinker said. ‘God fucking damn this fucking fuck thing to hell.’ He threw the remote across the room. ‘Fuck!’

The thinker wasn’t the only one feeling wronged somehow. The student felt like he’d taken a punch to the gut, all his fire and plans – pissed on by this second-shit preacher whose chiselled jaw bulged with ingratiating smiles. It just didn’t make any sense to throw away all that power, not now.

The athlete said, ‘I don’t believe this.’

‘Oh will you change the record,’ said the musician, trying to straighten out some wrinkles in her top; her rainbow didn’t seem to be smiling any more. ‘None of us believes it.’

‘No, I mean it. I really don’t believe this. Is this for real? This kind of thing is, well, unprecedented, totally.’ He pronounced it unpreecedented. ‘He was a popular guy. We were underdogs.’

The thinker growled. ‘That’s the problem! The face is changing but his plans are still in motion. Now try getting people on our side. They’ll all say, well, look the guy you’re worried about is no longer in power, so take a chill fucking pill, man.’

The student got up to leave. He wasn’t even sure he believed there was anything worth fighting for either. More than a face had changed. The Vice-President wasn’t the same man at all. The student remembered him squirming when facing some questions on the CNN over the British fallout from the ethical signatures, the sweat resting on his brow.

‘Where are you scooting off too?’ said the poet, who had remained fairly quiet throughout the news. His only discernable reaction was the act of folding his arms.

‘Campus,’ the student replied. ‘I can’t sit here and watch this crap all night. We’re supposed to talk about how we change things for the better. Things are changing faster than we can bloody talk about changing them. I can watch TV anywhere.’

‘I don’t believe this,’ said the athlete.

The student’s girlfriend, looking shell-shocked by events, stood up too. ‘Yeah, let’s go. I need to shake my head of this.’

‘We’ll still meet up, guys, right?’ said the thinker, desperation seeping in. ‘There’s still the cause, right?’ He raised his fist in a distant, weak echo of the student’s bolder thrust earlier.

‘Whatever,’ the student said. ‘You have to fight for something real.’ He pointed at the TV bearing smiling white teeth that bobbed and weaved in slow motion. ‘He isn’t real any more. I’ll come back if you have something to fight for.’

He gazed at each one of his compadres, and noticed the only person who was pleased was the cop’s daughter, the first smile he’d seen on her face since attending these meetings. She was the only genuine one here, her only goal to change how things were. And things had changed and she was happy with that. An honest challenger with no ego invested. He saw that everybody wanted to change things because they simply wanted to reshape life to suit themselves and to hell with other people: a mere excuse for narcissism.

Perhaps he should be happy too but his map of personal destiny was in tatters. Bliss’ attentions had prodded him forward inch by inch, and now he was in the middle of nowhere, falling into an unmarked pit, waiting for the bottom to claim him. Suddenly – he was alone.

The student left the thinker’s apartment, with his girlfriend in tow.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1114

November 1, 2007

Paragon’s People (8 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

‘Oh sweet, you owe me 1400 bucks. Welcome to Pennsylvania Avenue!’ shouted the poet.

The cop’s daughter handed over the cash, casual and cold. The student didn’t think he’d ever seen her smile in or out of that coat, but then again out of all of them, she was the only one who was in real danger. She was still quieter than normal, though, and he knew that was his fault. The cop’s daughter kept eyeing the cross dangling from his girlfriend’s necklace with suspicion.

‘How did you find the group?’ the girlfriend asked the student, sitting cross-legged on the floor beside him.

Before the student could answer, the poet said, ‘I brought him in. The group finds you!’ He sniggered, childish yet disarming. ‘I saw him scribbling nudes one day on his notebook in one of the lectures and I thought my mate here had fallen out of the system.’

Nudes?’ she said, unable to mask her surprise.

This was a moment for her discover some of his new truth. He said, ‘Yes, nudes. This is who I am, don’t you get it? We’ve been way too clinical with each other, holding back our thoughts and feelings, keeping ourselves pretty and pious. When we lost our virginity together I bet you felt the same as I did at the time – with instant regret that we’d spoilt what we were. You ran straight for the shower, right?’

The girlfriend said nothing, her face blushing, eyes drifting away towards the board.

‘But it’s true. People shouldn’t behave like this. We’re meant to be alive and sexual creatures that hunger and lust. We’re all supposed to be having fun and making babies, not wearing camouflage. When did tying instinct become part of the human condition? It’s not what the real God would have wanted. Your religion… the President’s religion… it’s a lie, I tell you. Am I right or am I right, everyone?’

No one said a word. In fact, all of the gang seemed to be more interested in their Monopoly cash and property cards. The girlfriend’s blush spread down her neck.

He moved closer towards his girlfriend, intent on making his point now that it had arrived. ‘Sex is like dirt under the fingernails. That’s why I draw the pictures. It’s to challenge me, to prove that I don’t care about the rules of society. Christ, we didn’t even leave the light on. Fumbling in the dark with bits we can’t see. That’s not sex, that’s play-acting. Did you make noises at all the right times? I think I did.’

His girlfriend was shrunken and motionless, bowed away from him as if in prayer; a few tears dropped from her face and spattered against the board, flooding the Reading Railroad. Then he realised he was an idiot, talking about their private affairs in public. He had sought tears earlier, but not here, the odds were stacked against her – fool. He might not have had inhibitions, but she still had, and one angry, open conversation in a clique of strangers wasn’t going to work. Way to go, asshat.

The thinker broke the silence. ‘Economy being flushed down the drain too,’ he said. ‘Fed Europe’s imports being crippled by that ethical signature shit. China doing it’s best but America is not getting what it needs any more, you know. Being poor is getting really dangerous now and that means more crime… and more crime means harsher punishments….’

The girlfriend, with a wet, red face, broke out of her depressed torpor. ‘You can’t be serious,’ she said, angered. ‘Things are getting better. We’re in the country of Rising Morality. We-’

‘Don’t sound bite me,’ the thinker interrupted.

‘Let me finish. We don’t accept goods obtained through immoral means and we don’t tolerate garbage in politics anymore. Why do you think we all voted for that man and then prayed for him through civil war? Are you telling me none of you voted for him? Turncoats, all of you. Hypocritical savages. Crime is down, people are happier. Business now thinks for its people.’

The student was surprised, heartened perhaps, that she was suddenly punching for her side.

‘Listen, there’s only one type of business that thinks for its people, Goldilocks,’ the thinker said, leaning backwards against a sofa behind him. ‘Government. Business is being controlled so much that it is becoming government. Some companies – think Microsoft – are being nationalised, swallowed whole and absorbed by the Whitehouse. Stop watching “Fucks” News. You might think it’s good for the people, but this is not going to end well while that God-fearing President of ours is in power. Actually, I take that back. I don’t think he fears God at all.’

Everyone snickered – everyone except for the student’s girlfriend.

The student thought again of the bound woman, smiling, comfortable and pleasured within her straps.

He jumped into the fray again, more animated than before, ‘It’s nice being told what to do and what to think – it frees you from the burden of decision. You can never make a mistake, because you never have the opportunity to do so. Your life is as good as it can be, because it is prescribed. You can be very happy like that. But One Flew… we’re not happy with that. We want the freedom to be wrong and make mistakes. We want the freedom to learn. The generation of our Mom and Pop want it put down, like some lame dog, but every dog has his day!’

The thinker interrupted, as if he were concerned the student was stealing his own illustrious thunder, ‘Think about that. To take away our capacity to err, to be cloaked in warm, thick control, to see merely fences around us and wonder, frightened, what might lie beyond. To make us all just toilers of land, with nothing to cry or think about – we become beasts of burden. It is guilt and blasphemous wisdom that sets us apart from the rest of the creatures on this planet. Everyone wants a simple life, rules telling them what to do – it makes us no better than animals.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2304

October 23, 2007

Paragon’s People (7 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The door opened an inch and the poet’s eyes peered around the side. ‘Oh, it’s you,’ he said. ‘Cool. This the lady? The more the merrier.’ The student noted the sarcasm; none of the group were particularly happy with him bending the recruitment rules. But all rules are the undoing of man, the student thought, and a rule is a rule is a rule.

The poet opened the door and let the student and his girlfriend into the thinker’s flat. Inside were the rest the group, huddled on the floor around a game of Monopoly – the musician, the cop’s daughter, the athlete and the thinker himself.

He stood up, moving awkwardly beneath his tired and torn beige leather jacket that was far too big for him, and moved to shake hands with the student’s girlfriend. ‘Hello, hello. Welcome to our group of like-minded young Americans.’ The poet coughed. ‘Well, mostly Americans, we’ve been infected with Europeans too. We call ourselves One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’

Each one introduced themselves to her. The thinker said he did nothing for a living, which was how he liked it, jilting the system that was happy to smother him in its bosom. The student still hadn’t the faintest idea how the thinker subsisted.

It was then the musician’s turn. She parked a short denim skirt at the top of her polished and waxed legs, and wore a childish yet playful top with a picture of a smiling rainbow. She explained that she played the piano although her parents wanted her to be a geneticist, so decided to run away from home and play music in the street, in bars, anywhere people would listen to her. Animated and lively, the student loved her positivity.

The cop’s daughter was the musician’s antithesis. Wearing a long, crumpled, grey trench coat, hiding every inch of flesh, her sentences were stiff with tension and flecked with hints of a larger story. She introduced herself as the daughter of a cop and then, after spotting the cross around the student’s girlfriend’s neck, her words stopped dead.

The athlete took up the slack and said he was a lecturer in the meteorology department at the university, and while he looked like a lecturer in his conservative suit and tie, he was hoping to quit soon as he enjoyed running and hurdling much more, especially since all the new regulations and came in trying to turn universities into an ‘extension of church’.

‘The rules,’ the thinker said, ‘are what we’re all about. I formed this group and we continue to get new members all the time. Like your schizoid boyfriend here.’ The student was a little taken aback. ‘Oh come on, don’t give me that, you freak. We don’t know if you’re coming or going. There’s something up with your head, alright.’

‘Hey,’ said the student, ‘I have a lot on my mind. I have to consider whether I’m going to give up on my education.’

‘Oi, stupido,’ shouted the poet from behind them, still acting the doorman. ‘Give up and do what? I’m not quitting my course. Don’t make a grand show of things just for the sake of it. Bloody purpose, that’s what you’re missing, dingbat. The others here have chosen their paths.’

The student’s girlfriend interrupted, pulling at the student’s arm, ‘What do you mean give up on your education? You wouldn’t get finish your degree? Do you know how stupid that is?’

‘Whoa, whoa!’ the student shouted, under siege. ‘I’ve hardly been to any lectures recently. I’ve nearly missed a few of the three tens-’

‘Oooh, big man,’ said the poet, moving past him to sit down at the Monopoly board. ‘I’ve slept through morningten for two months.’

The thinker put his hands out towards both the poet and the student. ‘Now hang on, guys, our lecturer here will back me up on this one. It may seem like happy-go-fuck-lucky days now, but you’re all being observed. Your behaviour is important. That’s why we meet in my flat rather than out in the open.’

‘I think that’s a little paranoid,’ the girlfriend said. The student noticed her eyes glance up with unconcealed disgust at the giant poster on the far wall which he hadn’t seen before. It was a pornographic image in which a sultry model was stretching out her labia, forcing the viewer to look right down her hole, a deep red abyss that was nightmarish rather than sexual. Probably a European import that had been smuggled through the trade restrictions. The model’s name, printed across the bottom in cursive type, was ‘Lady Liberty’.

‘It’s true,’ the athlete said, starting down at the board with disdain. ‘You’re all being monitored. Homeland Security is all over our shit these days. The tens are more than just praise for Mr. MIA up above. They’re using it to isolate aberrations, non-conformance. There are worse rumours coming down the pipe than that, though.’

The student was alarmed, not thinking that more than his peers might be scrutinising his activities or lack of, and the silence that came over the room emphasised the seriousness of what the athlete had just said. Why hadn’t he said something like that before? Maybe he had and the student just hadn’t listened. Your schizoid boyfriend. Pull your head out of your ass!

His girlfriend ended the silence, gesturing towards the board. ‘Are we playing a game here or what?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2013

October 20, 2007

Paragon’s People (6 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The student stood waiting in the lunch queue at Fifth Column; he was almost inside now. A vast hall filled to the brim with antique tables of all shapes and sizes, the actual food was sold at stalls that lined its walls. Tall, bold windows towered over the proceedings, swelling the hall with natural light. It had the overtones of a Mövenpick Marché restaurant but without the good food. The popularity had nothing to do with the food and everything to do with meeting new people. The spacious interior encouraged the café’s patrons to open up and fill the space with their voices.

He bore his teeth at the queue, tensing his jaw, angry at the slow-moving queue. And his girlfriend hadn’t shown – like she had stood him up. Even though he’d had no intention of putting in an appearance himself, having changed his mind, he couldn’t believe that she hadn’t turned up. She was the one on the firing line right now, not him. If she didn’t turn up in the next five minutes then the plan was off and baby cheeks was history. He didn’t need her.

It was with a sense of irony that the student laughed for allowing himself to be locked into a queue – the epitome of self-oppression – and dependent on someone else to turn up. So much for his own aspirations of freedom. With that, he relaxed and turned around to see his girlfriend standing behind him.

‘Hi,’ his girlfriend said. Her words were drained of emotion, like she expected little good to come from this meeting. ‘You said we could talk at lunch, right?’ She was avoiding his gaze. If he were to catch her eye, he knew that an involuntary, instinctive smile would be pulse across her face, and she would lose her temper with him for making her smile when she didn’t want to smile, bastard. He focussed on her mouth instead; he didn’t want a confrontation right off the bat.

‘Yeah, I did say that. Why are you late?’

The queue ahead lurched forward and the student’s girlfriend filled the gap that had opened up. ‘I thought about not coming,’ she said, with cutting bluntness.

Part of him was excited that she’d pushed back, but his ego was also bruised that she could discard him without a fight. He saw her outlined in black, blotchy ink.

He cocked his head to one side, conciliatory. ‘Well, I’m glad you did come.’

‘What’s up with your head, madman?’ Friendly words, but delivered in harsh monotone. Especially as she wasn’t really looking at him, her busy gaze always shooting past his face as if more important events were going on around them.

‘Trouble brewing.’

That pulled her in; looking straight at him, she said, ‘What kind of trouble?’

‘I can’t explain it,’ –actually, I doubt you would understand the explanation, he thought– ‘but I see things different now. It’s all messed up and I can’t go on as I’ve been taught to. I feel like I’m being smothered by society, a warm pillow on my face, deadening sensation, fading the world to black.’ He paused, tasting the words in his mouth before letting them free. ‘There’s more to life than queues, suppressed tears and formal language. We live lies.’

‘We all want more,’ the student’s girlfriend answered, moving forward again as a new gap yawned open in the queue. ‘What makes you one of God’s special snowflakes?’

The student frowned; she’d gone on the offensive. Bitchy, bitchy. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to reach her if she’d bolstered her defences like this. If only she’d stopped listening to her friends in the herd. ‘I wish I knew, baby cheeks. But I can’t be what I’ve been any more. That means… we can’t be what we’ve been either.’ He noticed his hangover had dissipated and his head was clear.

‘What do you mean? Do you mean you want to split?’ Her steely expression faltered, conceding fear again. The student was elated, but kept his demeanour serious; she was still frightened of losing him.

‘It depends – you might want to come with me.’

‘Come? Come where?’ She seemed completely baffled.

They reached the first stall and the student grabbed a tray, refusing to answer straight away, to build up an air of suspense. A cook, brandishing a large, metal ladle as if she were conducting an orchestra, held point on the other side of the stall; it was covered with brushed metal bowls filled to bursting with uninviting, dull-coloured salads.

The cook grumbled in a tired, weary voice, ‘Lord’s rations, whaddya want?’

The student said to the girlfriend, ‘Please come to a meeting with me tonight.’

The cook tapped a bowl that held greasy pasta with the ladle, panting with impatience. ‘Honey, just go with the boy here so we can get on with our lives already.’

The student’s girlfriend bit her lower lip, blinking nervously, and said, ‘Alright.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2025

October 7, 2007

Paragon’s People (5 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

‘Alright, people, the blessing is over, let’s get on with it.’ The lecturer was a black smear upon the blazing plasma screen array behind her. Someone needed to turn the brilliance control down. The array displayed the lecture title ‘Equilibria?’ and a bullet point list of the slides to come.

The student prepared himself for a powernap of lecture duration: he leant forward, put one hand over his eyes and propped up a pen in his hand as if he were constantly poised to take notes. Beneath his pen lay the crude sketch of a nude woman. The image was passionless. He closed his eyes and entered darkness. His hangover was still with him, its fingers scratching and cleaving along synapses.

‘So we have spoken of the cycle of optimism and cynicism,’ the lecturer began. ‘When a society or culture is optimistic, it reaches out, explores its boundaries, pushes them constantly. The natural progression of this, of course, is to cast aside all rules and an optimistic civilisation will tend towards self-destruction and anarchy. During this period where rules are paid little more than lip-service, the arts and sciences leap forward. So – you pay for progress with societal disintegration.’ She rubbed her hands together in demonstration, pretending they were sticky and said, ‘People just don’t gel anymore. Independence is prized above everything else.’

The student opened his eyes and looked towards the lecturer, over the tired, wooden benches that filled the expanse of the lecture theatre. Around half the seats were vacant; he’d heard a suggestion that universities were having a harder time meeting their budgets due to a decline in numbers. Particularly in foreigners, a well-paying crowd.

On the screen, a swinging pendulum appeared.

‘But there is point when the citizens grow fearful of their own culture. They begin to crave order again, someone to tell people how to behave, someone to force them to roll along well-established grooves. Slowly, freedoms are offered up for sacrifice one by one, until the people are comfortable again. But this process is a pendulum, not a switch, and the culture swings too far in the other direction. It becomes cynical and harkens back to old-fashioned values. The way things used to be, which they never used to be.’

The pendulum slowed as it swept through the nadir of its arc.

He wondered if the lecturer prayed at morningten; the three ten’s were only really imposed on the students. Having missed so many lectures recently, he’d forgotten he liked the lecturer and what she had to say. There was always an element in her lectures that derided American culture, but subtle, easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. Too much drinking and late-night sex – too many lectures missed. My God, what was he becoming?

‘Power is donated to the state until the state can take the remainder itself – and finally, the system controls the people instead of the other way around. Now the people are unhappy for a different reason, unable to express themselves, strapped to rules and regulations set by a special few. The pendulum finally starts heading back the other way; sometimes the extreme order will just burn itself out, but violent revolution can also do the job – often throwing the pendulum back into the embracing bosom of anarchy.’

The pendulum turned blood-red and then recoiled sharply from the right-side of the display as if kicked by an invisible foot. The lecturer should have added sound effects, the student thought, it would have been cooler. But Jesus, someone should turn the brightness down, it was hurting his eyes through the hangover haze.

‘And the cycle begins again. So – our question is, are we doomed to repeat this cycle of extremes again and again, or is this process swinging in shorter and shorter arcs, moving us towards a perfect equilibrium where liberty and order are carefully balanced?’

A perfect equilibrium. Could such a thing exist? Certainly the incumbent President resented individuality, but it had been going this way for a long time. The President wasn’t really to blame; he was just the manifestation of the people’s masochistic desire to be controlled and shepherded. The opportunity for the opportunistic had risen. The country needed something to counteract what was going on, an antidote, a neutralising agent. But what form could that agent take?

As the lecturer continued, someone passed the student a note from behind. He opened it, glancing behind to see the poet wink at him. The note said: ‘2nite same time/place. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’ He smiled to himself. New friends.

He then spotted that his nude sketch could be improved if the woman were bound. He scribbled lines around her as if the woman was being restrained by white straps of fabric, something like bandages.

She took on more life, became more alluring, her inked edges teasing and bleeding desire in black blotches across his notebook. He felt movement in his jeans and brand new ideas invade his mind.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1813

September 30, 2007

Paragon’s People (4 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

Crossing the Green Lawn was not the quickest way from dorm to the Second Building, but it was nicer than following the concreted route through the centre of the campus. Arts students seemed to have drawn the short straw in a way.

The university was originally a place for the arts, a college founded in the early 1900s by a few literary dreamers with too much spare cash but not a single published book to their names. The place couldn’t survive on the children of the upper class and their parents’ charitable contributions alone so, as sciences tended to attract a lot more investment – particularly as America descended into the atomic age – the college expanded its horizons. The later buildings, Eighth and beyond, had to be built beyond the original campus and now lay outside the ocean of green that was originally the campus boundary. Arts were hemmed in, trapped around the Hub.

The student envied the science gimp and his cohorts, walking everyday along fern-lined paths under the comforting shelter of a green canopy. He’d heard some of them complain that the route was muddy when the rains come around but, well, the grass is always greener on the other side.

He came upon his girlfriend on the periphery of the Lawn.

Perhaps he was still dosed up with remnants of Bliss but her clothes seemed to hug her body a little more, and was that a hint of cleavage? He took another look and clocked that it was all imagination; she was wearing just the usual, a staid, approved uniform for the modern student. So managed and planned. Nothing revealed. Pathetic, try again.

‘Oh, hi,’ she said, with a nervous smile. ‘I’ve been trying to call you, you know.’

‘Are you following me?’ he bellowed at her.

She recoiled as if hit. ‘What are you talking about? Don’t be like that, I was just going this way.’

‘You’re off to Fifth, I’m not an idiot. This is completely the wrong direction for you. Are you following me?’

‘I’m not following, don’t be so melo.’ She reached out to touch his arm as if it was the most natural thing to do, but he pulled away. Her face changed, exposing vulnerability, her skin now tired and sagging. The student realised: she’d been crying. ‘Why are you making a scene? Why-’

‘I told you I need space. Are you following me?’ He wanted to see if she’d cry again. Could he break down her control? Free her, just for a one fleeting moment?

She held still for a moment, battling her emotions. Her eyes wandered away, relaxed, and then came back. ‘Alright, I’m sorry, I was following you, but you wouldn’t answer my calls, you wouldn’t answer me and I called and I called but you-’

The student walked away, shouting behind him, ‘Leave me alone.’

‘We need to talk, please, we gotta talk about what’s going on here, I need to know.’

He stopped. Others continued to walk around them, carefully avoiding their poisonous bubble of reality yet taking the opportunity to observe troubled lovers fighting in public.

The student turned around to face his girlfriend and said, ‘Don’t ask me questions before I’m ready. You’ll get the wrong answers right now, because that’s all I have.’

She tensed, asking, ‘Are you seeing… someone else?’

‘Look, alright… lunch,’ he answered. ‘Meet me for lunch today and we’ll talk, over at Fifth Column.’ He could foresee himself suddenly becoming too busy to make the appointment.

He turned and left her again, heading deeper into the Lawn. She didn’t call out to him this time. The student was unsure whether this was because she had won a concession, or fearful that she had almost realised the worst-case scenario with her unanswered question. The scenario that she had hoped and prayed was not true.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2001

September 23, 2007

Paragon’s People (3 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The student smelt like shit and looked like it too. He knelt down a bit too quickly and had to put his hand out to stop himself from keeling over and making a scene.

All of the others up and down the corridor were already in prayer position, but also dressed, showered and deodorised for a day of lectures. Considering this moment was supposed to be more about keeping a healthy, personal relationship with God, he found it bizarre that a couple of the girls were dressed to impress in their prayer poses, as if this was the right place to hook up with a guy. Such are the belittled contradictions of human nature, he thought. The student’s girlfriend didn’t indulge in that sort of contradiction, of course, which is what had attracted him to her. But Bliss had broken that; now when he imagined his girlfriend, the words frigid and tiresome would bubble up from the abyss.

The student bowed his forwards and closed his eyes as the morningten jingle played over the dorm speakers. The recorded message began, ‘And now it is time to spend ten minutes thinking about your relationship with God. Remember, this is about you and Him. We all have doubts and fears and worries. This is your chance to keep things on an even keel, unburden yourself , avoid feeling ashamed of secrets that you’re not open with Him about. This is your morning ten. He is listening.’

The morningten was a waste of his time. He already had a personal, physical relationship with God.

The science gimp from 10C started mumbling a prayer under his breath and the student exhaled noisily in retaliation. He found it strange that even though morningten was no longer important to him, he was still bothered by the ramblings of the idiot from 10C. They were like familiar yet indecipherable music from the earphones of a bad mannered neighbour on the bus. Only freak phrases would occasionally escape from the gimp’s vocal prayer like ‘hollowed night’ or ‘the page of fifty question-marks.’

Even though his god Bliss visited him personally from time to time, the student wondered whether Bliss was listening to his prayers during morningten. He did have doubts and worries, things he wanted to share. But Bliss never seemed to hang around long enough to listen.

So he screened out the gimp and his encroaching hangover and prayed to Bliss.

I am confused. I was brought up to understand that sex is always one misstep away from being a dirty, tawdry thing and should be saved for your wife. Many of my childhood friends feel the same. It is almost as if we hate the skin on our own bodies, fear what it is to give openly to another. I remember fearing it.

But after experiencing your lessons in love and sensation, I now look back at my past and see that I had been contaminated. Contaminated with the idea that body upon body is sin itself, no matter what the circumstances. I no longer want to turn the lights off when I shed my second skin, the clothes that cage us. And now I understand.

Clothing is how we are disciplined to understand that there are rules we should obey. From day one, we are told that being ourselves, is wrong. We are raised to order ourselves, to self-lobotomise. Fashion is our drug of choice, pretending that what we wear reveals our inner personality, when it is simply camouflage. Now you see me, now you don’t. Our true character is smudged, erased. And that’s why we hate sex, because we forget about the cage, becoming ourselves for a moment of passion. And we don’t like it anymore, we can’t even fuck, disgusted with the idea of releasing our emotions and ideas from their prisons so they can fly like a swarm of butterflies painting the air with colour and shadow.

I want everyone to wake up and see how close we could be. We are built for freedom. I don’t trust this missing-in-action God we worship every day. I think I even resent him.

So I have a strange urge… like I should be doing something about this… but I have no direction. I’ve started to hang out with a new crowd, people with noisy emotions, care-free, buzzing with ideas. Is this right? Is it enough? I’m putting my old friends behind me, maybe my parents too.

And there’s something else. Our relationship with God is meant to complement not supplant a relationship with a woman. But your love is so compulsive and engrossing, I find the thought of being with a woman… underwhelming. Your beautiful, elusive body dominates my mind. It seems wrong, somehow, to devote myself sexually to you Bliss, but I can’t help how I feel, you know? What should I do? Should I surrender to this desire or keep trying with my girlfriend? Or someone else? A… a guy? What?

Please, I beg you, I need help here. Tell me. Direct me. Guide me. Am I doing the right thing? Is this what you want me to do? Is it?

‘Thank you all for spending ten minutes with God. We’re all a little stronger for it. Lectures start in two hours, have a healthy breakfast and have a great day.’

The student heard the feet of his neighbours shuffle off the floor and retreat into their rooms. Doors slammed, locks turned. Bliss did not answer him.

Is it?

There was a tap on his shoulder. The student jerked his head upward to see the science gimp leaning over him.

‘Prayer’s done, dude, didn’t you catch?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1958

September 11, 2007

Paragon’s People (2 of 11)

Thread: Paragon

The cell poured into his dim awareness, dragging eddies of reality with it. It played the same banal tones over and over, begging him to pick up the call. Without opening his eyes, he stretched an arm towards its chimes and his fingers coalesced around its cool but greasy, used surface. Its buttons impressed themselves into his skin and he gripped it harder, almost in retaliation at its existence, its challenge to bring him back to consciousness.

He chased after the lingering afterglow of divine sex, to resurrect the erotic impulses that had drowned his veins and nerves the night before. The same charge and excitement pulsed within him and didn’t want to move for fear of spoiling it with the knowledge that the room was empty and that he was alone. He tightened his hold on the cell and its weak vibrations shuddered along his arm; he wanted to kill it, to come in it, he wanted to fill, he wanted to be filled, he wanted–

Futile. Not enough. It wouldn’t work. An ingredient was missing. Mornings after a visit from Bliss were full of potential that went unrealised. He relaxed his grip on the cell and it stopped whining at him.

He strained his eyes to peer at the phone and grimaced, sighing. It carried the picture of the student’s girlfriend with George Washington leering over her shoulder from Mt. Rushmore, like a flirtatious suitor sniffing her shoulder, ready to take his place if he decided to stand down and resign. Underneath her image, words stated: 3 missed calls. He didn’t know if he could go on seeing her, not with Bliss teaching him so much about the importance of sex. Sex was key, key to everything.

Turning towards the wall next to the bed, he threw the cell away. It clattered against something before falling onto the floor. The cold, simple noises of the collision reverberated around his head, shaking dust out of synapses and blowing cobwebs from neurons. The student moaned with the discovery that he had a hangover.

He glanced up at the clock on the wall.

Look at the time!

He leapt off the bed and regretted it instantly – his head was in no mood for sudden movements. It felt bloated and infected, like he needed to pop the pressure out of it. Never again. No more alcohol. He meant it this time.

He staggered towards the door, desperate to make it out before the clock’s hands swept out 7 o’clock. He knew he’d be the last out to prepare for the morningten prayer, but at least he’d be present.

The student tore the door open, snapping the chain he’d forgotten to unhook first. The harsh, electric light of the corridor drowned out his vision and filled his head with hangover love.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2152
Next Page »