Christopher Brownsword is the author of two novels Blind-Worm Cycle (Oneiros Books 2013) and The Scorched Highway (Oneiros Books 2013) as well as a collection of poetry Icarus was Right! (Shearsman Books 2010).
TWO EXCERPTS FROM FUCK AND DEVOUR
(Number 2 posted tomorrow)
Targu Mures was approximately thirty-five kilometres north of Sighisoara. The driver advanced at an unhurried pace through valleys of mist and rain. He seemed to have an arterial dependence on the mountains, his blood pressure regulated according to subtle variations in altitude. By that same token the configuration of his bearing was as if acted upon at a deep unconscious level by the layout of the terrain flickering across his retinas; but since I was unable to speak with him this might be a rather specious impression constructed retrospectively, just as several witnesses of the same crime may later give several different and contradictory accounts of events. (Likewise, my statement regarding the ‘unhurried pace’ of the driver is perhaps misleading. Since time appears to move slower when the observer stands next to a large object, the mass of which being sufficient to warp space in such a manner as to make it longer for light to travel across short distances, the mountains themselves, as well as my fever, may have affected my perception of it).
A succession of tedious pop songs played on the radio, each announced by an enthusiastic host. The songs were interspersed with adverts and what I assumed by the tone of voice to be news and weather reports. At various points along the route the signal was lost, and we sat listening to static. Whenever we passed a group of prostitutes by the edge of the road, or any woman under the age of about sixty in the streets of a village, the driver sounded the horn, slapped my knee with a grin, and then turned the radio up. Despite the fact that sex couldn’t have been further from my mind, I smiled and nodded my head to indicate solidarity between us.
Overtaking one such group, the driver applied the brakes and reversed to where the women were gathered in a lay-by. Winding down the window, he motioned to a skinny Gypsy no older than seventeen dressed in knee-length boots, a denim miniskirt, and a skimpy white t-shirt made transparent by the rain. Without a word to the others she stubbed out her cigarette on the ground and got in the back of the car. An exchange in Romanian between herself and the driver ensued. Laughing and slapping my knee, the driver turned off the road and proceeded along a dirt path, the wheels losing traction in the mud. He stopped at the entrance to a forest. The engine was switched off, and the driver joined the woman in the back seat.
Not wishing to be present while the driver got his cock sucked, I stepped out of the car and walked a few paces towards the forest. No wonder he was in such a good mood, I realised; he was paying the Gypsy with the money I’d given him in Sighisoara for the ride!
Rotting inside its own layers, the sky fell away into the tree line of the forest. Behind me, against a mass of storm-racked clouds, huge white crosses loomed on the crests of hillsides. I took a step forwards into the forest, and my feet sank to the ankles in mud.
It’s through a film of…mud and shit…that we…view the world!
‘Men dream of being heroes. Women dream of being whores,’ I muttered; ‘but neither is entirely proficient in satisfying their roles.’
In less than five minutes I heard a door slammed shut. I walked back to see the Gypsy coughing up a wad of semen into the wet pines; her mouth was a portal through which the microwave background radiation of the universe became stripped away in order that one might observe for a heartbeat the beginning of time itself.
Once we were all seated in the car again, the engine started up, and the young woman was dropped off at the lay-by to wait in the rain for the next guy. The heat of bodies and expelled fluids lingered after she’d gone; it sealed in an impregnable skin the terminal abjection between lust on the one hand and need on the other, and the empty fulfilment of them both.
The radio continued to run a loop between pop songs, news broadcasts, weather reports, adverts, and static. With none but the most fundamental means of exchanging information at our disposal (hand signals representing masturbation and sex) I was glad to be afforded the opportunity to sit back and refrain from indulging in any idle conversation. The ulcers in my throat rendered speech a harrowing act.
We arrived at Targu Mures about noon or shortly thereafter. The driver let me out on a wide boulevard with a rose garden in the centre, and with restaurants and coffee shops on either side.
I took a room for the night in a modern hotel next to a strip club. The tariff was high in comparison with the other places I’d stayed, but I was too sick to canvas the streets looking for an alternative; I imagined cheaper accommodation could be found near the bus or train terminals, but I had no idea where either of them stood.
‘There are a lot of roses outside,’ I said to the man at reception as he checked my passport and gave me the register to sign. ‘It’s refreshing to see a splash of colour under all this grey sky.’
‘Targu Mures is City of Roses,’ he said proudly. ‘Not such a good day today…grey sky, like you say…but old citadel fortifications nearby…very good to visit in all weather. And churches if you like…very good as well…or…’ the man paused, aware at last of my ravaged appearance. ‘Have you, er, come to see town?’
‘I don’t know,’ I said, unsure what the implications of his question might be…nor was I able to penetrate his accent and glean whether he was speaking in a tone of reproach, suspicion, or simply being inquisitive; ‘I’m here…that’s all I do know.’
There was no ventilation in my room. The only window opened on to the staircase inside. Unable to bear the heat any longer I filled the sink with cold water and submerged my head. On surfacing I hacked up a mouthful of bloody catarrh. My hands trembled as I gripped the edge of the sink and my knees threatened to buckle under me…a lacerating pain sculpted my flesh to nerve endings…eclipse into metamorphosis! More than anything I needed to rest, but I found it impossible to assume a position comfortable enough to do so. There was fire behind my eyes. Darkness formed a perimeter around it. Each time I tried to cross the barrier into this darkness where ghosts and the calm of slumber had dominion, the fire rekindled itself. Dawn became an interminable wait.
After signing out of the hotel the following morning I settled in a coffee shop with internet access where I could study a map and find my location. The map was just a sprawl of lines and shadings and names, none of which meant anything to me. I might equally have attempted to chart my journey according to an anatomical diagram of the left ventricle or a ballistics report written in cryptography. Finally I gave up and checked my emails, wondering if Dillon had been in contact. There was nothing but junk mail from Ghana informing me I’d been left millions of pounds by some dead bastard I’d never even met…several of the charitable fuckers, in fact. I deleted them before composing an email to my parents stating I was healthy and I hoped they were both doing okay; and then, not entirely cognisant of my actions, I used my credit card to book a seat on a budget flight to Prague leaving at 6 A.M. the next day!
I spent the remainder of that day in a churchyard, sheltering from the rain under a baroque archway…intermittently hacking up blood…staring at it on the paving stones…convinced I was dying…eclipse into metamorphosis…sure, a nice idea, but no longer seems viable…lonely and frightened. Don’t you get lonely and scared? The woman in Whitby had posed that question to me…and now I had an answer for her, it was too late…always too late…lonely and scared…dispensable…uncertain why I’d booked a ticket to Prague…uncertain what I was doing in Romania…uncertain whether I had the strength left in my body to make it to the airport…just feeling the loneliness…the fear…and the indifference of the world.
Humans are dispensable to nature!
Humans are dispensable to nature but more so to each other!