STRANGE NEWS OUT OF ESSEX
Alice Soles, 1622: her friend is hungry. “It’ll soon be ready,” placates Alice as she potters around the kitchen; odd jobs that always need doing need doing. “Be with you in a minute.”
Her friend is talking: “I personally have had lizard epiphanies, I have lived in the sort of rooms most people only live in in dreams.”
“I expect you have!” agrees Alice, she doesn’t want to admit she hasn’t a clue what her friend is going on about! Wooden bowls and spoons, she gives them a good scrub then puts them where they belong. The warmth of baking bread permeates, smell of nice mornings, nice meals, childhood: Heaven, Alice is sure, will smell of baking rye-bread. She glances out of the window: a deadly shade of night.
“I have seen what it looks like when there’s nothing left to see.”
“Yes! …The bread’ll be ready.” With a rag wrapped around her hands she lifts it from the fire, lowers it onto the hungry table next to the grinning bowl of shloop butter next to the toothy knives, she sits on the stool next to her friend: “Let it cool for a bit then we’ll give it a try: it…”
“A try? We ate the whole loaf half an hour ago.”
“What?” Alice is still standing up, she doesn’t want to have heard that. “Ooh the bread’ll be burning!” She hurries over: a metal grille above a crackling fire, keeps her warm! and yet she’s cold, a pinprickling chill; with a rag wrapped around her hands she lifts the bread and carries it to the table, “Mmm! Best give it a couple of minutes before YA!!!!” She dropbumps the bread onto the table, she smacks at her legs then starts to laugh, she apologises, explains: “I thought there was a scorpion! Running up my leg!” Like dragons and China she’s never been quite sure if scorpions are really real, but just briefly there was one.
“Are you alright? No you’re half wrong: we ate the bread half an hour ago.”
Alice is aware that this isn’t the way things normally are. “Where is everyone?”
“They’ll be up soon. They’ll be down soon. They’ll be all around soon.”
Suddenly the realisation that: “…I’m here all alone, aren’t I.”
“You let somethink in.”
“I… don’t want to have to thing about that,” she puts the spoons in the jam where they belong, she tries to kick the cat. “Is that… Is that not what you do with cats?” Expecting an answer, she gets none. Funny, she was sure there was someone else here with her. The room is too dark but the fire is bright, she thinks about putting some of the fire onto the table but some deeper voice tells her not to do that. Outside also it’s dark but not too dark, which means it’s either getting darker or less dark, it has to be one or the other, she feels she ought to know which. How long has she been lying on the floor? How long has she been all alone? The bread must be baked by now.
For a moment she thinks her head is a castle, knights could charge out to war across her drawbridge tongue. And Alice she’s inside that castle, creeping across the floorboards of her bare brain, shh, she has to not let her know she’s there: she’s an intruder in herself. Voices promise to promise her things; whose voices? They don’t seem to come from any sort of direction. Is she not here either, then? Whose voices? What if she only realises too late? Realises what? and suddenly she’s falling through the rotted floor of her, crashing-tumbling through those boards, falling with all dust and debris from her broke brain past her eager heart and tangling-frenzied blood-roads, she lands awkwardly-brutally at her loins, she lays snapped, backbroken there she feels like half a fish up a hurting tree. She imagines everyone laughing at her, marooned between her own legs. She wants to cry; how is it possible she can be here and still here at the same different times?
Those legs lift her up. She’s alright. She’s alright. Swaying: is it light outside now or is that just the way it looks? She doesn’t forget to put pig’s dung in a bucket.
Sometimes we let something in and it’s good for us, sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes we let something in and it does nothing at all: there’s coming nothing at all! all the everything runs out. It feels stupid and wrong that even this much should remain. Then not even this much remains: it blinks out into a blackness whiter than anything, this moment, this always only death, this gone: no redwine Hell, no bread Heaven: what’s left feels itself fading. All that is is a hand reaching out to open a door, a door set into whiteness, in the opening of that door so are it and the hand that opens it erased, whiteness blinds itself black, forever.
Alice opens her eyes, she hadn’t realised they’d been closed. She looks around jerkililily: all these pots and pans, these always pots and pans. No matter how many times she puts them in their place they always get out of line. What is the actual point?
They hate me for growing old. She realises. Sometimes we let something in and it changes us.
They hate me for being what I am. She realises. Of course: I have no friend.
There is nothing I can do that they won’t hate me. I do things for them! They will never stop hating.
This: vomit in her mouth then back down back inside her. That’s the stuff we’re made of.
Alice: visions of BLOOD! of BLOOD! and of FIRE! of FIRE! Has she been running in circles, has she been gnawing on rocks? All her teeth are in pieces?
And then not just everything but everything else too – breaks. She’s broken It. “No…!” Nothing can move or be without hurting.
Then all the broken world rushes into Alice, all of Creation and the Creator too they fit inside her they have no choice. What has she done? She’s all that’s left and there’s nowhere to go.
So she can’t hide.
From this. From the shit that is life, her life.
From the fact that things are fucked and shit and always have been, and therefore always will have been. Fucked, shit, sick. What have we done? and there is only pain and regret. She is dying the death that never stops dying and there is only pain and regret. There is only pain and regret.
We’re Failure: Satan drops us in his white-hot house and all that’s left is to be Failure forever.
“Nnn… No.” She, defiant, will stand up, up on her feet. “No… No… No…” By the time she’s stood she’s forgotten who or what she’s disagreeing with. It doesn’t matter, she’s strong, she knows she’s strong, she’s here, she’s not over. Here and her insides are creeping out at both ends: she rushes, some part of her knows that that’s what to do, convulsily she shits and vomits in what she hopes is the chamberpot. What are doors for? Everything in her eye seems more squarey and she can’t work out if things are going slower or faster. Alice… You just beat the Devil.
She tells herself, in the kitchen: you just beat the Devil. Because…
“Nnn… No.” She was on the floor and everything was broken wrong and unmendable, she remembers: “No… No… No…” The truth about things: everything’s shit, can only be and have been shit. Is this happening now or then?
Everything shit: Alice realised, then, she must have always known it but she realises, now, this moment does not stay present but becomes past: the decisions she is making constitute tomorrow’s memories, so: as things are she’ll remember this particular moment spent collapsed and fretting over shit and Devils, “Nnn…” but why would she want that? “No… No… Yes: this is my now,” she picks up a cup from where she keeps the cups, she laughs about something, she raises that cup, a cupful of bubbling oxygen, Alice toasts the everything, she makes a new noise like “G’ggurr.” She’s not sure if she just vomitted or not.
No really: what are doors for? She reflects on that for eighteen years but is interrupted by a piglet’s squee outside. Outside! Of course, how could she forget? There’s an outside too, there’s more!
She clumsies her way to the door, wondering what words actually mean, wondering what’s the word for a word that hasn’t been invented yet? A crystalling pot bangs over. A sudden sob out of Alice’s mouth, why (She feels her mouth being brought into existence by the necessity of that sob, she feels the rest of her being born out of her mouth just so it might be) don’t people say what they mean? Why don’t people always do what they want?
She thinks: more days should be like this.
The door; in her head she sees cartoonyface mushrooms spin-circling, the air waves and she waves back. She sees listed all the good things she’s done, all the bad things; she sees the feather, the happy judgement.
She opens the door: to world of strange resins and dubious brews, fungus mansions and fermenting insiders, trees no-one had to plant, insectybugs sexing the plantlife, dogs claiming trees. A sky-faced white-lipped world (Alice laughs to have thought that thought then laughs to have laughed, laughs to still be laughing), a world of winds that blow to force things to recreate themselves every instant, now here, now there. Door wide open, shining day. Colours turning in turning ways: oh it’s nice!
But then she remembers: but she doesn’t quite remember: are you supposed to have all your clothes off when you’re in the outside or all your clothes on? It’s definitely one or the other. She can’t quite… But she was wearing them indoors which suggests she shouldn’t wear them outdoors, that sounds like sense. She makes her decision, she’ll live with it.
And out! She heads in a direction, that’s the best way to walk. One way or another they’re all scenic routes!
Joy! Joy to be alive! She’ll tell them!