“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Above the hall in that house with a skylight was another mysterious home, and through the glass you could see a family of feet, surrounded by halos, like saints, and the shadows of the rest of the bodies to which those feet belonged, shadows flattened like hands seen through bathwater.
—- Silvina Ocampo, Skylight
Today’s short story is a piece of surreal horror:
From The New Yorker
This story was translated from the original Spanish by by Suzanne Jill Levine and Katie Lateef-Jan. I’ve never understood why, but fantastic stories written in Spanish have a certain something that allows them to get away with words that English doesn’t – and, somehow, that certain something even comes through in translation. That is usually illustrated in works of magical realism (which are genius in Spanish but often twee and silly in English) but here is true in a story which… well, I’m not sure what is real and what is not – but it could be all real – relates to the horror of almost everyday life.
“After the rains departed the skies and settled on earth – clear skies; moist brilliant earth – greater clarity returned to life alone with the blue above and made the world below rejoice with the freshness of the recent rain. It left heaven in our souls and a freshness in our hearts.”
“Here, are the stiffening hills, here, the rich cargo
Congealed in the dark arteries,
That hold Glamorgan’s blood.
The midnight miner in the secret seams,
Limb, life, and bread.
– Rhondda Valley”
But something’s different… something’s … been changed … don’t mean to bitch, folks, but, well for instance he could almost swear he’s being followed, or watched anyway. Some of the tails are pretty slick, but others he can spot, all right. Xmas shopping yesterday at that Woolworth’s, he caught a certain pair of beady eyes in the toy section, past a heap of balsa-wood fighter planes and little-kid-size En-fields. A hint of constancy to what shows up in the rearview mirror of his Humber, no color or model he can pin down but something always present inside the tiny frame, has led him to start checking out other cars when he goes off on a morning’s work.
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
At last, one proper Sherlock Holmes London evening, the unmistakable smell of gas came to Pirate from a dark street lamp, and out of the fog ahead materialized a giant, organlike form. Carefully, black-shod step by step, Pirate approached the thing. It began to slide forward to meet him, over the cobblestones slow as a snail, leaving behind some slime brightness of street-wake that could not have been from fog. In the space between them was a crossover point, which Pirate, being a bit faster, reached first. He reeled back, in horror, back past the point – but such recognitions are not reversible. It was a giant Adenoid. At least as big as St. Paul’s, and growing hour by hour. London, perhaps all England, was in mortal peril!
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
I moved across the cold, wet, foggy city after work. Tired, yet glad the workday was done and I had someplace to go, even if it was only a weekly bookstore discussion of the giant, confusing tome, Gravity’s Rainbow. As I walked from train to streetcar at the midpoint of my journey I looked up at the fog-shrouded tower and thanked the moment of beauty.
“You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
—-Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith (and many others)
Our kitchen cabinets are filled with pint beer glasses emblazoned with local breweries – souvenirs of the visits to many brewery tours and keep-the-glass sampling events.
One of these was a little too close to the edge of the kitchen counter when my son’s Lab was looking up there scouring for leftovers and knocked one off – breaking it on the floor – shattering the vessel into a thousand slivery shards. The first nine hundred and ninety are easy to sweep up. The last ten are invisible, sharp and hard, hard to find.
Last night as I walked barefoot through the kitchen to my room, intending to sit down and write for my hour… I found one.
There is an interesting pain profile as a sliver of glass pushes through the thick callus on the bottom of a foot into the tender, live flesh, muscle, and sinew beneath. I doesn’t hurt much… until it does. I hopped on one foot to a countertop and leaned while I searched for the glass. It’s transparent, crystalline and invisible, of course, so I had to feel for it, then pull it out. I glanced at the splinter before throwing it in the trash. It was longer than usual and was red-tipped – but I didn’t think much about it.
I suffer from a form of graphomania and, while most people complain of writer’s block, if I don’t get a solid hour of writing in each day it’s hard for me to go to sleep (writing something good… now, that’s another question – one for another day).
I sat down at my desk and lost myself, writing for an hour or so. I saved my work, and decided it was time to walk back and go to bed. But as I tried to stand up, I realized that my foot was stuck firmly to the floor. That was confusing and unsettling, why couldn’t I lift my foot up from the painted concrete – I was floored. Looking down into the murk under my desk I saw that my foot was centered in a dark-colored disk of some glue-like material that was intent on keeping it there. I had already forgotten what had happened only an hour before – so I guessed I had spilled some fruit drink or something and it had dried into a sticky trap.
So I redoubled my efforts and with a viscous pop my foot came up. It wasn’t until a few minutes later I remembered the glass sliver and realized my foot had been stuck to the floor by a pool of drying blood. I hadn’t moved my foot for over an hour, plenty of time to bleed, coagulate, and adhere.
Not much I could do, so I went to sleep. Today, I found dark crimson crescents of blood scattered throughout the house – I didn’t realize how much I walked around last night.
Time to get out the mop.
“the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice-box with the left overs.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up
“These people were content with their environment, and felt no particular objection to an impersonal steel and concrete landscape, no qualms about the invasion of their privacy by government agencies and organizations, and if anything welcoming these intrusions, using them for their own purposes. These people were the first to master a new kind of 20th century life. They thrived on the rapid turnover of acquaintances, the lack of involvement with others, and the total self-sufficiency of lives which, needing nothing, were never disappointed. Alternatively, their real needs might emerge later.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise
“Without knowing it, he had constructed a gigantic vertical zoo, its hundreds of cages stacked above each other. All the events of the past few months made sense if one realised that these brilliant and exotic creatures had learned to open the doors.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise
A skyscraper reflected in a skyscraper.