Three Dispatches from Elsewhen

The Desolator Mirror: Officially Elsewhere

eighteen months after the event the reclamation team from the Facility uncover a polaroid camera buried beneath the debris, once back in the dormitory, curiously examining its unfamiliar function they accidentally trigger a photo in a sharp flare of light, two of the team disappear, visible only on the photograph that patiently prints out…

eighteen months after the event Alex and Birdsong escape the secure Facility in a stolen vehicle, the two lovers travel two days across radioactive desolation, pausing overnight at a ruined gas station, the pursuing drone circles beneath the blasted sign to find the vehicle abandoned and the building empty…

eighteen months after the event, on a reclamation forage from the Facility, Horace Dragweed hears enticing music from across sparkling rifts of aridity, he follows its path through a deep spiral shaft into wrecked earth, across the dimensional interface to emerge into the forest valley by still waters where a Polaroid print of Alex and Birdsong awaits his arrival…

 


 

Tomorrow When It Comes: From The Secret Metaphor of Jack Vance

the first memory is the morning cove where children play in everlasting sunshine, swimming out to the reef, gliding as silver fish through tide to seek where the squid and crabs play and dart in pools and eddies, back to the wash of beach where shaded forest paths through the shape of shapeless lands conceal groves by waterfall pools where lovers spawn new children in frantic torrents of delicious ecstasy…

the second memory is the deep calling, constructing the raft of lashed timber that takes the chosen to the noon islands, a spray of glittering cities where there are pirouettes of music, the poetry of babbling bards, art in a vocabulary of luminous spectra, a literature and philosophy that dreams of truth, in a more nuanced love, the dialogue of tongues and the soul-whisper of minds…

the third memory is the ornate barge with tattooed sail and straining oars that bear the summoned from the quayside across the strait beyond the evening-chill of eternal night where there is only the stiffening of fingers and the slowing of blood in tired veins…

she glances back through gathering dusk to the sparkling horizon cities and the memory of frittered childhoods lost half a hemisphere away, reluctant to step further, but soft, there are beast-caravans to carry you across the chill mountain terminator of midnight, onward towards the morning cove where it all begins anew…

 


 

The Disinterment of Time

Lady Starmouth’s carnival time-ships soothe away gravity from Terror Town to Extinction City, their detonations drench the sky in rainbows. When the Carny comes to flatland, Laprival is a restless ten-years old boy with ink-black eyes. His mother had died during seasonal drought. In his cups, his stepfather beats him with a snakehide belt. So he paces the dry riverbed and follows rainbows. The brightly-painted caravans of the time-carnival are drawn up just outside the empty vaults of Junction end, where green jade palaces erode into dust. The harbour silted a century ago, only ribs of mud remain, sailed by derelict triremes. Hungry people throng. The caravan sideshows barter fruit and honey, bread and cakes from other eras. Jugglers and tightrope-walkers bedazzle. Exotic perfumes blend with alien spices, potions and philters, ebony and crystal, beasts bedecked in wrought-jewels perform thaumaturgy from antediluvian civilizations, cranked devices painted red and gold make plink-plonk music in enticing scales.

Laprival thirsts for forever, he knows that when Lady Starmouth’s carnival time-ships leave, he must ride with them. In the multiple shadows of the third moon’s crescent he conceals himself within the provisions car. Feels the soul-sick temporal lurch. And glimpses forest-ice around the white glacial fortress of Denoval, seven millennia beyond Terror Town. Starmouth pretends to anger. But permits him sanctuary. He clears dung from beast-cages and empties carnival crappers. Then learns prestidigitation to tease and baffle as the audience come down carried in veiled sedans borne by masked slaves, lit with wine, dance and fire. The art is barter, fruit and embroidered silks, ceramics and rubies, gargoyles and hashish, dates, olives and quilts. Temporal prohibition forbids the transmission of technological artifacts out of their appropriate milieu. Such greed to deform true history is vile. As the Carnival time-shifts, he visits Sangrmore by the turquoise deserts of High Lemose in the wake of the comet-fire, and the rain-cities set amid living trees that span the sinking continent. Then the Dumuzid wall of skulls that encircles the necropolis agora of Urak and arctic towers constructed of monstrous bone by the tideless inland sea. Laprival grows and hungers to know more. He talks to Lachrymost, the wise but devious crow, who beguiles him with tales of wealth and splendour. Until the youth is urged to steal the stellar-sextant across the node of ages, and sells it to the fleet of a thousand galleons embarking to storm the towers of Illium.

The city burns, dislocating time-flow for a thousand years. Lachrymost purchases a palace of shiny geegaws. Lady Starmouth scents Laprival, hunts him through the souk’s degrees of clamour, in order to administer retribution. The soul-sick temporal lurch of the carnival time-ships transport him to the dying Earth, maroons him at the very end of time beneath the crimson blush of the huge stilled sun. He sits on a stone frost-mottled with barnacles, and watches the stars fade.

 

 

Andrew Darlington

Andrew Darlington is a hack writer, a self-educated acrobat juggling words. Jefferson Airplane musician Grace Slick once politely declined his offer of marriage. His latest poetry collection is Tweak Vision: The Word-Play Solution To Modern-Angst Confusion and his Scientifiction Novel In The Time Of The Breaking are both from Alien Buddha Press, USA. He’s also written a biography of Beatles PR Derek Taylor called For Your Radioactive Children: Days In The Life Of The Beatles Spin-Doctor, published by SonicBond. His writing can be found at ‘Eight Miles Higher’. Andrew recommends the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, May 20, 2021 - 22:12