Thursday, 24 September 2015


Once upon a time, in a far-off land, the Old-Woman-Fairy pointed her wand at the All-Seeing-Eye and firmly pushed the Mute button. Human reality was so much better with the sound killed, and besides her charge was simply exasperating. There she was, looking in the bathroom mirror and working her jaw, her eyelids fluttering and her pupils as large as saucers, as the words she mouthed, although formed as normal, were inaudible; now she held a palm of a hand up to her mouth to feel the tepid air escape from her rapid lips.
You're not dead dearie,” muttered the Old-Woman-Fairy to the blinking iris, where in the dilated pupil her charge stood transfixed, studying her reflected self with a look of utter bafflement on her oval face.
Always the same...a dramatic clutch of the throat and terrified eyes...with frantic attempts to speak words in different tones, hum in different pitches, followed by red-faced rage, or a soundless tantrum and heaved unheard sobs...wish one of them would accept it with some semblance of dignity. It is, after all, for their own good.” The Old-Woman-Fairy grumbled as she kept an eye on the All-Seeing-Eye as she at the same time washed up her lunch plates: she'd had Tomato and Basil soup with a cream cheese and cucumber roll and a mug of Builder's tea.
Anyone would think I did this for fun...,” she continued as she vigorously scrubbed the tea-stained mug and rinsed it under a trickle of cold water, but whether she was referring to the sink of dirty crockery or her job who can say for she commented or made disparaging remarks every single day, yet somehow failed to see the similarity between herself and her charges, and why it was that she had been chosen to temporarily dumb others.
Her attention having wandered, her charge no longer filled the glass eyeball set. Now where had that pale freckled slip of a thing gone to? The Old-Woman-Fairy tutted and tottered up to the blank central dot, “Show me the girl!” She commanded in her don't-mess-with-me voice and thumped it, whereupon its eyelid flickered several times until its tired pupil could again bring into focus the current subject, who was now sitting down but still speechlessly pawing her white throat in disbelief. “Don't you dare doze off on me!” The Old-Woman-Fairy reprimanded the Eye, and possibly the girl although she showed no such signs of doing so.
This particular charge hadn't been placed under the practised gaze of the Old-Woman-Fairy for very long, less than four months, but in that short spell of time, she'd come to know very well this Irish-blooded girl's articulated and unarticulated expressions. And she was infuriating! Never listening to reason, even if it was her own, and so indecisive you wanted to shake her! Even when she was doing nothing of interest at all, her brain was busy: chattering like a crazed monkey as it created obstacles where they were none, pulled apart every minor and major detail, over-identified with the thought of new horizons, worried about trivial items or dug up deeper ones. Silencing her tongue was the only way to put a stop to her over-analysis, and the Old-Woman-Fairy felt, as she always did, a sense of glee upon reaching this conclusion. There were, of course, other ways to silence charges, but muting the voice was by far her preferred method.
But that's not to say she wasn't a kindly Old-Woman-Fairy; the decision was always made in the best interests of her charge, but when all had been said and done, rethought many times over, really what else was there left to think or say. And she plainly didn't have as much patience with these young things having arrived at a wiser age. In her undergraduate years, she'd had more sympathy and had engineered the zapping of their voice bit-by-bit. “I was too soft,” she now said to student fairies to ward them off making the same mistake, “the shock is greater if you take the words right out of their mouth in one fell swoop. Fairy-technology, as you know, has moved on, yet the results are the same for our charges: Being unable to say nothing at all is a distraction tool – it forces humans to stay present.”

Picture Credit: In the midst of a tree sat a kindly-looking old woman by Arthur Rackham

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Seek and Ye Shall Not Find

Pop! Out flew the Moon which startled the girl in pearly white for it was such an unexpected sight that she had no choice but to follow; the stars the Moon trailed in its wake dazzled her eyes and made them water. The girl audibly sighed: the way they glittered and twinkled was so very pretty. So pretty that she had quite forgot the door she had a moment ago set ajar behind her; the gap through which she had hoped to peep in on a wiser, older land.
The Moon instead, now positioned overhead in the darkened skies, shone benevolently on her and held her captive in a river of light. It beseeched her to gaze longingly at its mottled surface which looked like a tea-preserved hard-boiled egg with its grey age spots, but nonetheless prized for its dulled luminosity, the light that radiated from within and spoke of wisdom.
The Moon having escaped Eden was exalted and wished to save the girl from her own burning curiosity: no young girl should be exposed to that which she thought she wanted to see. It would waken her from her adolescence far too early and end in tears! Just as it had done for other girls and boys before her. All that had peeked in before it was their time, before they had reached the first rung of maturity. The Moon had not always been present on those occasions or its place in Eden's skies had been compromised, yet it had witnessed even adults struggle after seeing the land of its forebears, for its beauty now inspired lust, made them envious of its simplicity.
Paradise held in time, the apple not yet eaten. Innocence not yet completely lost, but a tiny glimmer of humiliation found. The small green snake already begun its entreats, pluck the apple, eat the apple...from where it was strung among the Tree of Knowledge's branches. The fruit ripe and tempting, a burst of rosy colour against the spring-green leaves, almost willing Adam and Eve who stood before the Tree to partake of its juicy knowledge. Eve ready to instigate the deed, Adam needing a bit more convincing.
The opening act that led to mankind's creation...The scenes that follow it have happened...but HERE, they won't. The decision deferred. The 'what if they don't' captured for generations; whereas others merely wish to view the pause before that pivotal moment. Does Eve bite into the apple first? And how does she induce Adam to copy her? What were truths, what were lies? How much of what we think we know was improvised, then transcribed as irrefutable knowledge?
Irrespective of the truths or the lies, the young and the impetuous always had to unfasten the door, try its handle and were astonished when they found it unlocked, little realising that in doing so they substantiate what happens when you taste an apple laced with Knowledge. That which they've been given is now not enough; a Paradise glimpsed is too tempting - so desirous they must at once give everything up. Throw caution to the wind, sometimes without thinking of what they will lose, what they might miss, and the hardships they may have to confront or endure, so convinced are they that the grass will be a shade greener in this Eden. The contemplation of an unknown Eden always leads to the Sin of Envy being born; some believe Eve was guilty of this before she bit into the apple, that there was some yearning for knowledge already deep within her. The small green snake stirred it from its dormancy, provided the apple as the key and the tree as the portal. Adam, then unversed in the guile of women, and content to give in for a quiet life would have, as supposed, eventually followed inquisitive Eve.
Adam needed a nudge and so Eve plucked the apple, and set their eternal banishment in motion. And committing that unpardonable sin increased their courage for it could never be undone or atoned for.
They rolled the dice just as the full moon has now done in this suspension of time; they exiled themselves from Paradise, little realising that their descendants would forever seek it.

Picture Credit: New Zealand, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, by Kay Nielson 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Devil's Favourites

The Devil throughout the ages has acquired many disguises and habits, including lists of his favourite things which he scrupulously records in his unreadable scrawl and constantly updates, littering surfaces with these papers for he's never been a tidy person, despite his groomed appearance, no matter what disguise he dons, which suggests the contrary. His fingernails hygienically short; his chisel jaw clean-shaven or stray hairs trimmed and combed if concealed by whiskers; his bald head polished or shiny locks allowed to flow, be ruffled by the wind or tied back; and his body washed and scented, a dab of cologne behind the ears, on the gentle beat of the throat and on the delicate inside of the wrists where it throbs. There was an age when this would have made the Devil an effeminate man, but with the passing (and possibly the repeat) of time it simply means he's once again in touch with his femininity. Emasculated, yet having pride in the cut of his cloth; his hips swaggering as he owns a new masculinity. 
And the cut of his outer cloth, the pieces weaved, stitched with thread and worn, were in a word masterful; exact to every inch of his being, whichever being that so happened to be. There was no puckering, no gaping, no raw, unfinished hems or trailing strands from the dark velvet, floor-sweeping hooded cloak he once habitually threw over his head and shoulders, to the selection of tailored business suits and bowler hats. These days, he was a little more street-wise, smart-casual or assumed a fashionable genre: the country rock star with designer denim jeans and cowboy boots, the daredevil motorcyclist with red gloves and white, rather than black, leathers. Sometimes he wanted to meld, sometimes he wanted to scream.
Yet it would irresponsible of me to imply that he always imitated the figure of man; he did not. He kept separate closets for his other less-used identities, in which hung garments to fit the myriad of womanly shapes and the heads of beasts. Pretending to be either was more draining and more time-consuming than that of man, especially considering the many lumps, bumps, curves or angular configurations that could be contained in the tenderer sex.
In the image of man he felt far more comfortable, more at home in his body. And women were, despite their progressive wiles and the older ones Shakespeare had recorded, far easier to deceive. They were still Eves, willing to be tempted by a whispering snake and a tree heavy with ripe fruit; whereas Adams were, as a rule, more carnal, needing to be persuaded by the right temptress in a tight-fitting or revealing dress who could meet their fickle desires. And as for beasts, they were for extreme measures; as a last resort when no other human mask proved seductive enough, but generally the Devil preferred to avoid those with animal fantasies.
There was, however, a disguise the Devil prized the most, saving it for special occasions or when the long game had to be played to win a certain lady, particularly those that read or had over-active imaginations. For them, it wasn't so much the camouflage but the thought and the daring; whereas the Devil enjoyed the stealthier element and the air of mystery it gave him. It was no lie to say it was not of his own creation; he'd borrowed the inspiration from an 1960s advert. The costume itself was simplistic: an all-in-one black bodysuit with a black ski mask, black leather gloves and squeak-free plimsolls. He moved like a cat, he looked like a robber, but the women he was out to woo never spied him at this crucial stage; his mission was to avoid direct bodily contact yet leave a very noticeable trace of his presence. And like the fictional image he impersonated, the gift he left was usually a box of Milk Tray topped with a crisp calling card with a stamped motif of himself with horns, to which he added further mystique by stealing the orange creams and pralines from each layer.
The Devil was not, as you might now imagine, a chocolate fiend; he does have other vices which better fit his depicted character and which I cannot describe here at length, but amongst these are some tastes, which once discovered, he cannot bring himself to sacrifice to corrupt another.

Picture Credit: Daily Mail, 2012

Thursday, 3 September 2015

On the Battlefield

Professor Maxwell was convinced he was on to something - there must be a secret to developing a thick skin. A scientific theory he had been for some time developing and hoped to expand on through the study of genetics, the behaviour of hormones, and the influence of environment and diet. From this lengthy process he would then be able to assert the single or multiple cause providing an insulating effect and why it was that some coped with life's knocks and setbacks whilst others faltered.
In his head, his hypothesis reduced humans to that of squash balls or soft drink cans; one bounces off walls and obstacles, whilst the other is repeatedly crushed underfoot, hurled in a waste bin or kicked along the pavement. The circumstances that gave rise to whichever reaction didn't seem to matter as Professor Maxwell surmised it was a conditioned response. And perception, it appeared, only cemented an individual's position further.
It was curious, he mused, how people perceived situations differently, even down to a person's mannerisms or mode of speech, or how some felt vulnerable and others challenged by the exact same threat. But what chiefly interested him were the two groups at either end of the scale, those who experienced only one of the extremes, and not the common middle ground. The layperson who managed to govern their emotions and veered somewhere between fight or flight aroused him very little. No, he was after those who were either rabbit-soft or as durable as tanned leather, and more especially those that had a thick skin like a rhinoceros' hide.
In his preliminary studies which he'd had to conduct in order to secure further funding he'd found some volunteers so sensitive they cried over every little thing regardless of whether it affected them directly or not, and others who donned permanent armour every day as if they were perpetually engaged in an ongoing battle. The results of this small study had been quite remarkable and surpassed his own meagre expectations, for he tried never to put his ideas or desirable outcomes above his station knowing full well that he was the maverick within the university. A non-entity in the scientific world; someone who in terms of his success rate didn't figure on any measurable scale, not even Richter's, having had no papers published, and at best was humoured by his more serious colleagues who largely considered his various theories unscientific and therefore unsupportable. They believed, that despite being in his mid-fifties, he had schoolboy whims which the Head of Department and Principal allowed him to indulge in at a cost to the university's academic reputation, and to be more precise felt his merged field of epidemiology and epistemology (medicine and philosophy to the layperson) was all front and no substance.
The subject, they felt, was everything that science purported not to be: a new form with a basis in psychology governed by illogical musings and psyche babble with a smattering of biology, which offered no firm evidence or reliable conclusions. And they despaired of Maxwell, omitting the 'Professor' when referring to him in conversation amongst themselves, feeling strongly that he did their profession a huge disservice. His scatter-gun approach much frowned upon for everyone knew he followed his impulsive train of thought, frequently turning his attention from one study to focus on another. Research, they felt, should be orderly and his inconstancy set a poor example.
Professor Maxwell however was never one to listen to reason; in short he was what his colleagues called dense, only concerned with his own findings and his maze-like process to them, which was what made his latest and greatest research by quite some margin so irrational for the man couldn't see that he was one of the armoured lot he hoped to discover how to emulate, and had in fact answered as well as contradicted his own thesis: A thick skin could not be acquired, it was a gift from the cradle and thus concealed from the receiver's eyes; inwardly such people failed to see the shield they carry without.

Picture Credit: Rhinoceros by Albrecht Durer, 1515