Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Year of Constant Mourning

Tomorrow Jude Melville Kingston Kennedy will have been dead for a year. I pour another large glass of wine and rejoice at the thought of it.
One more night and the mourning will be over and I can stop wearing the awful black wardrobe that has dominated my life for the last twelve months.
Black does not suit my skin at all. I look like some kind of pale manikin, a ghost of my former self. I know many that could carry it off, adjusting their make-up and falling into role as if they had been born to it. Not me. I am planning to burn the whole miserable lot and have a party that I will remember until I am old and grey. This shindig will be for a select few, confined to those who know, and those who understand what I have been through in the last year. When I think about it, there are not very many.
At first, all my friends had gathered around and supported my grief stricken soul. Solid and reliable like so many sturdy fence posts. They held me up when I threatened to fall and listened to the constant repetition of chained events that had led to the awful point of it all. I was boring to the extreme and I was not at all surprised when their kind words and gestures petered off leaving me in the limbo of my misery. At this point, I succumbed to the little yellow helpers. The doctor had doled the out without even looking me in my red-rimmed eyes. He knew my story.
I left the world for one that I could make my own and one where black didn’t come into it. I fled to the land of no emotion where I stayed until I was no longer welcome.
‘Don’t worry about it’ the steadfast Molly had said ‘you know who your friends are when the time comes.
She was right. I did now know who my truest and dearest friends were. None had disappointed. They were my valiant heroes. Rescuing me from abject misery and saving from the greatest horror of my own imagination. The calls in the night had been taken with sleepy concern and the shouts in the day had been quietened with a ready hug that spoke volumes to my floundering soul. I am lucky.
Lesser acquaintances avoided me in the street, unable to put together the few words that I would have heard. Part of me was glad of their sudden interest in a shop window but the other half wanted to scream ‘Look at me! Look me in the eye. The words don’t matter’ and they didn’t. Anything would have done. But who am I? I am in no place to judge. How would I react if placed in the same position? This is all new to everyone.
And did he deserve to die? Oh yes. There is no doubt about that. The bastard broke the law, a number of times. There was no argument in the court. The defence counsel nodded knowingly and escaped through the back door, leaving me to my womanly hysterics and the flash bulbs that told the world that he was the first to keep the prisons free of live inmates.

They will be there again come the dawn. Waiting like craven vultures to catch death’s guinea pigs - for we were both punished. I have lived this death for a year. A year of constant mourning in a year of inconstant death.
Jude, my love, will be home tomorrow and death will have been overcome...for now.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Soul searching

You cannot stop this thing that is happening, it is part of the circle. An inevitable part of life and death. A truth.
I could tell you of my life whilst I wait and perhaps that would help you to get through this time.
I just hope that you are listening.
I had stolen your heart from the beginning. With the skill of a consummate thief, I took without asking and never gave it back. Swaddled in your love and affection, I grew a little too much in my first year, outgrowing the production-line knits that Nana Martin provided with monotonous regularity.
You took photos of me in every imaginable pose, and left the embarrassing one of me, naked on a sheepskin rug, in full public view for years to come. I was stimulated by numerous spinning shapes and squeaking toys that I could hardly focus my new eyes on, and my virgin ears were exposed to every record you had ever bought, or ever loved.
In the time that we had together at home, you spent every moment filling my world with colour and truth. I loved the stories that you read to me last thing at night. With an imagination that could have written a thousand books, you turned the banal into fairytales, and the boring into struggles between life and death. Enid Blyton had never had such a makeover.
You took me to Cornwall when you couldn't afford France. We made angels on the sand and elaborate, gravity-defying castles that were the envy of every child on the beach. You also taught me to fish with a piece of string and a safety-pinned orange peel. We never caught anything, but I always thought we did.
Back in the city, we raided art galleries and played commandos in the museums, taking out our targets with the stealth of renegade panthers. We ate the food of the world in every cafe you could find with a foreign name, and we soaked our bare feet in important fountains. Exotic camps were constructed under the kitchen table and we performed dreadful plays to a worldwide audience on the patio. We laughed at the stupidest things and argued over the green triangles at Christmas.
As my hormones kicked in, you took it in your stride, ignoring my rudeness and adapting to my myriad moods. I fashionably drifted away from you for a few years, ignoring your steadfast counsel for the erratic advice of my newfound, platform-booted friends. When boys dumped me for a new model, you were there to pick up my many pieces and put them back into some semblance of order.
University challenged us both, and when Nana died in my second year, I felt your pain at losing two of us. We got through it together and I came to that point in everyone's life when they realise that they must stand in those shoes that they have been avoiding like the plague. I was, at last, at the beginning of adulthood. We had nearly made it.
These gifts that you gave so freely, prepared me for life and when I found someone that I wanted to be with, you feathered our meager nest and cooked us a hearty meal on Sundays. Your shoulders took the brunt of my first marital arguments, but you patched me up, gave me the knowing benefit of of your mistakes, and sent me back into battle, helping to forge a relationship that would last a lifetime.
At the birth of my first child, you took the traditional role of knitter, and produced some items that would have won the Nana Prize for Three-ply Endurance. I took up the traditional role of suddenly understanding what a parent goes through. I looked at you with new and wondrous eyes. My daughter was the apple of your eye, but when I produced another two apples, you never faltered in your care of all of us.
I grew, my children grew, and when you died I thought that I was going to die too. The empty void remained for years to come but I had so many rich and varied painkillers that I could not hold you in that dark place for long. You were, and always will be, my lighthouse, my guiding light in the coming storm. You loved me, and I could smile again.
As the grey replaced the brown, and lifelines invaded my face, your grandchildren left the house one by one. I could see the legacy of our children stretching out in front of us like shining beacons, to the horizon and way beyond. You were the best of mothers and I was content.
Yes, I could tell you of our life, but the contract had already been signed long before we ever got to this point. Now, as you push me along the birth canal I know that there are only a few precious minutes left. The hole in my heart will not stand the pressure of this birth, I can already hear its death knell. As I break through life's barrier I cry with the sheer joy of being, and you cry along with me. We sit in the midst of red lights and screaming bleepers, trying to make some sense of it all. I am flooded with all that could have been but was not meant...this time.
It is all there you know, in those deep blue, newborn eyes. Our future history is laid out, if you only know where to look. I hope you do.
(dedicated to the ones I lost)

Sunday, June 18, 2006


'That will have to be the last of them you know' he said dropping a kiss on the top of my head and handing me a cup of coffee.
'I know' I said, swallowing back the bitter pill of understanding.
He left me alone on the steps and I watched the sun, gauging its descent through the leylandii that edged our country garden.
Not long now, the sun was almost down.

I knew he was right, it couldn't go on. Two years is enough.
The move to the cottage meant an hour's drive home for me every night. It was not unpleasant, a mechanical waltz through lanes designed to test one's resolve to make it home in one piece. I quickly traded the gas guzzler and my city speeds to struggle through the last of the hidden ice.
The spring brought joy and misery in one helping. My daily return to the cottage was easier on my driving but my eyes had picked up a new horror. Horizontal rain, and a strong will to live, had kept my eyes firmly planted on the road, now they wandered, picking up new bits of road information and scanning the tarmac for the natural obstacles that littered this little used lane.

The sun was just setting as I saw him. I call him a 'him' but at that time I had no means to 'sex' a badger. I stopped the car and wound down the window. I felt like a gawper at a crash scene, searching for the means of death, the bloody evidence. He had been hit cleanly.
'Probably never knew it was coming,' I thought 'on his way home to his badgery set but never destined to get there.'
Close up the badger was quite beautiful, not true black and white but a course pattern of smokey greys and off-white. I also noticed that one of his small ears was missing, bitten off in some desperate badger event. I shuddered and shut the window.

Five minutes later I was still sat beside the dead animal. The thoughts that were running through my head belonged to someone else and the someone else was now getting out of the car. There were carrier bags in the boot, loads of them, debris from all those trips to the supermarket when I'd vowed to recycle. I laid them out and wrapped two bags around my hands. The badger was a meaty creature, his body slumped into the back of the car like a sack of sand. What the fuck was I doing?
'I'll bury him' I reasoned 'I'll make up for all the roadkill that are left to rot unceremoniously at the side of the road.'

Simon wasn't home. His company was having a crisis in accounts so he didn't have to witness me dragging a dead body across the lawn and burying it between my favourite honeysuckle and the still dormant clematis. He would never know. But then there was the rabbit and after that there was a selection of smaller rodents and a baby hedgehog. Some were flattened and I turned my face away as I flipped them into a bag. Some needed some thought as to how to tackle the many grisly pieces.
'We'll have to buy the field next door' Simon joked when my secrets could no longer remain undetected. he had thought that we had a bad attack of 'mole'.
I smiled at his thinly disguised tolerance but he didn't know the whole story.

When we moved from the city my greatest happiness was to be able to sit in a garden that was more that a postage stamp. I vowed that whatever the weather I would take a few minutes each evening to revel in this longed for idyll. As soon as the dishes were safely stashed on the drainer my habit flicked the kettle on. I would take my coffee outside and sit on the stone steps that led down to the garden.
The night after the badger incident I took up my coffee position at dusk. The rustle caught my ear long before my eye caught the impossible. A badger wandered nonchalantly out from between the honeysuckle and the clematis. I had not seen anything in our country garden since we had arrived, apart from birds and the messy remains of foxes in the un-weighted dustbin.
The badger sauntered out and stood in the middle of the newly cut grass. I tried not breathing so that I wouldn't frighten him off, but he seemed content to stand there and watch me. Strange that he had a missing ear the same as the brother badger I had buried. He watched me intently and with a slight lowering of his head he faded into the grass.

I put my delusion down to tiredness and too much coffee, but the day after the rabbit was buried under the roses the same thing happened. Lazarus like, the mottled bunny stood patiently watching me until she slipped gracefully into the earth. It was the same with the moles, voles, field mice and grass snakes and I learned over time to listen to their names as they bowed their heads for the last time and went home.

'Are you okay?' Simon asked as I watched the last of the patio slabs being cemented into position.
'Yes' I said 'I am.'
And I was. Whatever made these animals come and thank me for burial can never be explained but it is time to move on. The garden is full and winter is coming again. Come the spring there will be more roadkill and somewhere there will be a new recruit for this very special job.

Friday, May 05, 2006


"Darby Vailmont" I repeated dimly as Rotler, the supervisor, introduced me to the new girl.
"Miss Vailmont is on her way up" he said smoothly "she needs some experience in here before she can move up to the clerks department."
Darby Vailmont was only just on the decent side of sluttish. Rotler was having trouble concentrating on anything other than her rather fantastic cleavage that was making a bid for freedom between two straining buttons.
"Ann Parker" I said, holding out my hand and breaking the cleavage spell.
"I'll leave you to get on then, the firm has plans for this young lady."
"Asshole" Darby said when the slimeball was out of earshot.
I liked her already.

My new workmate had a surprising number of talents and she was more than willing to share them. She despatched the office Romeos with a flick of her dyed blonde hair and could say more with one of her ruby delight nails than a whole dictionary of insults. Darby also proved that she could work and was soon flicking the mail around to different departments nearly as quickly as I could.
"Don't you get bored?"
"No," I replied "I can lose myself in here and I don't have to think about anything else."
"And you have something that you want forget" she asked sympathetically.
I found myself telling Darby my sordid life secrets.
"Nightmare" she said.
I waited for the usual snub after imparting this particular piece of information but my leprous bell failed to ring for Darby Vailmont and she continued to treat me as a human being.
The screen had never behaved like this. I called Darby over as I tried to retreive some less colourful sight to my eyes. She tapped a couple of keys and the screen calmed, revealing a black and red dragon logo.
"That's those Geishan wassnames, best get rid of it quick before upstairs realises that you've hung onto it longer than you should."
"But who are they?" I asked, after hastily sending the offending article to its new home.
"Not really sure, just know that they are too far up the food chain for the likes of you and me."
A week later I sat on the desk and watched Sam Portman's arse crack disappearing once again under my link machine.
"Don't usually get a peep out of you Miss Parker" his muffled voice said.
I had been 'down' five times in the last week and Rotler had been hovering with that look that he usually reserved for the idlers.
"Have you been back through your files?"
"Checked them all," I said as Sam's head reappeared "nothing would get through would it?"
"Still hear of the occasional virus" he said vaguely.
"I'll go through them again then."
Sam nodded sagely. He knew that I knew that he didn't have a clue but we would keep it to ourselves.
"You've got a gremlin stuck in your pipes" Darby said leaning over my shoulder when maintenance had gone.
"I don't understand, I've been through everything. All linkmail was above board and went to the right places."
"When did it start?"
"Last week, sometime after that Geishan thingy?"
"Stick a trailer on it."
"I can't do that" I said in horror "it's above my station."
"Rotler won't stand for it much longer, you'll be issued with a bright new shiny link before you can say'oops I've done it again!'."
I scowled. A new link was notoriously hard to break in and it would take weeks to get used to its foibles.
"Go on, trail it"
Darby must have added some strength to my formerly weak character. Before I knew what I was doing I had checked over my shoulder and had punched in the seven digits that would take me to the court of Slazenger and Boyd if I was caught.
"See, hot trail" Darby said.
We watched the progress of the Geishan mail as it made its way through the hallowed halls of Balain's oldest law firm.
"There, it went to the right place" I said reaching for the terminate button.
"Wait" she said, slapping my hand back.
I watched in horror as the mail stopped in the billing office and then came straight back to me.
"It obviously liked you."
"But where is it?" I moaned.
"Stop right there Parker. You are not going back to that frump of a creature that I was faced with when I started."
I glared.
Darby got her thinking head on and I searched in a few places that I had dismissed the first time around. In a little used memo pile there was a small red, flashing icon that I knew had not been there before.
"Open it."
"I can't," I gasped "I'll be sacked."
"Don't you ever take risks Ann Parker?" Darby snorted.
"Not if I can help it, I did once and look where it got me."

I could still feel the embarassment of that night, an event so awful that it had kept me locked in my cupboard-like appartment ever since.
"But night is when the whole world comes to life" Darby had said, trying to lure me out of my comfort zone.
"I came to life, got drunk and humiliated myself in front of a thousand people. I don't go out at night, ever!"
"No need to blame it on the night, I can do all that in broad daylight" Darby had smirked.

"I did some research on those Geishan" Darby said idly, cleaning the invisible dirt from her inch long talons.
"Only the most secretive organisation in the whole universe."
I groaned loudly.
"Take a risk Parker" darby whispered in my ear and before I could stop her, a hand shot past me and depressed the icon of doom.
The sun was sinking towards the horizon as I reached the shuttle terminal.
"What am I doing" I muttered as I made my way across the vast concourse.
I stood patiently at the flight booth until the attendant deigned to look up fom her link.
"Booth closed" she said snappily.
It would have been so easy to turn around and leave quietly but a darbyness crept through me.
"I have a ticket" I said quietly.
She looked me up and down. I knew I didn't look the part in my bargain basement outfit but I held out the ticket defiantly.
"Hmm," she said, pencilled brows shooting up towards her hairline "just a mo."
I could hear her stocking rasping together as she disappeared into an office.
My ticket wasn't a real one after all. I could stop all this brave nonsense and go back to being plain 'scared of the dark' Ann parker.
The stockings returned.
"Seems that you are on this flight, sorry for the wait. If you would be so kind to go through those doors someone will help you."
"Thank you."
"No problem Miss Parker, wouldn't want you to miss the chance of a lifetime."

The doors opened before I got to them and a red uniform with a dragom logo ushered me through. We hurried along a corridor and up a fligt of stairs that led to the most luxurious shuttle that I had ever seen. The strangely arranged seating swept downwards and to my embarassment I was escorted to the front row.
It took only seconds to realise that I was out of my mail-sorting depth. I was hemmed in by some of the most illustrious and important people that my planet had to offer. The blade diamond, sitting to my right, had a body guard of its own and to the left was someone who looked suspiciously like the Prime minister. I sunk lower into the red leather as the engines purred into existence.
"A drink madam?"
I looked up at the painted Geishan in full costume. She took my breath away.
"The Diva is said to change lives" she said in husky tones.
I managed a weak smile and recieved a fine glass of wine from a set of ruby delight nails.
Seconds later the whole of the front wall of the shuttle slid back to reveal the true horror of what I had done, stars glinted at my foolishness. Here I was, plain Ann Parker, sitting in the darkness of space with permanent night all around me and before me was The Diva Jaspari, the greatest singer of our time.

She sang, the night melted away and I felt my chains slipping soundlessly to the floor.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Heart of Quetzalcoatl

I ignored the protracted scratching at the door in favour of the splendid wine that had just been delivered.
The fine glassware, unmistakeably European, cast sparks against the shadowed wall and I followed them with my eyes until the wine came to temperature. It was more of a ruse to ignore the persistence that was beginning to gnaw at my inner calm rather than the knowledge of how a fine wine should be treated. Although, it has to be said, that I had learned more about the ways of the world in this last month than I would for the whole of my life.
'You don't have to do this' the whispered voice said intermittently.
I swished my hand through my silk bed covers and helped myself to another couple of chocolate- dipped strawberries; a request that I am sure had led the staff on a merry dance.
'Go away,' I whispered back 'I am un-changed.'
The scratching and tapping faded away with the last of the afternoon sun and I looked forward to the feast that would surely outdo the efforts of the previous day. The glorious food, that had made me sick to my stomach in the first few weeks, was now more than welcome and I had noticed as time went on that the dishes got more exotic, more diverse and more daring. I had even been offered a hamburger, with fries as golden as ripened wheat. I knew these foreign foods now. I had looked them up and ordered them as the fancy took me.

The dying day brought the electricity. I could hear the hum of the generator starting up. The sound, like the muffled voices from the kitchen, came up the hollow shaft that brought the treats. I waited until I had counted to twenty slowly, allowing the electricity to work its way up and then I settled myself at the desk. The computer sang as it started its warm-up, a small jingle that I would miss, strangely. This small piece of technology had not been a part of my life until a few weeks ago and it was the one thing that had opened my eyes to the Gods more than anything. I had learned the basics at school but we were never allowed to explore like this.
As I dipped once more into the mysterious unconquered world, I heard the lock on the door slide back, signifying the rise of the moon. I reluctantly left my warm seat and washed, taking care to remove every stain that the strawberries had left around my mouth. I checked my robes before stepping outside into the pale light that was just peeping over the city. Far below I heard the soft cheer of the crowd and I dutifully filled the urns with the blessed water before hurrying back inside to my waiting screen.
There were no lockouts on the computer, no barriers that kept knowledge and wisdom at bay. I soaked it up and now laughed at my initial horror of the freedom that was now offered, pushing the questions that rose like gall to the back of my well-trained head. In the last four weeks I had learned enough, but I still would have liked more.

The tapping started again just before breakfast came. I had managed to drag my eyes away from the screen in order to feed my belly. When the sun hit the Ehecatl Gate, my source of power would die and the screen would be blank until tonight. The tapping was just another irritation.
'Clariztl, are you there?'
I was tempted to ignore him but he had been more than brave. Not every soul would risk the climb, day in and day out, for four weeks.
'You will get caught' I tried.
'I don't care, you must stop this.'
'I will not stop until it's over' I said wearily.
It was the same every time, same words, different order.
'Please' he said quietly.
'Go home John, the sun will be up soon.'
I heard him sigh through the shutters. This was the first time I had any sign that he was starting to accept my choices. Our friendship had begun a thousand miles away, a world away from here. It was always going to be hard for him to let it go.

I was attending a summit in Texalatl when I first met John Jefferson Blake. Senator Huatitzoa saw it as something of a status symbol to drape himself with my kind and he had dragged us from Palenque to be exposed to the outside world.
'You bring purebloods,' Senator Moava said 'will they help you make decisions? I do not see a brain cell between them.'
Huatitzoa smiled, he knew green eyes when he saw them 'I will be closer to the Gods, Moava, it is enough.'
Moava had snorted but we had continued to escort the ambitious Huatitzoa all through the talks with the unconquered allies of the civilised states.

John Blake was from those unconquered Europs but he spoke Mayan with an ease that I had rarely heard in my own countries. Many visiting dignitaries choked rudely on our melodic syllables in their vain attempts to curry favour with the heart of society. John had no such trouble and when he had first spoken my name I was transported back to the conservatory in Yaxchilan where I grew up.
'And you are a friend of Senator Huatitzoa?' he asked
He was being impertinent. I knew that and he knew that, but still he persisted and it was something that I began to like about this Maya-like foreigner. He was not even supposed to be talking to me but somehow he always found me when I was completely alone. His talk was as refreshing as the Chac given rain and I let him question me freely. He called himself a journalist, a term that I had difficulty in grasping at first. I had noticed that he always kept his writing tools with him, and his stangely written words were interspersed with well-formed Mayanic glyphs. He had obviously studied somewhere within the Supreme Powers, leading me to trust him more than I should. He also had the look of my people, except for his dull clothes. In the garb of a visiting dignitary he could easily pass for a lower class Maya, thin nose or not.

He followed me to Belmopan, where the Senator was opening a new park dedicated to Itzanna. It was here that I had told him of my plans and I could not escape the look of disgust on his face.
'But you do not believe most of this stuff' he said.
'My reasons are my own John Blake, and you should respect them.'

I did not see him again until I had entered the Teotihuacan, in our spirtual capital of Chichen Itza. He was, by this time, a desperate man. He risked life and limb in the heart of my ancestors to try and get me to change my mind.
'A useless task' I said, as my fingers danced over the keys one last time.

As the sun had set, I had pulled the neatly folded piece of paper from under the mattress. John had pushed it under the door just before he left and I had spent the day trying to make sense of it. Now that the electricity was on, I could see the simplicity of the instructions and I put them to good use.

I know that you do not understand my actions and as a foreigner from an uncivilised world it is not surprising that you have such trouble coming to terms with my chosen fate.
My people are dying John Blake, and our faith in the great God Quetzalcoatl dilutes with each passing year. Only the offering that a pureblood can give will keep the people believeing in the Supreme Power.
The Mayan have held this world together for two-thousand years and if one drop of blood from an insignificant life can help sustain this, then I am ready. Tell this to the readers from your Godless lands and they will understand how one straw can hold the bale together.
Before you get this electronic mail my beating heart will have been plucked from my willing chest and the fate of the Mayan will have been sealed for another ten years. It is my hope to leave this world in continuing peace.
From Clariztl, the new heart of Quetzalcoatl.

Just as the sun rose on Teotihuacan, the Pyramid of the Sun, I pressed the 'send' key and stepped outside to save my people.