Split Fire & Time 

Split Fire & Time

"Yes?" said Nadine and Berenice almost together.

Patricia at last mustered the words to her mouth: "I've
just realised ... the new craft of our husband, it's called ...'The

The other two had not heard, as they were still preoccupied with the loathsome insects they had discovered beneath the stones.

It was almost Midday, almost Noon.

As the three women entered the room, they were surprised to find it covered in stones and lumps of larger rubble. A painting on the wall was the only decoration, depicting a ship in a storm; Nadine, as she peered closer at it, saw that the ship was called 'The ReynBouwe' and was evidently sinking. She spelt out its name for the benefit of the others.

“Who's the painter?” queried Patricia, half-heartedly. She thought that the ship's name was strange … strangely familiar.

“Can't make out the signature."

The woman who had not yet spoken was decked out in a soft-horn hat and heavily made up with turquoise under-eyes, a parasol hanging from her limp arm.

“What a mess!” said Nadine, turning to view the despicable floor. Patricia was admiring the marigold-window, in the wall opposite to the painting, which cast slanting lines of light through the dusty air.

“Berenice, come here, though," urged Nadine, who was now turning over stones in the corner furthest from the window. Nadine, like the other woman, seemed in her mid-thirties and, although not as smartly dressed as the other two, was the most attractive. Her hair was fastened with a butterfly clip, but wayward wisps seeped out like smoke.

The stone she had turned revealed a wriggling knot of unrecognisable insects buzzing somewhat at the disturbance.

“Ugh!" Berenice flinched off, waving her parasol like a sword. Patricia turned from the window - a little white flake clinging to her lip like a remnant of food - and stared uncomfortably at her two companion., She needed to speak but evidently she was finding it difficult to make her mouth formulate the words; she just made embarrassing sucking noises.

Today was Sunne-Stead.

Many had gathered on the quays to view, through optic-scopes, the temporary fixity of the planet's heat source. The spaceships had moored to their pylons for the duration, well out of the way; the Holy Stone had been cleared of tourists to allow the scientists to set out their telescopes and sextants at its topmost tower. Their other contraptions hung like intricate scaffolding from each cornerstone and gave the three women, who viewed the scene from their room, an impression of a clock-house that had been turned inside out.

They had indeed intended to view sunne-stead from the marigold-window. The moment came and went. The mighty star, rising from West to East, shuddered to a halt, poised in the white hell of…

[Cramped up, squashed in and breathless,
The crowd are silent,
As British Summer Time
shifts reality's belt one notch.
Suddenly, completely unpremeditated,
They lurch forward, in unison,
And sing the National Anthem.]

…the sky for what seemed almost a minute and, then, returned East to West.

The three women held hands in serenity for interminable hours, drawing as much spiritual significance as was possible into their communion. It was a frozen tableau, a mistress-piece and, as the heat gradually went out of the day, as dusk met dawn in the same quarter of the sky, their alabaster skin crumbled to the floor; and, if darkness came then the room would echo with the initial clumps of falling stones followed by the increasing clatter and final crescendo of collapsing masonry.

The night sky was a Queen Catherine Wheel of the world's interplanetary traffic, dodging in and out of the star-speckled wastes.

One man in particular climbed the tow-path of the city's central pylon from which several craft dangled like dead horses, He found the one he had been seeking - 'The Reyn-Bouwe' - the name was painted in all-weather gloss on its side. He inserted his limbs into the contour-seat and launched himself towards the inner circles of the cosmos. Pulling and pushing at various levers and gloating over just as many dials, he found himself spinning like a dying fly towards an under-sky where the sunne was about to lift its screaming rim. But, not being able to control the machine, the fuel burst and flew up into his face … like being sick on a funfair ride. The over-sky had turned turtle below him and he was diving, nose down, towards the last zenith, Desperately struggling with the release harness in his seat … fumbling for the mercy-ejection device, he lurched between what he believed to be two sunnes in violent love with each other. He was surely dead.

The last fragment crumbled to the floor; and the marigold- window had been shattered by a shooting star … or at least a crumb of one.

It was almost Midnight, almost Moon, and a slick of slime slowly slewed across the surface of the painting from a cake of wrigglers nesting in its frame.

From stone to sun and back again, there were other lives and lovers dodging death and damnation, But in the utter darkness of inner space, who knows whether there is a vast face between the two giant eyelights. And where's the mouth … for eating … for breathing … for speaking …for kissing? ~

(Published 'Works' 1989)

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