i meant to post on the night before but once again, i couldn’t bear to wrestle with the computer.  which seems to be getting worse, by the way.  so far, it’s been a delight to share experiences with the other lovely, lovely participants out there but, as expected, a bit of a grind, and really bloody hard work in places.  i really don’t know if there’s 50k in this or not.  but.  there’s always the Wandering Shovel Of Death.  or, since mine has elements of fantasy in there, any one of a million gloriously grizly and inventive ways to kill people off messily and in a fun, green and squishy kind of way.

anywhoo…

this is round about chapter four.  i.e. all i have managed to write so far today.  think i need some food.  but since the cupboard is completely bare as we have yet to go shopping for the first time in a fortnight, tea and cigarettes will have to do…

Time does not exist. Not in a tangible way. It is a human construct, invented and maintained by people in a sort of collective dream of reality. It allows the dissection and examining, illusory moment by illusory moment, of experience. It allows comparison between what is, what was, and what might be. Freed from the constraints of this collective dream, we can become lost. Drowned in the immensity of the ever- present now. The now that essentially encompasses everything, as the big bang did at the start of what we fondly imagine as time. Nevertheless, it does pass. We are only able to have memories of what we have experienced. Unless one is of the special breed that can pick thoughts from minds, as a child would pick sweets from a jar, or a hungry tourist may winkle whelks from their shells.

Nevertheless, time weighed heavily on Martha.

Seated before a theatrical mirror in an old, old theatre, face a careful blank, she could not even sigh for the weight of the crushing emptiness inside of her. Soon, she knew, it would be filled. From experience, she held the expectation of fulfilment, if only for a short while. But she could never decide which was worse, the filling of her, and the fulfilment of her bargain, or the emptiness which came after.

She had seen him only last night, but she shied away from that thought. It was not with horror, though the first time had approached that. It was almost of despair. They had come to know each other, a little, over the years. He, of course, knew her far, far better than she could ever know him. He had advantages over her that genetics would never allow her to have over him. He was the harvester, the reaper. Oh, to be sure, he looked like a man. He ate and drank and talked and breathed and shat and fucked and laughed and walked and gave every appearance of humanity. But he was to Martha’s mind, and possibly in fact, other. How could he not be? His way of sustaining his existence was… different.

Martha let out a tiny sigh, and picked up a mascara wand, focussing in on her carefully blank reflection. As she looked closer, she saw a sparkle on the bottom lid of her left eye. There, trembling, was a single teardrop, shimmering in the bright lights that framed her face. With a sheer effort of will— something she had learned well over the years– she reabsorbed the only outward sign that all was not well in her world. When it was completely gone, she began, mechanically, to apply the mask that would allow her to perform the action that had become her function. Her sole reason for continued existence in her ever- distending personal bubble of the thing men call time.

Once enmasked, she set down her powders and paints and stared at the subtle transformation before her. Gone was the tiredness, the despair, the blank. In its place was the face she presented to the world. It did not require much, really – a trick here and there to make her eyes sparkle with a borrowed lustre, perhaps. Definition of the features that had served her so well all these years. But the scaffold supporting it was the same as ever. The façade stood, and that was all that mattered.

The bustling and running and shouts and laughter outside of her door did not intrude upon her as she gazed. Until the intrusion was made personal by a knock at the door, followed by a whirlwind as Anne, the runner, burst into her room.

“Ten minutes, Martha – I hope you’re… Oh, for goodness sake! Look at your hair!”

As soon as Annie had entered, the mask shifted to a smile as Martha turned her face to the impossibly enthusiastic runner.

“Hi, Annie. I know! I just can’t seem to get the bugger to sit straight. Would you mind…?”

The question was redundant, however, as Annie already had her hands at the masses of chestnut hair piled atop Martha’s head, and was fiddling with the tiny, decorative hat perched amongst the curls and loops that caused it to resemble a tiny ship on a storm- tossed mahogany sea. As she worked, Annie chattered about the famous people she had heard were in the audience that night. Who had been seen with who, and what those poisonous tabloid rags had or may have to say about it. Martha sat quiescent, nodding and smiling every now and again, but mainly being alone with her thoughts. She didn’t really need to prepare herself for performance any more. Not like when she had, with his help, first hit upon this idea.

The theory was little and often. It might not be up-close and personal, and as effective, but reaching many people at once in this ridiculously overpopulated world absolutely had to count for something, right?

She remembered when the revolution had come in sound recording. What a relief that had been.  And yet, what a burden. It meant that she could be in so many places at once, but that there was a constant trickle; and that in some places, it was stronger than others.  As serendipity would have it, she had found a base to work from and, far from her having to tramp around looking for work, it came to find her.  and then, she could pick and chose.

Not that choice really came into it, after all.  She would feel herself drawn to a tone of voice, or a look in an eye.  Or–more often than not– the ghost at the feast would appear discreetly from behind a knot of people, or through a doorway.  There would be an imperceptible nod, and…

Well.  Performing on stage was no longer anything that held any fear for her.  it was the personal encounters that she had yet to get used to – even after all this time.

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