Shinganga (Part 6)

This is the final entry in this series. Links to Parts 1 through 5 are here, here, here, here, and here. All parts are contained within the Miscellaneous Fiction bit to the left.

The day is long, hot, tense. An extended ellipsis, trailing into the distance with nothing following.

They spend their day like that. Trance-like, drifting pointlessly, unseeing, circling the abyss. No-one wants to talk. They sit together in a tight huddle in the shade of a tree, the thick canopy sheltering them from the beating sun.

The atmosphere is stultifying. Books are balanced on knees and hands, headphones buzz like artificial insects. They all stare at the ground, or the sky, or the tree. Not at each other. No-one wants to look at one another, to face up to the reality of what’s happened.

Food is brought out to them, and drinks, all through the day. The manager comes over at one point. Starts waving his hands and apologising and explaining and reassuring, but the oppressive silence beats him down. He slouches away, looking back over his shoulder at the group of white girls who won’t even acknowledge that he’s there.

Some of them try to nap. They lie there, eyes closed, willing themselves to sleep and climbing further and further away from it. None of them leave the circle.

The trees rise around the clearing, tall and looming, the depth of untamed jungle mere metres away. No-one looks at it.

Fuck this.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 6)”

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Shinganga (Part 5)

Links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 go here.

Blood.

Red, spattering, dark and oily in the night.

Sprays from the neck.

The body flaps, thrashes. Limp. Mindless.

Alice breathes in hard through her nostrils. She can smell the tang of the kill. The metal scent of life hitting dirt. Her muscles are knotted, tense, ready to spring.

The chicken finally flops to the ground, headless. Its neck spurts, then dribbles, then trickles, then spits, and finally the blood stops flowing. Rivulets run down the dusty ground. They mix with the dirt and turn to reddish sludge, dark and slimy in the night.

Alice shivers with cold again. Lets out her breath. The smell has been chased away by the wind.

Continue reading “Shinganga (Part 5)”

Shinganga (Part 4)

Parts 1, 2, and 3 are here, here, and here, respectively. There’s got to be a better way to do that.

A glass appears at Alice’s elbow, startling her into a tiny yelp. It is brimming with wine, smells of lemon and oak and freshly cut grass, a frosting of condensation just beginning to mist the surface.

Oh, thank you, she says, turning to smile at her server. The woman won’t meet her eyes, instead glancing down to the ground and moving mutely on to the next place.

That was weird, she says to Daisy, seated to her right.

Nah, it’s just what they’re trained to do at fancy joints like this. Rich folks don’t like them some natter from the help. Daisy rolls her eyes. How they’re dealing with us showing up, I have no idea. You see the daggers we got from the manager at check-in?

No, says Alice, honestly. I didn’t really think about it, I guess.

Bunch of scruffy looking girls rock up on your doorstep stinking of bus sweat, take over your lodge, staying four to a room? When you’re running a fancy tourist trap like this? I’d be pissed as hell. Daisy laughs with gusto. Although not as pissed as all the old rich bastards who aren’t quite rich enough and have to come here in the off-season. Getting their authentic voodoo experience ruined by a gang of hippy fuck-ups.

Huh. Alice looks around the elaborate dining room. She sees the other guests, at smaller tables than the three their group has taken over. Their shirts and jackets. Their dresses. Even the children, in good shoes or the latest in bushwear chic. None of them are trying to thank their servers. The children follow the example of their parents, staring stoically ahead and making sure to keep their voices down even as their toes wriggle in unfamiliarly tight shoes.

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Emotional Resonance and Neck Tattoos

Emotional Resonance and Neck Tattoos

It was understandable that Geralt wanted to blow off some steam. A battle, a false accusation of murder, a stretch of imprisonment followed by the obligatory daring escape, a boat trip, and an attempt on your life would make even the most mild-mannered monster hunting mutant a bit tetchy. Especially the boat trip.

The options for stress relief presented by the backwater swamp town in which he found himself were few and far between. Possibly a light spot of sweating your arse off, perhaps getting eaten by the monstrous inhabitants of the nearby woods. So, in the time honoured soldiering tradition, Geralt settled for getting absolutely stinking drunk with some mates.

The next morning, waking up with a thumping headache and not much else, he regretted that choice. He dragged his bare feet back up the muddy road to the tavern to try and discover what happened to his clothes and his dignity, and why in the hell his neck hurt so much. He staggered through the door and caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. His eyes were dull and sunken, his skin grey and sallow, and there was a strange marking on his neck.

“I got a neck tattoo?” he groaned.

That’s a minor, jokey sidequest from the second Witcher game, a series in which you pilot jobbing albino monster hunter and general handyman Geralt through a series of forgettable names. And, a couple of hours into my playthrough of the third instalment, it’s the best moment in the Witcher 3 as well.

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Shinganga (Part 3)

 

Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively.

Sunlight creeps over Alice’s face. A beam wends its way up her jawline, over her cheekbones. She lies on her back. Watches it.

The others in the room sleep. Still and silent. Content.

Alice lies still, unmoving, unwilling to wake them.

She stares into the sunlight and thinks of what has happened, what she has seen. Where they are, and where they are going.

The room is strewn with invitations and reminders. Genuine, handcrafted, authentic. They claim. Masks and shields and paintings, daubed onto woven leaves, hang from the wooden walls, nestle into the thatched straw ceiling. They surround the enormous bed, so large that four people are cosily sleeping side by side.

Alice stares up at the ceiling. Wonders. Feels the soft, thick blankets enrobing her. The fine cotton cradling her.

She raises her head and sees the thick luxuriousness of the rug at the foot of the bed. The door, seamless wooden planking against the wooden walls, discreetly leading to the en suite bathroom.

She turns and sees the glass extending along one wall, door and window in one.

The view is uninterrupted high bush, trees and shrubs rolling over foothills. Rich green carpeting the beginning of a mountain range. A lawn stretches out in front of the window, then the ground falls away from where the cabin is perched, toppling down into a valley before clambering back up the next ridge.

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In Defence of Globalisation

In Defence of Globalisation

If a week is a long time in politics, two weeks has to be an era. The seven stages of grief have been very publicly demonstrated for the twitching corpse of Britain’s EU membership, from denial (No! We can have another referendum!) through anger (All those geriatric bastards who voted Leave don’t deserve a vote, they’ll die soon!), bargaining (Scotland can stay in the EU, right? Please?), and finally, acceptance. Which I guess is Lexit, or left wing exit, a horrible moniker for an equally self-indulgent worldview.

In amongst all this, verdicts have been delivered on why the result came in the way it did. Demographic divides among voters have been identified, pitting the old against the young, the rich against the poor, North against South, metropolitan elites against ordinary rural working folk, contemptuous snobs against uneducated peasants, marmite lovers against marmite haters, or whatever else.

Some idiots (not naming names) have pointed the finger for these splits at globalisation, or at least the effects thereof. Britain has effectively voted for isolationism and retrenchment, for withdrawing from the global project in favour of a mythical island solitude where honest folk made ships and cars, beer was cheap, watery and terrible, food was tasteless and boiled, and everybody was white.

It’s not strictly speaking wrong to pin this yearning for things as they used to be on globalisation, in a very loose macro sense. Globalisation is such a wide and varied process of change that defining it is almost impossible. That said, some aspects of globalisation as “the closer integration of the countries and peoples of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flows of goods, services, capital, knowledge and, to a lesser extent, people across borders” definitely had an impact on the Brexit vote.

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Is Tony Blair a War Criminal?

Is Tony Blair a War Criminal?

Words are important. Words are more than just a hammer to nail home a message. They have connotations, associations, subtleties. The importance of word choice is clear to anyone who’s ever read anything. Glittering and glistening might, on a very functional level, have the same meaning, but their usage and connotations differ dramatically.

That’s why messaging in media is incredibly important. It’s why if we’re constantly told migration is a problem, people think it’s a problem. It’s why David Cameron shouldn’t be surprised that his describing thousands of people fleeing conflict as a ‘swarm’ has inculcated a simmering resentment towards ‘others’ in British society, leading to the Pyrrhic triumph of populist lies.

With the Chilcot Inquiry set to release its report on Wednesday and taking what might be said to be a spiteful attitude to the myriad issues surrounding the Iraq War (You wanted a report? Well, have all the reports! Have two and a half million words worth of report! Have three times the length of the bible! Happy now, you demanding bastards?) one notable area it won’t report on is the legality of the war, or indeed on any potential criminal responsibility of the main players.

And the reason I bring this up in relation to words and their import is that the terms ‘Tony Blair’ and ‘war criminal’ have been bandied about in the same sentence many times by many people over the last decade, without people having a full justification for doing so or indeed understanding what either of those terms mean.

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Brexit and Scapegoats

Brexit and Scapegoats

Making grand, sweeping pronouncements on the future of anything, let alone what’s going to happen to an entire country undergoing an unprecedented constitutional shift, is a mug’s game. There are too many unknowns, too many variables. Nobody knows how events will shake out, mere hours after a slim majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union. Anyone who says otherwise is at best a hopeless delusionist.

That said, my posting history suggests I am in fact a fatally misinformed drinking receptacle. So, in short, we’re all boned.

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Shinganga (Part 2)

Part 1 here.

Strange pictograms are there and gone, blinking past with whispers of rivers and mountains and temples. They squiggle and twist as Alice looks at them, squirming away when she tries. Then they vanish again, winking away as if they were never there, leaving only memories and unknowns.

What are you staring at? questions Veerle. The story of how a Dutch girl ended up with them was relayed to Alice at one point the night before. She thinks.

Alice mumbles back a reply.

The signs… they’re all in Chinese.

Yeah, it is notable, is it not? Still, I think since three or four years, there’s been a lot of Chinese investment here. Lots of Chinese companies doing business here.

Oh, cool, thanks.

Alice rests her head against the window of the bus and closes her eyes. The juddering just makes her headache worse, so she straightens back up again, but the sudden movement causes something in her stomach to shift and a wave of nausea rises up her throat.

It’s a lot different to when I was travelling in Asia, continues Veerle.

Mmm-hmm.

Ah, you are still feeling a little hangovered? Sure, you’ll need some rest.

Alice nods her head as much as she dares and closes her eyes again. The sickness swells like a rough ocean, billowing and roiling horribly. There’s an acrid smell hanging in the air, sweat and people and stale cigarette smoke.

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Into Africa

Once more into the breach.

Which is to say, I’m off to Africa again for the next couple of months, so intermittent to nonexistent posting will continue for the foreseeable future. Imma try and update with stuff from there, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯