the m john harrison blog

Month: October, 2017

end state

Obviously there should be a place in every town–it’s dark, there’s a steep street, cobbles and shadows; then a corner; a flight of steps, perhaps two; then a single street lamp!–where people are drawn some nights of the year to hear this music played. It’s quite separate from its contemporary origins. You can forget them. You aren’t a child, you can perfectly well strip them away. When you stand there you will. Because it will be repurposing itself in front of you, or–more likely–revealing some purpose it had before there were people, or even the bandoneon, if you can imagine anything that distant. I’m not promising you this–I’m not promising anything–but that’s where it promises itself, and you would be a fool not to go there, however long it takes, & see.

You Should Come With Me Now

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stories that didn’t quite make the cut (7)

passing the sump, 2017

Some ways of being dead are good, some are not so good, X claimed. But admitting you are dead is generally a good thing. When he first entered the sump he found a layer of dense blue “air” which lay at the midpoint between the ceiling and the floor. While this layer was generally twelve to eighteen inches thick, and in some places could be measured at twenty five inches, it once shrank to a millimetre or two, causing him to choke and panic. It looked & behaved more like a liquid than a gas. How was he to pass it? He began work immediately. For two nights in a row he didn’t sleep at all. For six nights in a row, he dreamed of the wrong thing. For a further fourteen nights in a row he dreamed that his lungs had turned inside out and expressed themselves through his mouth, after the use of a home-made SCUBA device–he had failed to pass the sump in all fourteen cases. For eight nights in a row he didn’t dream, although he woke with memories of something moving in darkness. On the next night he passed the sump, but not in a dream. No equipment was required. He was able to breathe normally.

You Should Come With Me Now

stories that didn’t quite make the cut (6)

capriccio, 2016

It’s a little place in the south of England, with timber frame construction and thatch, so compact and self-satisfied it has a sense of being bigger inside than outside. This doesn’t last, of course; but it is a great special effect on a Saturday morning, and can be had in similar villages all the way down the river to the sea. A cat is sitting on a window sill staring at the roof across the road. There among the chimneys and satellite dishes two large black birds are perched, staring back over their shoulders with their heads and bodies at identical angles. These, the cat says, are the Crow twins, Ugly and Serendipida. Ugly is the sensitive one. His sister would never have a feather on his head harmed. As she says, “You’ve got to look after yourself in this life.” She remembers being less aggressive before they arrived here. They are thinking of moving back to Hull.

You Should Come With Me Now

stories that didn’t quite make the cut (5)

amazing space, 2016

The discovery of a defunct galactic culture the final activity of which seems to have been to construct a maze around a previous maze… The subsequent discovery of successions of maze-building cultures, whose energies have been directed into solving and then hiding or elaborately embedding the mazes of its precursors… Such embeddings aren’t neccessarily architecturally or even topologically congruent with the precursor maze–a maze can also penetrate or permeate the precursor. A maze like that is diffult to identify, let alone solve… Decoy mazes, often more complex than real ones, continue to be found. They contain no precursor maze, but have been built to soak up the efforts of later cultures, rendering them exhausted and passive, their energy directed away from the precursor’s artefact… The inability to solve a maze may actually be the inability to detect and solve a later maze… You may engage with a maze for a lifetime without recognising that your inability to solve it stems from the inability to solve a non-architectural maze which penetrates or permeates it… In the end, is it possible that all mazes might be hidden this way, by a single non-architectural interpenetrating over-maze applied from far in the future of all known mazes?

You Should Come With Me Now

stories that didn’t quite make the cut (4)

I don’t know what happened to the bear, january 2016

I dreamed I was running away from a bear down some institutional corridor. It was a big bear, like a grizzly, light brown, but not grungy or used-looking the way a real bear would be, with drool etc. The set-up was this: to begin with, the bear was outside in the car park, the other side of the main doors. But I knew it would get in. Before that happened I had to run up a short flight of stairs & close another set of doors behind me; then run down the corridor, closing doors at intervals behind me. Each time I opened & closed one set of doors, I knew that the bear had reached & opened the previous set. Then I had to run up another short flight of stairs & climb an old-fashioned indoor climbing wall. Just before the top, the wall flared radically & the holds got progressively hard to use. You were quite high up by then. This dream’s anxieties were based on repetition: every time I got near the top of the wall, I found myself back at the outer doors. I had to do that seven times. I had to run up the short stairs, open & slam the door; run down the corridor, opening & slamming all the doors; run up the stairs at the end; & climb the wall. To start with, it was fun. It was easy. The bear was slow & puzzled & not in any way used-looking. The wall was, to be honest, a piece of piss. But each repetition took it out of me physically, & the wall seemed harder as a result. Even so, I was ok on it. In fact each time I climbed it, I found a new, interesting solution to the overhang: until the seventh time. The seventh time I realised that I’d chosen a complex, nonreversible sequence of polished, sloping holds; that as the overhang pushed me out it was also inevitably pushing me off the holds; and that though I wasn’t sure this solution would work, my strength was running out. I was committed. I had to put most of my body weight on the final, oblique sloper & make a long, awkward reach for the top, which was in itself sloping. I don’t know what happened to the bear. By then the bear wasn’t the issue.

You Should Come With Me Now

stories that didn’t quite make the cut (3)

the pivot, january 2012

This character wakes up with a sense of happiness, all that remains of a dream the content of which she has already forgotten. The dream repeats itself. Soon it’s a nightly event. The dreamer’s delight on waking is increasingly intense. But every so often, even as that intensification occurs, she wakes up a little sad or depressed. The narration speculates: “Some kind of life, or story, was being lived out in the dreams.” Increasingly, the dreamer wonders what that story might be. Because she can’t remember, she begins to invent it; an act which proves unsatisfactory both to her and to the reader. Simultaneously, the dream reaches a pivot & tips over: moments of happiness decrease (though their intensity increases) & are replaced by depressions which become the norm. One day the dream ends. A morning of misery; a morning of joy: then nothing, ever again. The dream life has worked itself out without the dreamer–or the reader–ever knowing what it was.

 

You Should Come With Me Now

stories that didn’t quite make the cut (2)

self promotion, March 2013

In this new story I address the usual themes. People sit on sofas, staring ahead; while at the edges of the room things shift inconclusively from one state to another. They may be real, they may be not. Meanwhile, in another part of the small Midlands village, Ms Suihne the plump medium who runs the hat shop believes she is changing into a bird &, to the accompaniment of rough music, jumps off the roof. Another party is engaged in a relationship with three empty sacks arranged on a pole in his living room. At one point, things will turn sexual. All this might or might not be happening, or somebody might be telling it as a story to someone else, who is not listening. To sum up, the impossibility of knowing other people; or, really, anything. If you like the sound of it, click through to the usual outlets. Or you can catch me reading it from the hill on Barnes Common, most Wednesdays. There’s a review up at Wild Eyed Visionaries & obviously I’ll be tweeting.

You Should Come With Me Now

stories that didn’t quite make the cut (1)

algorithm angels, March 2015

These are the Pharoah’s life & death guys. These are his guys of life & death, the certainty of making his decisions bursts from their skin every second & every second of that second, like: knowledge! brass reflections! water! white of eye & pure smiles of delight of children! These guys are the full beauty of the Pharoah’s decision made. You may die but it will be the perfect call. You may live & it will be the perfect call. Everyone is happier when they pass. Everyone is happier, meeting those guys in the market place. Their tread–light, active, gracile, musical–is a measure. They know the date of birth, they know–within one glowing week, give or take a percentage not even the Pharoah can calculate–the day of death. Some things can not be known, & they glint with the mischief of admitting that. The corner of their eye glints with the delight of the mischief of the residue that can’t be known. No one knows when they die, those angel guys, & they keep that residue of laughter all their days. They are the guys of the Pharoah who lives in the dark in the pyramid, in the liquid actuarial core of all the things of the world.

You Should Come With Me Now

 

come with me now

So I have a brand new author photo for YOU SHOULD COME WITH ME NOW, taken by the brilliant Hugo Glendinning.

Here are two or three readings and an interview I did with Ra Page of Comma Press earlier this year.

In other news, there’s a launch event at Warwick University on the evening of the 23rd of October–please come along, but please also sign in here to let us know you’re coming, as places are limited. Will Eaves will be asking the questions, Tim Leach introducing us.

We’ve got bookshop events through November, including one at Housman’s in London, during which Lara Pawson & I will exchange our deepest fears about how “the truth” is told in memoir, anti-memoir and autofiction: catch up with all those dates at the Comma Press site.

After that, there’ll be a party in London in early December with readings from, among others, Tim Etchells: but more of that, perhaps, later.

 

a little bit of something new

Victoria opened the door to find the waitress’s father standing there. He was four inches shorter than her. He was whistling. His hair curled damply back over the collar of his Castrol jacket. He looked a lot livelier in the sunlight.

“I had a minute,” he said. “So I came.”

Victoria stared at him.

“It’s Chris,” he said. “Chris. Chris from last night.”

“Do you always answer your phone as if you’re someone else?”

“I’ll just step inside,” he said.

They stared at one another. It seemed like an impasse. In the end she let him in;  he held up a plastic sports bag and said, “I’ve got everything I’ll need in here.”

“If I could explain what’s wanted?” Victoria said.

“A cup of tea would be nice since you’re putting the kettle on. Then while you’re making it I’ll have a look round.” He smiled and went off up the stairs as if he owned them, calling back:

“I’ve got everything I need in here. Don’t you worry.”

Victoria boiled the kettle in a rage. She heard him on the first landing and then on the loose floorboards near the bathroom loo. His bag of tools rattled. He hissed and whistled to himself. He was pathetic. He tapped at this and that. A second floor sash ground itself open, then shuddered down again. It all made Victoria feel as if she didn’t belong. “How’s that tea coming on?” he called. When he came down to have it, he sat and ate a biscuit too. He seemed to bring a smell into the kitchen. She couldn’t quite smell it, but she knew it was there.

“I like to sit down to a biscuit,” he said.

She pushed the packet toward him. “Help yourself.”

He smiled to himself, as if he had expected this. “I was born Chris,” he said, “but that lot over at Kinver know me as Ossie.”

He had a jauntiness you couldn’t explain; at the same time he wanted your sympathy. After you had watched him for a minute or two, you saw that he held himself oddly and walked with the suspicion of a limp; he was always wiping his eyes. “Poor health,” he said, with a kind of satisfaction. “A lifetime of it.” He’d had bowel cancer, which they fixed; they thought his cough was asbestosis. In addition his left wrist didn’t articulate, which he’d let himself in for in 1999 when he fell off the town Christmas tree. “I was setting up the lights,” he said. “They didn’t take the decorations down in time that year. We’ve all suffered as a result.” He could just about use a screwdriver. “There’s a lot of perished rubber in those lighting circuits,” he said, after he had eaten half a packet of chocolate digestives “It only needs a touch to flake off.” It would mean a rewire. She had expected as much. “MInd you,” he concluded, “there’s plenty of good new neoprene in there too.”

“You aren’t going to fall off a ladder while you’re here, are you?” Victoria said.