Treatises on Dust

Antic Found Texts

A Skulk – Part II

Part II of ‘A Skulk’. The first part can be found here.

Soundtrack: Black Swan, ‘Prophecy’

It tumbled in the air a while...

Waclaw lived close to Balham station, in a cramped bedsit with barely room for a narrow bed, a chest of drawers, and the small desk and chair, salvaged from a skip outside a local school, that he ate his meals at, sometimes sat reading, or in contemplation, or writing on his old electronic typewriter at. A squalid kitchen and bathroom were shared with the other tenants of the converted Edwardian terrace. It was a fairly miserable place, but Waclaw liked how bright it was on clear days; the windows were large, let in a lot of light. The view from them was dull, though: a new complex of flats, built in anticipation of the time, then still a few years away, when some younger financial workers, priced out of Clapham, would move a little further down the Northern Line, was just behind and slightly to the left; a little further off, on the right, was the embankment that carried the overground railway.

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A Skulk – Part I

The following tale, ‘A Skulk’, was first published in Lightship Anthology 2 (as a work of fiction, written by me, though I made no attempt to deceive the compilers…).

In 2002, a friend of mine, Jan Potocki, a musician and film maker, called me to arrange meeting. He said he’d happened across something he thought would interest me.

We met in a small pub in Bethnal Green, selected for its wide range of Continental beers on tap, a rarer thing then, than now. We had a long discussion about Béla Tarr’s staggering Werckmeister Harmonies, about its weird, oneiric imagery; we’d both been compelled, but bemused, by the filmThen, Jan took, from his bag, a sheaf of mouldering A4 sheets, gave it to me. It was a short typewritten document, in, what I took to be, Polish. I looked quizzically at him.

‘I found it,’ he explained, ‘under a bush, on Tooting Bec Common, while out running. Seeing my native tongue, I was intrigued, took it home.’

‘What is it?’

‘It’s…’ he said, then broke off to light a cigarette.

‘Well, you can see for yourself,’ he continued, after the pause. ‘I’ve translated it for you.’

He took out several sheets of feint-ruled paper covered in his neat hand, passed them to me.

‘Read it, let me know what you think.’

I did. It is one of the most disturbing tales in my possession.

Soundtrack: K’an, Arsons Beneath Eclipsed Waters

...a large bird, with jet plumage and a bright red pouch at its throat...

In the glare of the streetlights, the drizzle looked like sparks from a weld. Waclaw, on his way home from a late night working at the site (the project – a block of flats, in a grating contemporary idiom, bordering Tooting Bec Common – was behind schedule, over-budget), was walking along the edge of the parkland. Passing a tunnel through a railway embankment, he heard wild laughter, dull crackling, and, beneath, growling. He peered over, saw that several youths, baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirts, had penned an old vixen against the mouldering brickwork under the arch and were fleering at her, lobbing squibs. She was grizzled about the maw, scrawny, fur mangy; her ribs were in frantic spasm. Cowering back from the fireworks, she turned her head this way and that, snarling, tattered ears pricked.

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A Tiding – Part XI

Part XI of ‘A Tiding’. The first part can be found here.

Soundtrack: KTL, ‘Phill 2

A crescent moon hung in the sky, skull down, horns up, in rut.

Mark returns to the tenement – ‘indentured to another god’ – a trickle of blood – a silver brooch of singular design – ‘a little lie down’ – a dream – Marguerite – arcane sigils – a waste strewn with the scattered skeletons of birds – origins

It was past eleven by the time he arrived back at the Kentish Town tenement. He found the old man asleep in his bed with the light on. Seizing him by his shoulders, Mark shook him awake. He opened his eyes, looked blearily about him.

‘Why?’ Mark yelled.

The old man grinned, belched in Mark’s face. Mark cuffed him.

Rubbing his cheek where the blow had struck, the old man sneered.

‘You’re good at reading the signs, but, other than that, not too sharp. She’s indentured to another god, with whom I’ve been skirmishing these past thousand years. That entity knows I recover a little of my strength with every offering presented to me, so had her compromise your collection.’

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A Tiding – Part X

Part X of ‘A Tiding’. The first part can be found here.

Soundtrack: Svarte Greiner, ‘The Dining Table

Blue-and-white police cordon tape was wrapped around a tree and threaded through the iron railings out front.

Mark goes to present his collection – a cry – ‘Welcome to London’ – the old man scrutinises the offering – the seven-inch – a sham – Harris – a dark vision – blue-and-white police cordon tape – the hospital

The light in the sky had dwindled to a faint glow in the west by the time Mark arrived at the square in Kentish Town, clutching a plastic carrier bag containing his collection. Wary, he looked about him before crossing over to the old man’s tenement. The front door stood open. He hesitated on the threshold.

Then he heard the old man cry out. He pelted up the stairs, but when he ran into the garret room, saw the old man sitting placidly on the edge of the bed, gazing at a postcard he held.

He looked up, beckoned Mark to approach. Mark did so, and the old man held the postcard out to him. On it was a photograph of a young woman wearing a bowler hat and scanty Union Jack underwear. Behind her there was a red double-decker bus.

‘Welcome to London,’ Mark said.

The old man shrugged, began turning the card over and over in his fingers, rapidly, so the image flickered. As Mark watched, it seemed the pretty flesh fell from the girl’s face leaving a grinning hollow-eyed skull. Then the old man stopped spinning the postcard, folded it in half, and put it in the breast pocket of his pyjama shirt.

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A Tiding – Part IX

Part IX of ‘A Tiding’. The first part can be found here.

Soundtrack: Benoit Pioulard, ‘Calder

I swam to the shore, was cast up on the beach by a breaker, and lay there, gills gasping, on the black sand.

Fucking – a cardboard box falls, scatters Mark’s collection – superficial cult of gaudy – the seven-inch – some kind of arrangement – a really strange dream – a warm evening – a magpie – a drop of the Devil’s blood – a plastic top with LEDs that flashed when it was spun

One evening, Marguerite and Mark were in the bedroom of his flat fucking, stilted, but avid.

Mark’s flat was small – the ongoing cost of the divorce had depleted his savings – the bedroom cramped, the furniture packed tight. The headboard of his bed abutted the wardrobe, and his and Marguerite’s writhing jolted it, juddering a cardboard box that was on top, the box in which he kept the artefacts he was collecting for the old man. This fell, tipped its contents over them. The crime novel struck him on the brow; the tinsel floated down and settled around Marguerite’s neck like a trashy boa. After a moment’s perplexity, she broke into cackles; Mark pushed her off him.

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A Tiding – Part VIII

Part VIII of ‘A Tiding’. The first part can be found here.

Soundtrack: Hallock Hill, ‘New Place Aviary

The glass whited over

Balm and quickening – a gold umbrella – the calling card of a prostitute – the giant from the Saracen’s Head – a fight

Marguerite was French, from a small town near Paris. She had moved to London in her early twenties and lived in the city ever since. By coincidence, she was also an academic, taught fine art at a small private university in Kent. Mark found her company both balm and quickening. They shared many interests; went on long walks together, visited art galleries, saw films. Mark went on collecting the city’s offerings lest his meeting Marguerite had somehow been brought about because his efforts had met with the old man’s favour. The fifth item was a gold umbrella, left behind on the tube.

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