It's A Slow One


The clouds parted and the sun was cast over the island. The grass flowed with the winds from the clouds, the seas were still pitch with the anger of the storm. Limping in from the ocean, exhausted, having slept most of the four-month storm, minds punished with dreams of being consumed by the waves, the sharks, our toes nibbled by fish, we were returned once more.

Dear Home,

We are all but lost now. I find it incredible that I received correspondence from you, the tanker crew held their word and delivered home our letters and photos. I can’t say I didn’t expect them to refuse our request to take us back, the ridiculousness of this situation has dissolved whatever resolve I used to have, I don’t hate them.

When I look at the coastline now, when I look at the city lights, I feel nothing, none of my previous magnetic attraction for the mainland, to be with you, to eat real food. My stomach is somehow important to mention.

We’ve lived day-to-day since I last wrote you all. All the small things I could mention could be pieced together and would make an unimpressive paint-by-numbers picture, something cold and grey. Forgive the metaphor, all of this is very forced.

Like I said, there is a lot of food here, it arrives every day, men in orange unload it and women with ever-changing hairstyles prepare it for us. Its fairly civilised here. Almost everyone is dead.

Thank you for the shoes. No-one has any real shoes anymore. These were almost stolen off me while I was sleeping. I protested to exiling the girl to the West End, but what can you do. When something picks up over here its as good as done. I suppose the parties ended in earnest six years ago, but interesting things happen often enough to keep people sane. I heard one story about a guy who woke up in someone’s bed, someone unknown to him, and a song was playing on a stereo across the road, or in the kitchen, or somewhere, and ever since he has never been able to move the tune from his foremost thoughts. Whenever he’s in a room of people and it becomes quiet, he hums the song. I think I met him once. I can’t remember.

Another is that there was a man who drank all the beer in his house and still wanted more to drink. So he drank all the spirits. Once he’d done that, he considered it only logical to drink all the tomato sauce from the kitchen. I don’t think this story is true.

The island is full of this, things remembered worth forgetting. Actually I’m not so sure anymore. I’d rather remember a story about a man who drank some tomato sauce that some of my other memories.

We bury bottles. We bury them starting at the bicycle paths, so that the flat bottoms of the bottles just emerge from the sand, making a foot path inwards and outwards from the rings of cement around the island. We hold parades on them every now and then. People wear bedclothes as togas and clothes they convert into obscene uniforms. Generally people move behind these journeys to the West End to exile people for lack of anything else to do. The clubes make fires with the spirits and the gas tanks, we sing songs and drink until we forget, the people exiled to the frothin mess of the West End stare out into the INdian Ocean, eating what we sneak them. Some people cry. I think I would cry. The rocks are more friendly when you’re forced to live with them. Some people say they’re inviting. I don’t see too many parties on the rocks.

I go to the West End every now and then, I borrow a red bicycle of a friend of mine. Riding there is always difficult, the water and the wind buffett me, pushing me back towards the settlement. Once I get there, exhausted and dazed from the numbness, I see the fires. The small fires of the huddled groups of exiles, the infidels, the predators, the irrationally aggressive.

I don’t know where they get their clothes from. No-one I know sneaks them clothes. After the fires and moving people, the ocean drowns out everything else. I’m invited to dine with the ocean every time I visit the West End. The churning, black-and-white blankets licking the shelter just before the rocks says nothing, and showers me, and I look back around and all the poor West End people disappear.

The houses are warm. You don’t want to hear about the wind and the water. I don’t know who changes the gas bottles, we’re always using heaters in winter, I fight with the people I live with over the heater settings. When I look at the heaters in everyone’s houses, I imagine someone somewhere turning on the gas to everyone’s heaters, and everyone getting gassed. They’re all identical, black and rectangular, I need them to stay warm - but the window showing the fake wooden logs on the heaters seems like a big mouth gaping fire at me. A chilly thought.

I wasn’t on the raft back home. It was freezing that night. It was strange because it had been blisteringly hot all day, everyone had been cooking in their underwear. I heard they went in a full circle while out there in the ocean, everyone suddenly becoming blind as Perth turned off all its lights, sending them out to their doom. I think its incredible they survived. They don’t talk about it, everyone’s at a total loss about why they didn’t eat each other. Some say they actually went to Perth and lived there for most of the time, but were caught and sent back, but that doesn’t explain what we all saw. I saw the sores and sunburn.