I GAVE YOU.
And what did he give YOU?
I GAVE YOU.
When I was small I gave you
When I was bigger, I gave you
Later still, I gave you
In Love-Sick adolescence I gave you
Older still, I gave you
The chewing gum is gone
Only the promise remains intact.
When I wrote this in 2002 I could not have realised how things would turn out. But I was talking about the US military ferrying the heroin down the mountains. Something that has been well covered up now.
IT MIGHT AS WELL RAIN (BOMBS) UNTIL SEPTEMBER
Once more the heroin flows freely
down the mountains on muleback
and onward to our cities.
In Miami, and New York, and London
The Lords of the Needle rejoice.
lockers were blasted open
and their poison released.
400,000 now starve. No voice
have they. How could they beg
us not to slaughter their livestock,
their lives, with our billion dollar bombs?
20,000 graves of the innocent
200,000 grieving for their loss.
More millions of tears than can be counted,
And still the pretty cluster bombs
draw the eyes of little children
and rob them of their limbs.
And more… our vengeance is unbounded.
Another country, another suspect reason.
Tell me! Tell us all! Tell the Universe!
What is a Weapon of Mass Destruction?
Is it a heat seeking missile?
Is it a fighter plane loaded with bombs?
Is it a bullet tipped with depleted uranium?
Is it a man?
Is it me?
She wore a white nightdress, and bent
With her head on her hands
The old man, nailed to the wall.
Bullet nailed. The O
Of his mouth still ripe with surprise.
Whimpering, in that stark silence.
A chainsaw sound
Ripping a wound down his back.
“It’s alright” He said, stupid untruths
Ringing bells of grief.
Bodies, all gone, around him.
She was warm, and young, under his hand
On her shoulder
“It’s alright” He said again.
“I am a soldier. This is what I do.”
Rattled around like battle
In his blood-rushed ears.
He pushed, she moved and whimpered
Back against the wooden chair.
“It’s alright” He said again.
“It’s alright” He said again
“It’s alright!” He said again.
“It’s alright!” He shouted.
But the note on her chest said more.
It screamed. It roared!
“Her eyes are in the jar!”
This is not a poem. It’s a song I had in me, but as I’m not a musician, it’s a NAKED poem.
WAITING IN THE WINGS
Been writing you a love song
But when I found the courage
Well things are different baby
Your life was safe and so secure
Now you know just how it feels
Things can change so instantly…
She’s gone now babe – she’s left you
Waiting in the wings
The love song’s just been written
Sort of meeting on the internet… in a way! (WRITTEN WITH MY BEST FRIEND DORA BONA)
(with apologies to Rod Serling)!
Loving Deborrah was effortless. Seamless too in the way she blended into his life. Occasionally he hankered for more. But he knew what that was, and that was a quite different reality.
He had tasted that reality before, and found that the sweetness turned bitter over time.
Anyway, outside of this reality they would never have made a pair.
He pushed the keyboard away and used the mouse to shut down the computer. The kettle had already boiled, but now his eyes settled on the bottle of Grants, and suddenly he had a choice to make. Not much of a choice. He poured a cup of hot strong tea with a squirt of lemon juice. Then he opened the whiskey and filled the cap, letting it overflow generously into the teacup.
All relationships end. Even those made in heaven and cyberspace. This one was ending too, and it was no less painful than any that had gone before. Part of his mind marveled. His writers mind pushed through the crowd of milling, panicky thoughts, intent on recording in cold detail the death throes. It was the writer who took over the eyes and ears. His cold, and soulless personality that filled the chair, and hunched arrogantly over the monitor. Looking for clues.
His right hand a pointer, skittered across the screen. Underlining, marking in red. Question marks. Exclamations. Cruelly searching for insincerities, and finding them with grim certainty. “I miss you.” “I love you” “Talk to me.” The mouse skittered, highlighted, deleted, leaving raw text. Devoid of human emotion. ………………………………………………..
The writer found what he was looking for. Grim satisfaction thinned his lips into a tight smile. Hours passed. He pulled file after file, letter after letter, reducing each to a flat babble. Until the bottle was empty.
He needed a shave badly. Deborrah was gone. He’d seen to that, one way or another. It should have been easier than this. She’d only been a “net bunny” . A cyberspace pickup. Like himself, a solitary soul traveling a digital world with a digital companion. In a short twelve months they had traveled the world, visited museums, art galleries, cybercafes. Even ventured together into the darker reaches of the World Wide Web, where it was scary but still safe.
He found himself smiling fondly. Remembering her chatter, and the shorthand communication that had become a part of their reality. And remembering the best times too, when they just stayed “home” sharing intimacies.
He could not remember who had first typed <ily!>in twenty point upper case letters.
It was a perfect relationship in so many ways.
Anyway, it was all too late. He told himself it was logic that made him pull the plug. Best not to hesitate. There were just too many realities to consider.
In the physical world it was a no hope relationship. Aside from a thousand miles distance. He was nearer to fifty than she was to thirty. He was serious while she was funny. And he’d had enough of love…..too much.
It was a stupid notion. Stupid, ridiculous, and pathetic. Easy enough to be sucked into it in the real world. Easier still in the safe cotton-wool world of cyberspace, where people are pixels and conversation is text on a screen.
And I Love You is compressed into <ily!>.
Anyway, she was gone. “The number you have reached is not connected…..”
“Wrong number” He muttered and dialed again. Carefully. “The number you have reached is not connected. Please check………” He jammed the handset back into its cradle, feeling lost, and angry.
Had she answered he would have hung up quickly anyway. He’d only called to …….to what? Hear her voice? He had never heard her voice.
“Oh who am I fooling?” He snarled, in a voice loud enough to shock his own ears.
The house was a mess. He knew he was going to the dogs at top speed. For the past three weeks he had hardly lifted a finger. The modem still sat on its side against the fridge where he had flung it. Crumpled balls of paper, inked with half started half-hearted stories, poems and letters, littered the floor.
And the face in the mirror was derelict too. He tried a cynical smile-wink at it. “Think how you’d look if she’d ditched you!”
It didn’t work. “THIS is reality!” He snapped, impatient at his own apathy. “Get a grip!”
But he just couldn’t get a grip, and was glad there was no alcohol in the house.
He turned on the TV, and switched off the telephone……………………………………………
He surfed the Pay TV channels. Disinterested. Flicking from one to another.
Channel 4. “Oh Samantha….Derwood’s been acting like a jackass…no, I thought it appropriate that he become one…..”
Six, …..”Green acres is the place for me…..”
Seven,……”A dimension of sight……A dimension of sound.”
Eight, …….”And you have just entered……”
Something strange. “Huh?”
Nine, …….”the twilight zone”
Back to six. …………”…..the twilight zone”
Nine, “……the twilight zone”
“What is this?” He muttered. He dabbed the Standby button. The TV stayed on. Slowly he raised himself from the chair, jabbing at the red remote button. The TV stayed on.
Rod Serling in his undertakers suit stood in front of a floating door. The remote refused to function, and Serling, intent on saying his piece glared from the electronic world into the real world. The real world?
“AS I was saying……..” He glared…….” IF I have your attention….YOU have just entered the twilight zone. THIS is your reality Robert my boy.” His face softened. “ So now would be a good time to get a grip. Why did you do it my boy? Cut off her reality like that? You’re an idiot. A fool.”
Rod’s face took on the schoolteacher expression. “ You think you were clever. But you’re only a martyr. And in the twilight zone……THINGS happen to martyrs…..martyrs without cause.”
Serling laughed his odd Vincent Price laugh, complete with reverb.
Roberts mouth had opened wide. He slumped back into his chair, confused. “What’s happening?” Now he wished there was some alcohol in the house.
“Good” Said Rod. “Make yourself comfortable” He flipped open a pack of Luckies, and promptly withdrew them. Looking apologetic. “Oh! I’m sorry! You quit didn’t you?”
Ridiculously Robert thought. “That’s all wrong! Mike Hammer smokes Luckies!”
Rod answered as if the thought had been verbalized. “That’s in YOUR reality son. At least you stopped this filthy habit.” He waved the cylinder and Robert distinctly smelt the acrid smoke. “ But it seems that was the only sensible thing you’ve ever done in your life. You had it all….everything you ever wanted in a woman.”
Robert felt ridiculous talking to a pay TV channel. But could not stop himself anyway. “Yes, but we’d never have…………….”
”Don’t dare interrupt me!” Rod thundered. ”Do I have to remind you that THIS is the TWILIGHT ZONE? And you know that ALL SORTS of strange and horrible things can happen to you if you don’t watch out!…….. As I was saying………….She’s the best thing that could ever happen to you. Just LOOK at yourself! What a pathetic mess! Look at your place for God’s sake…….it’s a disgrace. “ Again he waved the Lucky Strike around, pointing here, pointing there. “Every day that you haven’t had contact with her you’ve regressed a little bit my friend. You’re backsliding my friend. Think about it. Think about going back, and back, and back…….until you become what you are inside my friend…..a bug. A ROACH!
Think about it, boy. THINK………She made you happy. You SAID so. Here…..” Rod pulled a huge roll of paper from somewhere off camera. Yards and yards and yards. His finger traced down the lines……
“And HERE………….and HERE! Who do you think is worried about your life before her? WHO my friend? What a poor and paltry life THAT was! “
Again Rod’s face softened, as only the Serling face can. From one expression to another in a megasecond.
“You take happiness however you can. Get it? And believe me it doesn’t come packaged up all neat and tidy. DO I make myself clear? “
Rod dropped the cigarette onto the floor and stubbed it out with a shiny black patent leather shoe.
Robert felt like a child. An apologetic, confused, beleaguered child. He pushed both hands through his greasy unwashed hair.
“I……” Words were trapped in the back of his throat. He hurrrrhd! it away. “Even if I wanted to…. I … I couldn’t ….she’s not there… It’s like…..she’s disappeared off the face of the earth!”
Rod laughed. This time a kindly I-know-something-you-don’t-know laugh.
“Perhaps…..Just PERHAPS she’s disappeared into the twilight zone.” Then he was gone, and Darren Stevens brayed like a mule as Endora turned him back into a mere mortal with a sweep of chiffon.
The writer turned the TV off , and pushed the telephone switch. His hands were shaking. “Christ! I need a drink!” He muttered. Slowly he punched up Deborrahs number. It rang twice before the answering machine connected. He knew THAT voice well enough.
“Hi. The number you have reached has ……never existed. But if you wish you might leave a message anyway, and I’ll see that SHE gets it!……Oh and by the way….turn on your computer….have a nice day.”
The beep sounded, and Robert almost shouted. “I…..I love you!”
“The number you have reached is not connected………….Please check…..”
Heartsick he did as Rod Serling said, and switched on his computer. The screen exploded into life with windows floating icons. But they were……different. Floating transparent doors, and midnight stars hurtling at massive velocity through time and space.
“Oh Christ!” He shouted in forlorn panic. “Have…? I have finally snapped!”
Anger rose from his toes, sweeping rapidly through his body. Hands seized the monitor, about to give it the modem treatment. And the twilight zone intro disappeared instantly.
In twenty point upper case, dead centre of screen three letters appeared. <ily!>
A soft sweet voice he had never heard before, but one he knew SO well, whispered at his shoulder.
“No sweetheart…..you haven’t snapped”
He spun around in panic, heart hammering a pile driving thudder! Thudder! Thudder!
The front door was wide open.
“Hello darling……I’m Deborrah.”
This is what I really wanted! Incomplete sentences, machine gun emotions spattered and scattered. The story is not meant to abide by rules of grammar… it is an emotional tirade!)
TWO SPARROWS IN A HURRICANE (Original form)
(experimental. Incomplete sentences. Staccato writing.)
It was raining. Had been for three weeks now. Ever since the thunderstorms brought to a close the worst drought in recorded history.
60,000 cattle shot. 150,000 sheep. And a few farmers.
12,000 primary producers, market gardeners, and graziers ruined.
At first there was elation. The rain started on a Sunday. Just in time for the pious to give thanks to God. Flocked in their masses. Proud and preening. Pleased with their power to reach right there into heaven with their prayers. And make God listen.Thank you God! Thank you Jesus!
The first furious drops smashed fledgling Swallows to the ground. October hatchlings. November casualties.
And then it came. Great roaring waves. It breathed. At first torrential. Then receding to thin drizzle. Before becoming a wind driven drowning pool. Elation turned to trepidation. Shopkeepers began removing stock. Householders their carpets, t.v’s. Lotto coupons.
Even with a little rain Max was ruined. Crops failed. Livestock gone. $250,000 owed to the bank.
That Sunday Max had contemplated suicide. In the event, he did not do it.
Had he been a little less depressed, he might have seen the rock. He might have taken more notice of the storm before it broke.He might have done many things. He didn’t The tractor hit the rock. Slewed. Toppled .
Unconscious, face down in a pool of mud.
He didn’t mind. Or, had he known anything about it, wouldn’t have minded.
Grubby existence anyway. Bushfire. Drought. Flood. Bank managers. One natural disaster after another. Margaret had been his only reason.
After the business of burial, Margaret went home to the farm. She cleaned the house. Washed rain-streaming windows. Ironed Maxs’ clothes. Functioned in a quietly irrational, demented way.
Laid Max out on the kitchen table. Birth certificate. Insurances. Death certificate. Medals .
Proof of once having existed.
She hummed. A sad little tune. It was a song he used to sing. About two sparrows in
She stared through storm swept windows. At nothing particular.
Max had never recovered from Vietnam.
Margaret had never recovered from being born.
There was a night out on the rocks. He stumbled on her. Wedged into her secret crevice high above a black, rolling sea. With a bottle of Beam, and a sputtering candle stub.
Lonely. Drunk. Stoned little hippy chick. And quite beautiful. Blonde hair. Long. In
It was a hot, humid summer night. Only a stirring of air.
He sat down. Drew up his knees and hugged them.
She didn’t look up. They didn’t speak. He watched her. Sandstone reflected the candlelight. She was beautiful. Tears coursing her cheeks. She brought the bottle to her lips in regular fluid motion.
Max reached out. Gently placing his hand over hers. But with no force.
Margaret let go the bottle, and Max lifted it to his lips. He could smell her on it.
Jasmine? Some oil? Sandalwood perhaps? One of those essences.
They took turn and turn about. He swigged. She swigged.
Max pulled out his pouch, and rolled a number. Lit it. Toked. Offered. She took it.
A seed burst showering her with hot ash. She flicked at her blouse. Toked. Gave it back .
Then Margaret stood up,. blew out the flame. She was sure footed in the dark.
Scrambling upwards to the narrow walking track.
Max stayed. He said nothing.
But Margaret did.
She was thirty feet away when she said “Tomorrow” and kept walking.
Max sat awhile watching the big tankers. Their lights a long line on the horizon.
Two and a half million people. Dead.
Seven and a half million tons of bombs. Statistics.Technological madness unleashed on a third world country. By the most powerful nation on earth.
Max drowned in their blood. And the enormity of his own crimes against humanity. With no hope of atonement. He did his best. His best was never enough.
At twenty, they sent him to hell. Condemned his soul. Oil tankers in a line.
That every car runs on blood.
That every man, woman, and child stands responsible.
And tomorrow, and tomorrow
Lights on the horizon. Max rolled another. And ached. For the chance to save one living soul. And in so doing, his own.
Max was the devil incarnate. Margaret his acolyte. Her mother said so. The pastor told her mother. Her mother told the town.
Lynch mobs grow like weeds.
Religion and economics. Gatherers of souls, both.
Margaret fell in hove with the bush. Up in the hills. Feral land where she could go naked and free. And tend her horses.
Max bought it. With his savings. A few hundred wild and beautiful acres. God! They were a pair!
She flipped idly at the edges of the documents on the table.
“GOD!… Let these memories go away!”
But they kept crowding. Fragments of their lives together. She thought that pushing them out aloud would shift them.
But it was just a voice echoing back in an empty house.
“Two sparrows in a hurricane.. ”
She shrugged. Her face crumpled in sobs.
Every day like this? Will it be every day? And every day? And every day?
The rain still came.
Persisting down, he used to say. “It’s persisting down!”
Max had terrible depressions. Black. Brooding things. Nightmares. About ‘The Man’. The man who offered him barbecued babies. Childrens’ internal organs.
A charming, suave, smiling son of a bitch!
Terror. Crippling; wailing terror. Margaret would lean over. Quick, confident, soothing. Hushing him. Her lips on his. Gentle. Soft.
“Hush! Max! hush baby! Sparrow’s here! It’s alright. Sparrow’s here”. Cradled, and safe, he could sleep.
The town would be flooded. Even when the streets had dried, the creek crossings would still be up.
“Oh Max! Why? Damn you! BASTARD! BASTARD!” The house absorbed her scream.
And the rain punched the tin roof.
“He died. He died. He died. He died. He died. He died ” The litany of grief.
A curious thing. Margaret found herself watching. Watching herself. Her ‘self’ in grief. As someone else. Watching memories. Jostling things. Crowding for space. Watching her reaction to them.
She viewed it all with detached fascination.
So this is what it feels like! Will I be strong enough? Will SHE be strong enough?
“You’ll do. Max once said. “You’ll get there sparrer! You’re a toughy!”
The end of their first year. Margaret was happy. And proud. The end of the hardest year she ever expected to experience. Ever. Ever. Ever.
To come out here! All the way to this beautiful place. With nothing. Just a little old caravan!And rusty old Suzuki. She was dirty. Calloused. And smelt of summer sweat.
Max couldn’t have cared. He lifted her. Stepped over the threshold of her own homebuilt utterly gorgeous house! Just rocks, and mud. And poles cut from the bush. And a palace! A castle! A cathedral! Max dropped her onto the bed. She bounced. Giggled. HUGE! A pole four poster. Drapes of brown velvet.
She felt like a queen. She squealed with the sheer joy of being she. What a lucky girl 1 am I am I am I am!
Max too, in his quiet, gentle way, expressed his delight.
The rain eased. Suddenly. A snappy breeze bustled in from nowhere.
A fat brown leaf smacked the broken window pane and toppled through.
She’d broken the glass whilst hammering nails into little pieces of quad border. So upset! But Max just grinned. He’d get around to fixing it sometime.
It was a good year that first one. Good rain, and good soil. Max worked long hours. Silently determined. Capsicums and Chillis. He liked growing them. And they liked it too. They responded.
The house garden too was lush. Herbs, vegetables, berry fruits.
And the house was done. Not finished…done. Bare. Empty of furniture or cladding. Oh but the potential! Her own house!
Max was neither vain, nor stupid. It was his age. He’d been no angel. Lived it hard. Chances of a heart attack? Stroke? Or when the Black Dog came calling. He had to bear THAT in mind just in case.
He put everything he could into insurance. Life. He planned and plotted for Margarets future. So that if when he was no longer around “I DON’T CARE! DAMN YOUUUUU!”
Insurance policies surfed the carpet.
Why do I feel so angry? Angry and cheated?
“SO Max! Is there a God! HUH?? Is there?” Damn him! Damn him to hell!! NO! No no no no no no! I’m sorry! Don’t damn him!
Perhaps……… she thought….. there’s nothing! Nothing at all! Poor Max!
Max had a theory. It made him feel better about God. He believed that every creature is of the earth. That one rises from it, returns to it. That ‘soul’ is energy of all that IS. Death he believed released that soul energy to its source. To the allness of everything he called it.
Margaret loved to hear him tell it. He was a man in love with his earth. And his earth mother. And his last chance little sparrow.
He could have been content. But for Vietnam. The victims. His debt. His sentence.
His face! So beautiful when we made love! So tender’…….. Allness of everything!
Margaret began to sing softly.
“Two sparrows in a hurricane ” Paused. Spoke aloud. Barely audible. And still the tears would not stop coming. And coming, and coming.
“We were, weren’t we Max? Just two sparrows in a Hurricane.”
The sky had cleared. Hot sun,. amid steam. Bringing that clean-laundered smell to the air. One of those special times after long rains. When everything in the bush.. .even the rocks…sighs in unison.
Roosters crow and strut. Bragging their beauty in wing flapping. Things hidden venture forth. And always for just moments, all is at peace. In harmony.
That puffy brown leaf…the breezes’ blow-in,. chirped. Flapped.
Little more than a nestling!. It shuddered, and lay still. Margaret stared.
Well? You can’t just leave it there poor thing!
No. No, she’s not crazy that girl. They say so. Not me.
That bird’s with her all the time. A little cock sparrow it is. Flies around her head. Lands in her hair and sits there chirrupping. Leans over and whistles when she sings. That song you know? About them two sparrows in a hurricane or something.
She loves that place of hers out in the bush She doesn’t work it He set her up nicely with the insurance. Just lives there. In the bush. Her and the bird
Think what you want. She’s not potty. And neither am I.
She calls it Max you know. Talks to it. And it chirps back.
“Now tell me this”. The taxi driver began to whistle a tune. I’d heard. it before.
“What bird could learn to whistle that eh?” He said.
Lodowicke Muggleton was a zealot. In league with his compatriot John Reaves, in 1651 these two declared themselves to be the “Last Two Witnesses.” They traveled from place to place ‘denouncing with great violence all whom they regarded as false professors of religion, and even magistrates and persons in authority.’
His fanaticism was sincere. He more than once spent time in prison for ‘the vigour’ with which he prosecuted his commission. He published pamphlets.
Muggleton is no fiction. He ‘Dyed the 14th March 1698, then aged eighty-eight years, seven months, and fourteen days.’
His description was of ‘one with long thin hair, low forehead, protruding brow, broad high cheek-bones, and what physiognomists would call the aggressive nose’
He was a witchfinder.
In 1656 he exposed his doctrines in a work called “The Divine Looking Glass.” At about this time his followers formed a sect that survives to this day.
Just follow. There are complexities. There is no need to remember dates, no need to think in historical terms. There is only fact, and fiction, and how one can live in the shade of another. Most writers meld fact with fiction. It is an accepted mischief.
The introduction to the original 2003 text of “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” uses Muggleton’s description of a gown. Dora Pollexfen, the author, borrowed this gown for her hero Anna Pettyt. She was she said, “impressed” with the depth of emotion Muggleton displayed. “There is” she says, “an implicit eroticism buried within this piece of text.” And it is with this description of this gown that “I caught the first bright vision of Anna Pettyt.”
If you wish to leave your seats ladies and gentlemen, may I suggest that you wander around the hologram. Those who wish to inspect the material may do so with the aid of our museum’s curator.
The rich magnificence of this dress…the perfect elegance…and the simplicity of its adornment are matters of forethought. Not a garment to accentuate but to conceal.
Dora Pollexfen chose to live a solitary, simple life. Rising at dawn she would wash in cold water, comb out sleep tangles from her hair, set a modest fire if the weather dictated, and prepare an austere breakfast. By seven she would be at her kitchen table with the morning sun waking her potted window herbs. There she would write about Anna Pettyt.
We know as little about Dora Pollexfen as we do of Anna Pettyt. We can make assumptions. We can guess, and we know sufficient to guess with some intelligence.
She marveled constantly at the irony that her circumstances presented. That a poor 17th century peasant girl could create such riches for her. That such a creation could make it possible to step from the austerity of one life, to the opulence of another. This we learn from her inter-views.
That initial book “Anna: To the Alms of Dante.” Bewitched millions of readers.
Dora took the name Pettyt from a book. It was a book of biography entitled “Great Men of Great Britain, a second thousandth printing, published by Charles Griffin and Company Stationer’s Hall Court, London.
“I chose the name Pettyt because the man in question seemed to have such an interesting job. He was the Keeper of the Tower Records, and author of writings on the Ancient Constitution of Parliament. He was born in 1636 and died in 1707. Originally he was to have been my central character, but then I found that he had been ‘bewiytched’ by a peasant girl, Anna, whom he purchased for a bride on her thirteenth birthday. When I read Muggleton’s description of the dress, and the time in which he lived, the dress just seemed perfect for Anna. After all, William Pettyt, the Keeper of Tower Records, was an insanely jealous man. It all just came together. Anna the fiction became more real by having an historical character court, and marry her. William Pettyt had that most magnificent gown ‘in the known worlde’ made specifically to conceal the beauty of his possession…and of course his ‘possession’ more completely possessed him than he possessed her…”
nb: Quoted from the Inter-Views Cd Rom of 2003
Jack Hargreaves had his audience spellbound. He paused to sip iced water, casting his eye carefully at the potential for profit. He smiled at Michelle. Of all the bidders, she was the one who looked bored. Diffident perhaps. But then she held his gaze, and he lowered his eyes, killing the smarmy smile. He cleared his throat, and sipped a little more water; sure that no one had noticed his momentary discomfort. She was magnetic, and he forced his eyes not to keep straying to her.
“Gentlemen.” He paused. “Ladies” He flashed again his pearly whites, but this time patently fraudulent. “Shall we have a short break for drinks?’
The ladies were about him the moment he stepped down from the rostrum. Not for his surprising youth, nor for his brand of sparkling intelligence, but for the fact that he felt dangerous. Close up he seemed so much taller, thinner. His suit and demeanor were all Sotherby’s. His bearing too. However….
They all wanted to know about Anna. William Pettyt’s Anna. Was there any description of her? What did she look like? Was she beautiful?
Hargreaves fenced with them. He, like them had no idea, so he gave scholarly replies that were both articulate and clueless. He glanced around for that other woman, but Michelle had not joined the surrounding women. He felt ridiculously relieved.
A black-haired woman nursing a Blue Burmese cat came close. Hargreave’s nose stiffened. Her eyes were as bright as Belladonna. Her face round, and soft, and free of lines, though her forties must have fully enfolded her he supposed. Had she anticipated his agenda?
“Mr Hargreaves? What of Dora Pollexfen? Is she as fascinating as her fiction?”
“Yes..Of course.” He said, shrugging of a vague discomfort. He glanced in haste at the Burmese cat. Cats bothered him.
Hargreaves felt safer up on the rostrum. Removed from down there where his nerves rebelled. He strode back to his position, leaving the throng to their champagne and caviar. Returning to the fascinating fruits of his research. Standing now aloft, he paused, waiting authoritatively for silence. The low hubbub diminished, then stopped altogether. He worked the silence. It made the crowd uncomfortable, waiting. It relieved them to hear his voice again, and they became attentive.
He scrolled up on his Rombook, and keyed in Pollex…D. Please wait. Searching… flashed onto the screen and almost immediately the text appeared. He was secretly proud that he had so well anticipated the war. These notes, his notes had never been available online, even though it was illegal to withhold knowledge. Still, he felt justified. Particularly now.
“Coincidence?” He began, “or design? Dora Pollexfen had a relative. This man was not just anyone. The author’s relative was an exceptional man. He was Sir Henry Pollexfen, a lawyer. In 1688 Sir Henry acted as counsel for the seven bishops. Later he became the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. He died in 1692. Now, notwithstanding that this places Sir Henry in the same time/space as Dora Pollexfen’s fiction, it is almost certain that he knew, or was known to William Pettyt. As I said at the beginning, follow me. There are complexities. Paradoxical no doubt, but ladies and gentlemen, please try to follow me. Remember how I said that fact and fiction can live in the shade of one another.
Hargreaves tapped his little keyboard. Pettyt.A.
He sipped at his water briefly for effect. “On 1st day of May 2004, the first of the New Era witches was attacked by the mob and burnt at the stake in the town of Kings Lynn in Norfolk England. Anne Pettit, a young farm worker was a practitioner of the ‘Old Ways’ She lived alone outside the town, and collected old texts on paper, having no desire for our digital lifestyle. The fact that she was very beautiful we can clearly see by our hologram. In recent months we have made the necessary calculations, and, as you can see ladies and gentlemen, this gown might have fit her form and figure with exceptional comfort.” Hargreaves’ face hardened with accusation. “Perhaps though it was no more than a coincidence that Dora Pollexfen’s irresponsible use of a simple girls name in 2003…that mischief of working together fact and fiction, condemned an innocent lass to death.”
Hargreaves began to feel that fire in his belly. Suddenly it had ignited. “Anne, the New Era Witch became known as ANNA THE NEW. That she traded at the local markets in crystals and charms did not help her case. Nor that she read the Tarot. Of course no one admitted to ever having consulted her. Perhaps it was all a tragic coincidence. Just an accident of space and time. Anne Pettit was never given a trial. She was permitted no confession, nor any defence. Her ‘examination’ was not lawfully conducted, no ‘expert’ was called, and no cleric was present.”
Now Hargreaves scanned his miserable audience with an accusing eye. Michelle held his gaze and nodded in slow, amused agreement. He shifted his gaze quickly, passing over the woman with Burmese cat.
“Anna: To the Alms of Dante” was completed as a paper book in January of 2002. Dora Pollexfen could find no market for it. Troubador wanted a classic ‘Bodice Ripper’. Others wanted something more ‘occult’. Larger publishers simply wanted a ‘spellbinder’ and found the work too scholarly. Oddly, others claimed it to be too sensational. So “Anna” remained in the slushpile of a hundred agents, editor, and publishers. Dora Pollexfen’s credits became debits, and she was pulled from the Credit of Commerce files. The final straw was the e-mail to tell her that she had two weeks to pay, or her computer access would be terminated. At the end of 2002 she faced the ignominy of being listed “Non Productive.”
Dora had no choice. She took “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” to the digital world, and as you may all know, it became the first paperless novel to sell more than ten million downloads. What we now know as the Universal Interweave was then called the Internet. It was slow, cumbersome and difficult to use. Equipment filled entire desktops, and with only sixty million subscribers, the internet was of suspect economic value.
An amused murmur circulated the room.
“The internet then was a village where anarchy prevailed, and the New Era Witches practiced their business openly there. Dora Pollexfen jointed the organization ‘Artists on the Internet, and she was soon contacted by a loose group of technogenius’, later to become known as the ‘Inter-illustrators Corporation’. And so I think it is true to say that “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” cast a spell upon those cave dwelling anarchists of the digital world. Anna now lived.
In 2003, a week before her disappearance, Pollexfen held an on-line conference. She was questioned at length about the many roles of Anna. The pornography, the violence, the heresies.
Hargreaves let out a wet chuckle as he pronounced heresies.
“In one interview Pollexfen admitted ‘It just got out of hand’.” He made his voice sound a little weary, with a small pause after each word. Then he gathered himself up and agitated his little keyboard once more.
“Pollexfen was lucky…or she was a witch.” Hargreaves laughed again. “ Her publisher was not particularly competent, but he was honest, and within a few weeks she had her credits re-established, and her name was removed from the Welfare files. In those early days she moved to Yorkshire, taking a small stone cottage on the moors near Whitby. Well, one could hardly call it a cottage. It was a windswept, vile hovel more than two hundred years old, and empty for a hundred of them. Close enough anyway. The records show that a hippy family briefly lived there in the 1970’s, and before that, again briefly, a rabbi and his family of refugees accorded the place some decency in 1945. And, in 1860 a young girl, besotted with the Bronte’s had taken up a romantic notion to live in that certain manner. She soon became a victim of the elements, and walkers found her body in July of 1861, almost rotted to pulp.”
The audience was losing it. Not so the lady with the cat, who kept her gaze firmly fixed on Hargreaves, to his dismay. Michelle seemed to be more interested too, and bedecked her face with a bright look of amusement.
Hargreaves the scholar, and historian , auctioneer of fine arts and artifacts, was being lurid! Or was he leading somewhere? It could be that he was simply full of egotistic excitement at his long years of pains taking research, and wanted to bragg. Nevertheless, in the collective mind of the audience, he was getting scary. The zeal of the salesman becoming the zeal of the zealot. Madness being managed for a moment or two, and then slipping once more. His fingers worked at the keyboard, slamming at the keys, and his voice took on a tone of fundamentalism. “Consider!” He roared suddenly. “It is possible…probable that the fictional Anna Actually, truly existed! According to the story, she was forced to marry Sir William at the age of thirteen. That Sir William was a most jealous man is well documented. Also well documented is his ‘possession’ by a girl so beautiful that he became ‘wylde with desire for her!’ and PERHAPS… driven insane by this girls beauty, he sought to cover her charms with such finery as …this!” He waved his arm towards the hologram, and with a satisfied smack of the lips showed that however flimsy the evidence, he had proved the authenticity of the gown. And now could establish a price. But Hargreaves was not finished.
“Our author Dora Pollexfen has the fictional Anna run away at the age of sixteen from the abusive Pettyt, taking with her nothing but this astounding gown. And Pettyt, enraged by rejection, called the Witchfinders to their business. Here, truth and fiction meld remarkably well together. The witchfinders business was a filthy one. Few had ever seen the face of Anna, so well was she kept from society. And so a great many innocents were tortured and put to death on her account. In the fiction, Anna fled to Yorkshire. So too did the real Anna. But Pollexfen would not have, could not have known this fact! For it is my research, from suppressed books and documents which unearthed this fact!” Hargreaves’ forehead beaded with sweat. He dabbed at it with a red silk handkerchief ripped from the top pocket of his perfect suit. “She fled to Yorkshire. Just, ladies and gentlemen as did Dora Pollexfen!”
His oratory softened suddenly, and his voice became the voice of reason. “Surely, just a story was all she wrote. Of course. Just an electronic, interactive fiction. Not so to the millions to whom Anna became a digital reality though ladies and gentlemen. Those who owned their virtual reality suits, or rented them from the pornographers, were able to communicate directly with Anna in the vilest manner. It was now that the dark side of the internet offered a new virtual reality story. “The Examination of Anna”. It came complete with the witchfinders manual and any person with the inclination could do with Anna whatever their hearts desired. Dora Pollexfen tried to sue, and failed. The entire “Anna” had become a licensed product, with royalties accruing to Pollexfens already massive account. Though she claimed to have been sickened by it, she accepted the vile credits. Anna was featured in a great many degrading occult offerings of those years. The computer generators made Anna something of rare beauty, although she could not have borne any resemblance to the authors Anna. Pollexfen had always written carefully so that no detailed description existed. She was a clever writer. Clues were all she wrote. Black hair, high cheekbones, small and slim, self-assured. There was little else to identify how the fictional Anna looked. Except for one thing. A small brown mole on her left breast, known in legend to be ‘the imps suckle’.
Hargreaves was on a roll. “Pollexfen befriended a young techno-anarchist. For two days this young man had murdered the entire world’s banking systems and had held the flow of credits single-handedly to ransom. He was never caught. Instead, he made contact with the techno-courts at Microsoft, volunteered his online identity, and furnished a suitable reason for his actions. He reinstated the systems, and wrote a killer virus which is still in use today. In return he was granted a pardon, and anonymity. He is now inaccessible.
Whether Dora Pollexfen contacted him or he Dora is not known. That they did collude is certainly known. Consequently in late 2003 Dora was ‘expunged’ from all files. She completely disappeared. There are no credit files to be found on Dora Pollexfen. No birth, marriage, or death certificates. No licenses of any description. It is as if Dora Pollexfen never existed at all ladies and gentlemen. She has paralleled her own fictional character!
However…we have some clues. Some evidence. The cottage on the moor remained occupied, though by strangers, and it is through these strangers, we find that Dora has become something more than a simple storyteller. She has become an accomplice, an active member in a digital coven dedicated to…Anna Pettyt! This coven networked with others, cast spells. Welters of publications in defense of Anna were published, and attacks made on the virtual porn merchants, purveyors of the obscene Anna.
The dark side retaliated with new software. “Witchfinder” was the first witch-hunting software. It was developed by a religious zealot whose fundamental harangues had pervaded the internet for years. He was a sincere, but somewhat obsessive man ladies and gentlemen. He was my father James Hargreaves. A crusader for Jesus. James Hargreaves formed the very first Interdenominational Fundamental Digital Church of Christ.
Initially my father wrote “Witchfinder” as an interactive text file. It was a sincere, but emotional outburst. A denial of evil. But, as happened with ‘Anna’ his text gathered new dimensions. Others helped him to develop, and as he grew in stature, he began to recruit.
PETTIT.A Hargreaves prompted. He sipped briefly at the tumbler of water.
“A quirk of fate ladies and gentlemen? That Anne Pettit of 2004 bore many of the traits of the fictional Anna? She too was a quiet girl, living alone in the country. She kept fowls, grew herbs, and concocted potions. She shunned the digital world, and was therefore, free of economic restraints. She possessed neither computer, nor credits, after all, she could not have one without the other”. Hargreaves wet chuckle returned. “This Anne, this young girl…she did not profess to witchcraft. Nor did she admit to any belief in magic, or sorcery. Or for that matter to the existence of a higher being. She would say no more than ‘All which comes from the earth must return to it.’ She slaughtered her fowls only at night, bleeding them over her garden. By the moon she planted her crops. She kept a faith which, she said was purely her own. She was not privy to our mass-communication. She had little idea of the thoughts and deeds of the masses. She was aware of the good, and the evil in folk, and she was visited for her labours. When the men who came tried to lay a hand on her she became a whip of steel, so that the flash of her eyes made them afraid, and the tensile spring in her body coiled to strike out at their eyes. It was attested by one of these men that she changed from human to cat and inflicted deep scratches, which constantly festered”.
The Burmese mewled. The woman held it closer.
Hargreaves hit the ESC button, and took his time to re-access the file. The hologram dress, turning slowly, and the smiling soft young face of the wearer Anne Pettit, gazed from under the sheer black veil.
“With the burning of Anne Pettit there came an outpouring. The Witch-hunts of 2005/5 took wings. In this one mind-numbing year of madness, our churches were brought to their knees. Priests, nuns, bishops, archbishops, and popes were denounced. Accused of child molestation, heresy, and acts of corruption. Cult moved against cult, war was waged in the name of Christianity and the ‘true way’ on Islam, and Islam fought back with all the might it could muster. Cataclysm. And as you know ladies and gentlemen, the world split itself asunder.”
Hargreaves paused, letting his words seep through to the audience.
“You may believe ladies and gentlemen… or you may not…that this is the dress worn by the real “Anna”… if indeed she really existed. Fact, and fantasy, and fiction may well have melded together to form it’s own truth. Perhaps. There is, in the record, a letter. It came from an early admirer of Dora Pollexfens’ work. In 2002 when “Anna: To the Alms of Dante” first touched our lives, there was a man, Air Vice Marshal Henry Pettyt. In his letter a ‘gift’ of this gown is described, in the hope that Dora would accept it from ‘an ardent and grateful fan.’ It must of course be a fraud. Undoubtedly. All those people I have mentioned here today are dead or disappeared. Many thousands of innocent people are dead… and some of the guilty. Millions more are now marked for examination. Now that the Universal Interweave is within the control of the Corporation, we have complete control of all knowledge. We do, say, think and believe only this knowledge.
Ladies and gentlemen…today is a special sale. Today this auction house has the privilege of being able to offer you not a replica of a fictional garment…but…” With a flourish Hargreaves smiled and waved his hand. The hologram ceased its ballerina dance and vanished. A low appreciative gasp circulated the room. Hargreaves smiled broadly. He tapped his Rombook and closed the lid with satisfaction, taking up his gavel. The hologram, perfect as it was could hold no candle to this gown. Vermillion and black. Quite astonishing, it seemed to vibrate with a life of it’s own. “This garment..” Hargreaves began.. “Is no replica! The material is authentic. Dyed with cinnabar, and hand-stitched by the tiniest of hands. The material is of Turkish origin, and dated to the early part of the 17th century. Dora Pollexfen wore this dress! Found beneath the stone floor of her abandoned cottage on the moors near Whitby! Ladies and gentlemen, I have proved to you today that Dora Pollexfen, and Anna Pettyt were one and the same! A soul passed from body to body across the centuries! And it is in this garment, this spellbinding garment that she cast her spells. Ladies and gentlemen… what am I bid to start the auction? Sixty thousand credits? Ninety! I have ninety in the corner. One hundred and seventy… the lady with the cat” Hargreaves became flustered until the bid was raised. Michelle raised her hand at two hundred and twenty thousand credits. She smiled her amused smile at him. He returned it with a knowing nod.
Michelle Little chewed the end of her pencil, ever amused. It was between her and the cat-woman.
Hargreaves’ eyes beseeched, and Michelle held him in collusion until the cat-woman fell silent and hung her head sullenly. Two million credits, and ever a bargain.
Anarchy still survives on the Universal Interweave. There is a natural law that governs all species. Technology cannot outwit that.
The vineyards are good this year. It will be a rare vintage. The Chateau is quite splendid at this time of the season, and all is united, as it should be. The earth to the sky, all that lives to the earth, and Mother Nature in her kindest mood.
Jean met her with a smile as wide as his arms. I watched from the window. “Madmoiselle Petite! Bonjour! Bonjour! Welcome Home.” Michelle Little embraced the old man, who seemed to gain lightness in his step. He bent with ease to take her bags.
Now that Miss Michelle is home, we shall have a celebration tonight. For the thirteen of us alone, and she will wear the lost gown and cast her spells amongst us.