[Destiny] Chapter 46: Reason Alchemist

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Thousands of light years from your home, from where you were born, from other people who resembled you

YOU

YOURSELF, ALL PARTS, ALL SCHISMED ASPECTS

sitting in a hidden basement behind a broken wall in an abandoned pueblo behind a Portuguese hill in the middle of an imitation desert near a decrepit service station called Almodóvar Chicken

realising in spurts where you were, where you truly, physically were, how isolated that position was, how weird the purple mineral deposits in the walls looked

enervated, drained, relieved

all cowed by blankness, body strangely there, real skin an inch behind, gone in the Baudrillardian sense, laughing, an ironic simulated atom thatch

not only lost in place

but lost in concept

stranger in a Star Trek cave

any series.

~~~

Sitting with her back arched was sustainable only for latter-day nihilists, and her left knee had been digging in so hard so long to a jagged chunk of earth that Joanna had no real choice but to give up on the pit stakeout and pull herself over to the nearby wall.

Which is where the counter-thought hit.

What if the moment you left, his eyes had appeared, or Søren’s eyes, glowing purple, begging beacon-like for a hand up? Or another hand to drag down…

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[Destiny] Chapter 45: Portal Perpetual

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The landscape surrounding Almodóvar Chicken wasn’t as barren or desert-like as it had seemed from the service station car park

not superficially

as over the first set of hills lay a small pueblo, white walls and dustbowl ground, abandoned

but not historically without hope

at least in the 80’s

cos when the service station was originally built – at the start of that decade, twinned with Almodóvar’s second film Laberinto De Pasiones – there had been plans to bring the place back to life, mainly through film tourism.

The idea wasn’t a hundred per cent clean, as it relied heavily on mimicry and low information tourists, but if those tourists had been unable to locate the castle from The Fearless Vampire Killers and somehow found themselves in the Portuguese countryside, then they could potentially be tricked into thinking this village really was the same place Sergio Leone had dragged Lee van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonté to duel object-erotically in For a Few Dollars More, with the pea-brained American fascist with no name lurking off at the side somewhere, ready to slap anyone with tits and a Sontag zine.

To buttress the deception

there were promotional signs copied directly from the pastiche-approximation of the real shooting location near Almeria, Spain, placed at the entrance to the village, boards with hero-size shots from the final shootout, other locations from earlier in the Agua Caliente scenes that had been recreated with a layman-eye substitute level of detail.

They’d even brought giant stones in from the nearby desert and made a circle out of them, plus two life-sized dummies modelled on El Indio and Da Colonel.

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[Destiny] Chapter 44: Almodóvar Chicken

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The next morning, the reunited trio checked out of the unburnt hostel and headed over to Sevilla’s main bus station, aiming one more time to buy tickets without showing their passports.

Una tarea optimista at first but

with no air-con

30 degree heat

a queue of ten propped up behind

it soon sank into pale farce, Joanna trying to put a new plaster on Sila’s leaking arm wound as he said ‘too young to do passport’ to the ticket guy, and Søren picking at the dry blood scabs, whispering something in old Danish.

The final result, no tickets

no sympathy

and watery coffee in the bus terminal café.

‘Really, really don’t want to drive,’ started Sila, scratching his plaster, eyes on the Debordian hole in the station wall.

‘No car,’ replied Joanna, taking her coffee cup back from Søren.

‘… … … …’ in raw Danish.

‘It’s my drink.’

‘… … … … …’

‘You’ve already had half.’

‘… … … …’

‘That’s my finger.’

‘… … … … …’

Sila told them both to stop in Danish, pulled out his phone and stared at the blank screen. Then the hole in the bus terminal wall again. A local was bending down, placing a toy sledgehammer like a bouquet of aware that you’re dead lilies.

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[Destiny] Chapter 43: Ritualism For Old Time’s Sake

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With a bunch of drunk Portuguese guests screeching I’m not Spanish as a backdrop,

Sila sat down at the coffee-stained table

in the hostel kitchen

rubbed at the arm that he’d slept on funny the night before

and tried to read the Chinese on the carton with a substandard lemon pic. One word, lemon, obviously, but the rest of it

no idea

and even when Joanna intercepted his brainwaves and said no sugar lemon tea, there was no flinch or tut or bite back in raw Slovene, just a concentrated shift to the stairs leading down to the hostel entrance.

‘Staring will definitely make it happen,’ said Joanna, sucking the carton into disrepair then throwing the remains towards the bin [and missing]. Irritated, she got up and corrected the mistake, saying no to the Portuguese guy trying to hand her a tambourine.

On the couches, in the adjoining communal zone, the rest of the drunks stopped singing. For four seconds. Then started up with a new song, this one in more advanced Portuguese.

Joanna gave it one line before muttering, ‘vai, vai, vai, vai, vai, vai,’ and heading back to her seat.

Sila was still stuck on the stairs, mesmerised.

‘You need a telescope?’ she tried, unsure of her own line.

No response.

‘Okay. No telescope.’

Eyes half hazed, she turned and stared at the Santa Sangre poster on the wall for a good seven minutes, mind shifting in soft moves between the film and the director, the setting and a flight back home, family and insanity, a cartoon duck she used to find funny when she was small, that same duck with blood on its beak as a tiny blonde girl bit a human finger off, smiling, in a simulacrum of an adoption office, which in her logical mind she knew was just the façade of immigration.

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[Destiny] Chapter 42: Slow Acid Franco

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A week of liberation, thought Joanna

should’ve started with hostel sex, followed by a bus ride to Lisboa, a proper attempt to put distance between them and what Sila the night before had referred to as their miracle daughter, not a Mandarin lesson with a local who couldn’t even say I.

‘War…’

‘Try again.’

‘War…’

‘Wrong. Again.’

‘Waaaarrr…’

‘Wrong.’

‘Wah.’

‘Okay, stop.’

On the neighbouring table, Sila may as well have been pool-side in the Maldives, or castle-deep in Brasov, with his student asking in pristine English if Slovene politics were as erratic as in Spain and then swerving into a rant on the legacy of Franco,

complete comfort

though looking at his face it was pretty clear he was mentally back at Mate De Neptuno, tugging on his miracle daughter’s sleeve, trying to tempt her back with promises of improved Danish and terrible people to bite chunks out of.

‘We shouldn’t go back tonight,’ Joanna said after both students had left, one beaming, the other still muttering waaar. ‘Give her a chance to miss us.’

‘Or forget us.’

‘Either way, it’s a good test.’

Sila put the Japanese mythology material he’d just used back in his bag and replaced it with a LEARN DANISH IN 27 MINUTES book, opening to a random page and mispronouncing the word for abstract.

‘So we’re not going?’

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[Destiny] Chapter 41: Mate De Neptuno

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‘…Khlebnikov stripped it all but in the end stripped nothing, and that’s the real sadness of the endeavour, my viewing of it, at least, or perhaps not real sadness as real sadness came later with the schism of Hylea, whatever spelling you choose, and not state executions but self-executions, a retreat into other movements, Surrealism, Breton’s cocoon, Bataille’s bizarro sacrifice ring, but I don’t feel that sad about it now actually as I’m in futurism concrete, not tied to death in the human sense, which I shouldn’t say so loud when our doors are open the way they are, but in English, perhaps okay. No, don’t look like that, barkada, I’m not a monster, your blood is uninteresting to me, I swear, this place has a licence, can’t just go around eating people like the old days, gestalt days of Khlebnikov and Martinelli…sorry, Marinetti…I always get that mixed up, not sure why, but…there it is…other visions, parts, Mongolian futurism, 1928 to 34, fixated on Neptune and its alien blue hue, Ghanaian futurism, 1952 to 59, a hippy dream to colonise asteroids in the Oort Cloud, Tanzanian futurism, lion’s share of the 80’s, let’s all drift through the heliosphere in communal pods and write zaum poetry, Philippine Futurism, 1998-9, a short affair obsessed with Sun Rooms and psychological counter-language plus suffering, a retching of the Id, however you write it, obviously lasted as long as its main propagandists who…no, I didn’t know them…all starved to death in their own Sun Rooms, and other futurisms, my futurism right now, the inter-locking of other myths and so-called demons and selected humans with an open mind and…fuck, I think I’ve been drinking too much…should slow down a bit…go back to Khlebnikov the progenitor…or was it Martinelli…Marinetti…who started things…maybe Fourier…’

~~~

In sum total

both Joanna and Sila knew the terms Russian and Futurism, had vague associations with the word zaum, but the rest of it was a complete wash and

commenting or responding to the talkative, green-wigged aswang would be a waste of time, and a distraction from the fact that she’d lured them to her dimly-lit bar with almost no other customers and then proceeded to get slowly drunk in front of them

or pseudo-drunk, thought Sila

Ban joi, thought Joanna

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[Destiny] Chapter 40: Aswang Orbital

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Character-wise

Sila hoped the student wouldn’t be tetchy, wouldn’t say what with disgust, wouldn’t feel ill if a textbook wasn’t on the table when they arrived, and

most of all

wouldn’t laugh at every word he said.

Situation-wise,

he just prayed Joanna could keep Søren distracted for the next ninety minutes, stop her from coming over and rubbing against his arm.

There was a decent chance – they’d discovered that morning that she liked sketching, or liked observing Joanna sketching, yet there was no way to tell how long the fascination would last.

And sitting in a non-Starbucks cafe, with about fifty people around them, some of them low-tolerance tourists, it would be impossible to cover up the mess if she did start biting again. Ja, he had mitigated things slightly by parking them in the corner, with only the table to the left occupied, but still…

‘Your student is late,’ said Joanna, looking up from her Mega Man sketch, and then diving straight back down again as a tall bearded guy appeared with unsure-signal hand and asked Sila if he was Sila.

‘Yup, that’s me. Eros?’

The guy, Eros, nodded, said hi and sat down, pulled out a One Piece notebook and said hi again. Then looked left at Joanna and the girl.

‘They’re with me,’ explained Sila, deciding honesty was the less awkward way forward. ‘They don’t speak much English though. The girl, zero…doesn’t speak any.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 39: Am Not A Myth

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There were several visual cues to rep/carbon-date Sevilla

the giant waffle

the labyrinth streets

the church opposite a Starbucks or a Starbucks opposite a church

whichever came first

but the only places Sila had been the last few days were the hostel hidden in the side of an old building, the modernist bus depot currently making up the backdrop and the train station when they’d first arrived.

And a bookshop too, to get a Danish to English dictionary, but just like in Barcelona and Valencia and Almeria and Granada there were none, only Danish to Spanish, so each time he wanted to talk to his sudden daughter he had to look up the Spanish then translate that into Danish which he wasn’t even sure she understood as every time she spoke back it was brief and mumbled.

In the end, depressingly, he had no choice but to fall back on the phone, the thing all his high school friends would’ve started with.

Which didn’t help much.

Recorded audio fuzz or his own voice, both failed around 72% of the time. And the ones that did land got a yes or no in drizzled response.

Two thoughts came to mind, as the queue to the ticket booth ahead shortened.

One, as a mythological demon, maybe it was old Danish she knew?

Two, as a mythological demon in modern times, shouldn’t she know a bit more of up-to-date Danish?

And a wildcard third: maybe he was the first foreigner to attempt Danish on her and she couldn’t get past the out of phase errors?

Sila looked down at the top of the girl’s blonde head and found something new to say, typing it out quickly and then, a minute later, eking it out in the simplest possible sentence:

‘Are you looking forward to Portugal?’

The girl looked up and instantized the usual stare.

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[Destiny] Chapter 38: Lizard In Man Skin

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When Richard opened the door, Tak ignored the how are you, Silas Marner? and Feliz Navidad, and asked him straight if he’d seen that guy hanging around outside the Razor before.

‘Yeah…what?’

‘He was staring at me, just now. Do you know him?’

‘Which guy?’

‘African-looking, tall, fake-gregarious…’

‘Outside?’

‘…weird smile. Yeah. Standing by the stadium, the Razor.’

‘Okay, well…assuming you’re not drunk…he’s probably not a local. Don’t get many foreigners here in A Coruña, except yours truly. It’s a pretty sedate place. Not that much to do.’

‘A footballer…’

‘The guy outside?’

‘Yeah.’

‘For a provincial team…maybe.’

‘Or an English teacher.’

‘There is a small West African community over in Vigo, suppose he could be from there. It’s mostly Malians, I think, some Ghanaians too. But I never see them around here, so…’

‘Doing what?’

‘Who, the Malians?’

‘Yeah.’

Richard laughed, gesturing for some reason at the edge of the door that his left hand was still pegged onto. ‘Mate, haven’t seen you in ten years and this is what you lead with. You haven’t even asked about my wife.’

‘I know you got married. You posted it.’

‘That’s it?’

Tak squinted at Rich’s left hand, the dry skin on the knuckles, then phased awkwardly into a smile. ‘Sorry, mate. I was just-…the guy was a bit weird, looking at me. Congratulations on the marriage. Well done.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 37: Quiet Kind Of Fog

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The Barcelona simulation wasn’t the same the next day, it was greyer, a forensic shade of purple, with cops at certain corners, hawkers, non-descript, nebulous tanned whiteness, whispering threats that would’ve been Hungarian if he’d gotten close enough

and it took a further hour walking around the Museum of Modern Art for Tak to realise he couldn’t stay

not if he wanted to keep his mind on the right track

westwards

distant from the claws of Count Otius.

~~~

He bought his ticket openly this time and sat down on one of the benches, looking at La Vanguardia online.

Made it four lines before he had to reach for his dictionary and as he searched

the demon girl floated back into his brain

telling him she was still there

still on the beach

blood dried

so why didn’t he come and say hi?

Tak repeated the usual phrase in five different languages, struggling on the Japanese version even though he’d always thought it was his best one

then went back to the news.

He read all the stories he was interested in and hissed at the business section, then went back to the dictionary and double-checked the headline words

blocked the demon girl speaking to him

again and again

blocked that fucking Dahli too

buffering in the background

halfway out of the sea in a seaweed smoking jacket.

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