Back at the hostel, Joanna put her plan into action, cajoling, deceiving and finally outright shoving Sila off his bunk and into the bar on the second floor.
It was instantly pastiche,
posters of Scarface and Run Lola Run and Carlito’s Way and Miami Vice and Manhunter on the walls
music via Kraftwerk covers in the air
no visible cabinets.
Around a hundred hostel guests provided vague dancing, none of them over 25, so Sila stayed put in the corner, let Joanna manage the supply line of alcohol, and drank and drank and drank, and the drunker he got, the more unguarded he got, but also the angrier he got and
by two in the morning he was at last balanced enough to open up yet
despite Joanna being the only person in the bar he knew
the Slovene nut managed to open up the wrong way
to the wrong person,
a Danish guy, not Joanna and
for some reason he talked about Danish people he liked and 60’s hammer movies and representation of Danes in Hollywood and how tall and strong Danish men were and then
not saying a thing, just reading, and all I could do was sit there in a slumped state, blood leaking out of my neck from its slash wound, waiting to see if it could be bothered to drink me at some point
and the flames
didn’t affect it in any way
not even a slight flinch of discomfort
which was fine, really, as fire wasn’t the key to this, the thing in my jacket pocket was, if I could muster up the energy to lift my hand up and
a blue laser shot into the room
missing the creature, the Krsnik, by a metre and a half, then expanding, thickening into a bar of light that wasn’t blue anymore, it was
but something to illuminate the décor and show more of
Sila woke up looking at the floor.
Most of his body was still on the bed, but everything above his chest was hanging off the side, as if he’d already tried and failed to get up and this was the compromise.
Thirteen hours later he was in Austria, the head of the tadpole part, bussing into Innsbruck on a hunch.
A book he’d read said there was a cabinet in the castle there and nearby was a room with a bath dug into the floor and a painting of a wolfman at the entrance, and that was exactly the kind of detail that Professors of Dark Light wrote poems about, or he thought they would, mainly cos of the note he’d been left in Kagoshima, the story of the woman at Uji Bridge, with the bold underlines of
‘she bathed in the Uji river for 21 days, divided her hair into five horns, painted her body red with vermilion, and went on a legendary killing spree.’
He still didn’t know what vermilion was but he understood the weirdness of it and why Professors of Dark Light would be drawn towards the ‘five horn, paint your body red, 21 days’ part.
The castle was covered in snow when he got there because it was November 28th and the wolfman painting was exactly where the book had promised it would be, so the only thing left to do was find the cabinet and ditch the Chinese murderer, Joanna, who’d been walking fifteen yards behind him ever since he’d boarded the train from Ljubljana station.
It was weird, no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t shake her, not even when the train got into Salzburg and he’d sprinted out of the station and kept going for twenty minutes down side roads and alleys, then looped back and into the same station and onto the platform to wait for the next train to Innsbruck, it was no good cos somehow she’d known his plan and was sitting on a bench on the same platform waiting for the same train, her line being: if he were really staying in Salzburg, he wouldn’t have sprinted out of the station.
It was dubious logic, but it worked then and it worked in Innsbruck station too as, somehow, she knew it was the castle he was aiming for, which meant they’d ended up on the same bus, bought the same ticket and were now looking at the same row of paintings.
‘He looks like you,’ she whispered, pointing at the wolfman portrait nearby.
Sila killed time by rolling snow and kicking it at the Dr Caligari poster. It was harsh, he didn’t mind the play they were doing, it was more the other guy, the Grand White Wizard. What was she doing? Did she not understand what he was saying? Was his accent too strong?
He tried to work it out before she got back but there was no solution without extra data from the enigma herself, so he kicked more snow and waited for her to return, which turned out to not be five minutes later, but fifteen.
‘The wizard reappears…’
She nodded, wiping something off her hand and onto her jacket.
‘Did you get your grey thing?’
‘This time, yes.’
‘Great. What’s next?’
‘We take it.’
Sila looked around, checking for cops hiding in snow-dressed trees. ‘You mean now? Out here?’
‘I told you, it passes the time faster.’
‘So does talking to racists.’
‘Roll up your shirt.’
‘I said so does talking to racists.’
‘Back there.’ Sila looked back at the café/bar in case she was confused. ‘You gave that caveman your number.’
‘We did this conversation already.’
‘Caveman white supremacist. And that stuff he was saying…I don’t get it. You didn’t even flinch.’
drips cocaine shoots the wall shoots the curtains the wall the cocaine never Watson shoots the violin plays it with holes sucks the holes shoots the strings shoots the sighs from tea lady lips the groans too the knees the artifice of what they’ve come to what they were what they originally tried to
“Watson, you slab, what’s this?”
population control or bust 的 Holmes
picks up the periodical
spies a new movement
ah, Tzara, the man with the tan
Dada something dada, the revelation of psyche, raw as can be
I hope it’s structured
cos without structure there’s no eyes
no receptive sponge
they’ll say they like it but they’ll never read it
I stand in line with these wretches
I smoke at them
Watson, look at this, read this, put your ossified fucking thought dungeon on this
doctor of no patients
lump of Afghan bullshit
shot by who?
Lord Calendar in blackface?
Get over here, read this, put your face five cm from this shit
Forced against my will to consume Disney but not really.
When it comes to languages, especially Cantonese, I usually go with books or things I already know so I won’t be completely lost when I read them.
I read dozens of Geronimo Stilton books when I first started learning, the ones with a castle on the cover or a horror element initially then, later, the one where Stilton is on a fitness binge.
It’s a kind of brain death, but you’ve got to do it.
Cos then you get to the non-translated stuff
like Wai Si Lei.
Somewhere in my room, there’s a box with about 20-30 local Hong Kong sci-fi novels, all in Chinese, and I don’t think I’ve read more than five pages of any of them.
Give me a week of no interruptions and I could probably get through it, but it’d take a lot of dictionary work and only a vague intellectual concept as to what was going on in the plot. I wouldn’t be able to really feel any of it. Or judge the writing.
It is my sincere hope to one day reach the level where I can write a review of one of these novels that doesn’t sound like a seven year old’s school book report.
If it happens, I’ll put it up here.
‘We must expect not one, but a multitude of revolutions taking place in different countries at different times.’
Red Star by Bogdanov, the anti-War of The Worlds.
Not that I’ve read it yet. Just bits here and there. A utopian, communist society on Mars, capitalist drudgery on Earth, a Russian Bolshevik sliding between the two…
In some ways, Bogdanov saw Disney coming, only he called it the ruling classes and overstated its ability to put together military expeditions. Then he sailed off into the realm of endless blood transfusions. Interesting guy.
Would he have borrowed Jedi Academy from the library?
The year was 2079 and half the earth was anarcho-communist.
Aliens had been discovered six years earlier, a series of telescopes in Paraguay picking up a signal that, when deciphered by twelve year olds on the internet, simply said, ‘what go on?’
Discovered was a generous term
Contacted by was more accurate
But the Americans insisted on it, and everyone had to listen to the Americans as they had funded the telescope construction, at least fifteen percent of it, and when the second message arrived two days after the first, they used their satellites to intercept and their machines to translate and a six hour star-stunted special to present it back to the world.
The content of the second message?
‘We visit. Don’t move.’
By 2074, it was clear the aliens were at best a casual type of creature, at worst, barefaced liars, as their ships were nowhere to be seen, and the radar systems that few understood weren’t detecting any blips in the Kuiper Belt and people online were going back to The Oort Cloud Chronicles and Love Factor 6, and the politicians got bored too, realigning themselves to different struggles [the war on acrylic!], leaving the alien paraphernalia to the fringe and hoping with a great degree of confidence that taxpayers would forget about all the money they’d splurged on the Welcome to Earth/Please share your tech banners.
A year later, it was as if the aliens had never existed.
Of course, their exact nature was still debated by philosophy students, philosophy professors, philosophers for hire, anarchists, UFO enthusiasts, lunatics, people sitting next to lunatics in diners, astronomers, libertarians, exo-biologists, endo-biologists, Pluto lovers etc. but most people shrugged their shoulders [in spirit] and returned to quotidian life, thinking about food, food, food, food, food, creative pursuits, food and writing thank you letters to the scientists who’d perfected fusion.
The actual, real, genuine, couldn’t possibly be a lie truth was…the aliens were hanging out at a Lagrange point near Eris when they’d sent the signals.
And it hadn’t been intentional either.
One of their more senior observers had gotten so used to the ‘on base’ routine of their Eris habitat that, when they were told it was time to go home and spawn, they responded by fragmenting, stripping down to their core and hiding in the helium pools. That would’ve been fine, it had happened before on other bases…all they needed was enough time to program the nano-kleps, make sure the input data was sufficiently xenophobic…but this observer knew the routine and, somehow, managed to access the computer from the pools themselves.
Fortunately, they didn’t send any threats to the humans, but they did introduce themselves as a form of object-reality – an alien to their normal – and that was something difficult to walk back from.
1357: Pedro of Portugal dug up his dead mistress, made her queen, and forced loyal subjects to kiss her hand.
Billy makes a zine that no one reads, and puts it round London. At night he searches for 7 of 9 sex tapes and tries to understand fourth-wave feminist theory. Life stays like this until he gets an e-mail from ‘D’ in Ljubljana, asking him to come to stay. He thinks she’s a nut until she sends him eight grand in spending money. Off he goes, to Ljubljana, to Metelkova, to the outskirts of the city, to a castle on a snowy hill, to Damijana and her typewriter. One of them is a sociopath, can you guess which?
Plot-wise, it’s similar to the Star Trek DS9 episode where Jake Sisko gets yellow energy sucked out of his head by Meg Foster while writing his masterpiece, but this one’s set in Slovenia and is better.
Cover done by the legendary Soren who can be found/hired on corpsehaus
Note: this is a rewrite of an old book I wrote called ‘Ljubljana Witch’ – that one was around 40,000 words, this one is bordering on 100,000 so if you’re one of the few who read the original and thought it was a bit short, you’re in luck.
In the tradition of reading above my level, I got the Chinese version of The Restaurant at the end of the Universe // Douglas Adams from the library and, so far, I’m up to page two.
Not sure why I’m doing this, I have some of the Sherlock Holmes kids series in Cantonese to get through, but for some reason they’re not sticking, so here I am, pushing the rock up Mt Sci-fi.
Previously, I attempted So long and thanks for all the fish in Portuguese, and it’s already clear that, language-wise, I’m about to start having the same problems.
Problem 1 – idioms
This is also an issue I have with the kids books in Cantonese…they use a lot of idioms, some easy to guess, others impossible. Like in English, if a character says they’re a bit under the weather, you probably won’t know what it means unless you’re fluent. Same problem here, only worse, as Cantonese idioms are more localised and non-existent in western culture.
An example, the four characters highlighted in green below:
The best way I’ve found to get through it, is to skip them. Skip the whole sentence and aim for an understanding of the paragraph as a whole. If the idiom turns out to be foundational then go back and look it up.
Problem 2 – logic
In my experience, when you’re a non-native speaker of a language…anything up to high intermediate, possibly higher…you have to rely on logic and context to understand what people are saying.