Stride Magazine -


He crawls from under fallen rubble.

Skin changes in the shimmering heat. Changes shape, changes colour. Textures shift. Until.

He is grey. He is assembled. He is charged.

Beyond him stretches an alienscape. Structures and towers. Tracts of random wasteground. Desolation flowering beside gardens of creatures who move and glow, dance and hesitate, dream and glide. He looks into their eyes for a sign, but their language tumbles, stuttering and ugly from a cavity torn in the front of their face. Desperate sounds, fractured and snarling, lilting and guarded.

They carry their bodies upright as if they trust no-one, always looking around. Looking for sounds. He does not understand. How to see.

Their sex glands are covered as if they are ugly, as if they are dangerous, as if they were guns.

A love letter is scrawled on a wall. The sounds have been fixed into shapes. But it makes no sense, it makes no sense. There are no signs in the eyes. There are no eyes in the walls.

The creatures move towards him as if not seeing him at all. And yet they acknowledge he is there. As they move round him, move past him. To avoid. No signs in their eyes. No recognition at all.

Until one who is smaller than the rest makes a noise like a broken brook. Like fear which flows. But the torn hole in the face twists upward. Like a friend who wants to be an enemy. Like an enemy who wants to be a friend.

And there's a flicker of sign in the eyes. To say you are here and I am too.

Perhaps the small one is also strange to the others. He holds out a hand. Tries to shape the gurgling sound any way that he can.

But then there are more. More small ones. From behind the stacks of metallic bricks. From behind the sheets of silver which reflect the sun more brightly than it ever should. Which hurt his eyes. He covers them. As he covers them the gurgling sound comes.


This is happy. And friend.

He holds out hands again. But the gurgling grows louder and they strike him with fragments of ragged wood. Sharp pebbles hit his flesh. He feels the skin changing, resisting. Feels a sensation which registers pain. Though that will not translate. It is a hurt which he does not understand.

It does not translate.

There is no sign.

The Dark Theme
(Womersley): The Electric Banana, “Even More Electric Banana"
(Music De Wolfe, 1969).


Salt. It was the salt he wanted. That salt to be found in the soft places, the sweet places. That he knew flowed freely in the sex glands, behind earlobes, bathing the texture of glistening skin, caressed by the subtle singing of darkness.

Brought forth by the touching, the mouthing, the movement, the stillness. In every membrane and tendon, the juices, the pleasure.

He could feel that these creatures craved it too. Smell it in the wind. Sign it in their eyes. And yet they always turned away, denied it, suppressing their craving until it became sickness, only to be spoken in secret, trapped in cold cells behind hard barriers they called walls, called shutters, called blindness ­ instead of expressing it openly, lovingly, out in the rivers of their streets, their forests of neon, out where life pulsed with the rhythm of moon, the plants and the wind.

They created a prison called sin and took their sensuality there to deny it to punish it to poison it ­ instead of singing of dancing of wanting of needing of bleeding of feeding the sweet flood of milk of semen of blood of warmth. Of self.

And not self. Of other. Of all.

It was the smell of salt that he followed, licking at eyelids, all the gathering places, crevices, tracing between the shadows of bricks, the caverns of steel, wanting to release all the feelings. For their own good. Wanting to release them from the sickness the worry the disease they created.

Wanting to taste the salt which coursed freely from bloodstream to sex gland to braincell to nerve-end to knowledge to wonder to life.

But they turned away. Turned away from him. Turned away from each other and turned their hunger their longing their loving on themselves until it destroyed them. Until it created the prisons they used to make cities, honeycombs of silence to shut out the warmth and the light and the life and the sun.

Leaving just shadows.

Licking their wounds.

In The Midnight Hour
(Picket/Cropper): Wilson Picket, “The History of Rock
Vol. 8” (original single 1965).

                        © Dave Ward 2003

Dave Ward’s publications include Jambo
(Impact), Tracts (Headland), The Tree of Dreams (Harper Collins), Candy and Jazzz (Oxford University Press). He is the co-
founder of The Windows Project, co-ordinating writing workshops on
Merseyside, and has also toured to Singapore.