Friday, August 13, 2004

Quarantine: Summer 2004

Jemma, better known to those closest to her as Jem, felt it was time to go quickly and joyfully but she had to think hard first; after all she was old enough now, she thought she didn’t want any extra time like some others – it had all been done long ago, wrapped up in the bag: A life governed by solving great mysteries, learning about accomplishments and delineating all the moral arguments by heart. By now she was plain fed up, she wanted a quick change without the accompanying modal strain constantly quickening her horizons. She felt she had to avoid thinking too deeply about whatever. Unfortunately her mind forbade any call to abstraction or quick destinations in her thought processes.

She had been quite a dainty old lady sitting up against the chair provided; trying to knit her life together around a pattern she couldn’t readily recognise anymore now, but it could have been an amazing code for something new; though she knew it never would though. Meanwhile, her lament was long and curious, while her reach into the past was fostering resentment she could not grasp completely around it.

Desolate Jem had lost most of her family during the Second World War, mainly in a bombing raid over her local town. They were all at church watching the clergy prepare for mass when the engines stopped. The priest wafted down the isle, slithering gently into a ready-made bolthole under the church floor, leaving the others to be smashed completely by the delayed missile. It was rather remiss that he did not secure the flock’s safety or to rely on his sense of conscience to secure a quick exit for everyone around. Jem knew all this through the continual observation that was now her habit to explore intermittently, whenever the occasion arose, subject to frequently occurring boredom levels as she sat up cross-legged in that waiting room for the last time.

Later she uncovered what she felt her own nubile vulnerability in her mind and remembered how she once was not yet quite that old, and, when she could readily succumb to male beauty as it infested her global vision. Her eyes met with so many fine gentlemen wrapped in garments that were true to their nature, expensive, bold and carefully cut. Most were snobs; they were careless in attitude outside their own dimensions, yet mentally flawed, suffering from avarice, cowardice, and deception in all parts. It would not be long until all these qualities gravely took their turn on Jasmine, who cooed at them every day from the brick wall, when she had the time from the menial totality that had set the regime around the house she worked. It would not be long before she was less vain about these prying visitors.

They all watched her in her daily endeavours and laughed in her face when she fled back into the house after just a mutual acknowledgement. But, they persisted – they would not let go, indeed it was a necessity to badger her whenever they travelled past the villa where she worked. It was a challenge to beguile her assertively and to dangle her at the old yarns end. This was better than another yawn down the club terraces, besides the liquor had become expensive during the wartime conditions. So it was not by chance that they frequented this street seeking rapture so often and when they could.

She fingered the bracelet a boy called Cyrelle had offered her and actually felt the rough trim around the side, though it was years old, it was still suffice to be wielded now and again, if only for her singular love or nostalgic value. This costume jewellery was a worshipful gift and Jem wanted to remain the goddesses surrounding its’ virtues. When one looked at the shape, it was hard not to be prepossessed with the elegant curves that embodied the frames length, cut half way with a jagged letter C. Again she examined it over and fondly imagined the guy that had lavished this gift upon her nature. At the time, his love was molten, and now it had been set into this trinket for her to watch over and call her own. She too had been set into the frame of her own body, now she had endured being old, and there was no reversal. She was certainly no jewel anymore, which upset her invariably, until she really wished to flee but became ensnared; gravity kept her down realistically so she could not even draw breath without despondency.

Jem once wore an ocean of golden ringlets that neatly folded onto her shoulders; her hair was nowadays more like chewed wire that strung round like a dishevelled may pole. It was never seemed quite the same as the picture showing her intact youth and now being marooned here she dispelled her past as a ruin. She could never talk it up, as there was none to listen.

First arrived one panic and then another and then panic after panic after panic, until her memory ran out and the merry-go-round eventually stopped. It was hideous to recall every moment that prefaced her break down and it was a lasting scare that afflicted her continuously; she ended whispering to herself vulgarities as if mad. It had caused her closest allies to shun her whenever they had cause to witness her presence, for reasons that were even unknown by the untrusted priest. Perhaps it was that her once gorgeous looks had become wan and she had began to stare longingly into nothing, exacting her distress.

It was on the day that he had handed her petals from a brightened chrysanthemum that she cried softly because she knew he would leave her. The relationship had folded and her love had dwindled into the shade. She previously craved to always envisage Cyrelle in her imagination. His elfin features gave his slight appearance some sort of appeal but she didn’t like him solely for that. It was his mysterious approach that attracted her attention, sometimes when she was outside once again, pinning up the washing on the crooked line straddling two great big metal hooks; then he would wave and smile with neat curves from the chin.

Cyrelle was the one to save her from the crashing church walls. She never went there again, not even to pray casually as the experience had cancelled out any faith that she had. The barbarous explosion in the chapel had wiped out half the village in one fail swoop, except for the priest who had been silenced through grief by this tragedy. There were many casualties that day and they carried out dead folk that had been so dear to the mistress that it had been days before Jem could coax her out of bed or to sup, meanwhile she continued to tend the house and govern in her mother’s place until such time she could be relieved adequately. So everyone noted Jem’s glowing face much more until she eventually disappeared from people’s consciousness altogether. On that final day, Cyrelle appeared with his flowery gift, and having been refused this once, he too faded into nothing just like the flowers he originally offered her.

She didn’t suffer much as she was carried away from her living self but that was not all of it, she felt nothing as she drifted to her terminus without such trouble that had barged frequently into her life.

“Have you finished”, asked the sentinel at the waiting room door; Jem’s approach to death had been expected today. Her reflective period was nearly over – they had allowed her ample time to tie up her final thoughts.

“I will be the last of your vision as eternity cannot keep you”, he added but Jasmine was already drifting off back in time again, though she did not realise it. These days she could never tell if she was asleep or the more habitual slumber that all would endure at life’s end.

“It is important that you speak now before I switch off the lights,” he carefully added but the scene had changed to her father who was demanding to protect her from the visiting strangers, the same expectant lovers that had come looking for her quite unashamed on a nearly daily basis.

The father wanted to know names so that he could match his fist to their faces. He had to pay them out for what they had eventually done to his daughter, who he had tried to fence off from many prying suitors, although he never quite succeeded as there was some degree of infiltration even after the father had personally remonstrated with them to go no further. Unfortunately, the visitors paid no heed to his request and kept harassing the poor wench, proffering gifts, asking for reciprocation to their lustful exchange, even laughing when she refused to physically commune with any of them under no circumstances whatsoever.

So the crazy father fixed a leering gargoyle to both gateposts outside the house, except these appendages had no effect on the streaming humanity that frequented the streets in the immediate vicinity. It didn’t stop the men spitefully cutting them away to wear as masks so that they could scare the mistress when she threw open the window, as she was her habit every morning throughout the year.

On one occasion, Jem had fled the desperate wooing scene, to seek her beau Cyrelle, who was propping up a bar with nonchalance; floating nervously in front of the bar maid as there was no one else to talk to at the time. Jasmine saw him through the frosted window – she certainly knew who it could be. He always hunched over the bar and fiddled with his hair every so often; an action that always distracted her but no one else seemed to mind. It only seemed decent that she would pop in and greet him courteously and let him know that she was still contriving escape away from amorous attention forced on her by the gentlemen who would not leave her alone anymore for anything.

To a certain extent, Cyrelle existed in an opposite pole to Jem, but silent and lonely his brittle conscience awoke to her but through creeping time not all at once. It had been a gradual journey before he sensed even her presence, mesmerised and yielding to the glories that arose from her expressionless face and tidy complexion, though her toothy grin might be supposed as quite memorable to someone so susceptible.

They were both impressionable but she had decided that she needed to create a character out of him from her whim, only a few months after discovering his timidity at close quarters, roaming near her without speaking every time she had to fetch her father from the pub, who indignantly carried out his ritual drinking shift bang on Sunday dinner time.

It was Jem’s job to ensure her father respectfully turned up to this family occasion cap in hand, plucked from the bosom of his drinking cronies. It was altogether a tumultuous task and she never took less than an hour to gyre his loins away from the bar stools, persuading him back to the kitchen chairs. Nowadays, Cyrelle just made sure he was there every time she entered and gazed endlessly from the other end of the pub until she addressed him. He would never be the first to start a conversation, just continually convincing himself that he could have nothing to do with her. However, he kept a silent vigil until they were almost on speaking terms, though only just – as there was no sound. It was always a sad reunion, as they both knew they could have nothing from each other, basking in their own separate universes that disallowed unions that were anything too tangible.

Cyrelle always glided around his own space and became almost transparent to the normal regulars but Jem could see him, and mostly all the time towards the end - especially when she was sat praying in the church or walking through the cemetery close to the boarders around the town. The tombs were packed tightly into a small earth bundle and sewn into a handy plot that the villagers called “The Keep”, but it was a place that many darkness’s ago was said to be a giant factory with chimneys that ejected hatred and all the little lives under its’ care were stolen for commercial use. Now it was a palace for the dead and their private dormitories.

As she entered the pub, Cyrelle turned around quickly and adamantly shook his head while pointing backwards towards the outside as if he was asking her to fetch a ball from the rose garden adjoining the building. It was hard to understand what he wished for as he spoke hardly above a whisper, actually making his views categorically known mostly through physical gesture: He needed her to follow him out around the back in preference for quietness. Now she felt nervous - he was clawing his way around the oak door to await her pleasure outside somewhere. She knew she must follow but dared not face him away from the more hospitable shadows inside. She got scared about conversing with the air, although she alone felt Cyrelle’s energy strongly around her, by her side, tangible and embracing the air with his calmative reverence. What unimaginable thing did he have to tell her? What light would shine through his eyes with meaning?

And now back to the present waiting room, she could just sit up, still an observer of things and be able to recall but never tempted to join in rapturously with life’s real tendencies; her image fading adjoined to this façade like Cyrelle’s had been, both their spirits casting about in there own substance but away from any authenticity that usually sustained for a lifetimes span. She was now alike with Cyrelle, a ghost who was bound to comb the earthly state for clues to her past, even though she only now partially existed, on the brink of shutting up shop for good and joining her forebears forever - she had become tired from too much observation. The sentinel would be but the last vision, and she would be finally locked away for eternity in some ethereal display cabinet, becoming part of a giant encyclopaedia encompassing all the dead souls that had passed beyond the brink instead remaining frozen in time as wandering shadows beyond the grave.

“I will be the last vision you will see”, the sentinel gently spoke yet again and for the final time – he would never reprise; she knew that well.

Its’ shape hovered above her buzzing around haphazardly, awaiting her response. This was no time for meekness, as the oblivion would only cast its’ spell before she was ready and Jem as she was so often called would be forfeit her very final thought which would turn out to be the truth turning in her head, formerly neglected.

“Wait”! Jem yelled, holding up her bracelet she had been given in youth’s tide. It began to slide down her arm where it belonged. She was almost desperate but not quite ready still.

She began to think carefully about her final consciousness. It was important that she remembered what had happened in that rose garden. Not just the superficial stuff but what Cyrelle meant to her, the secrets he divulged. How she became to fall in love with him even though he was not real substance; how her pulsed raced indecently bounded in his aura – there was no way to grasp the situation in repose.

Outside in the rose garden, he likened an apotheosis unlike his inside visage. The sunlight glided about through the trees, freely flowing through Cyrelle, whose body was now lightly crosshatched with the intersecting rays, digesting the intricate flickering light completely. There was a silent smile on his mouth and he offered to take her but his guiding hand had already sliced through her own limbs – it could never touch. Jem felt nothing except regret that she could not physically sense him and be comforted. No contact could be sanctioned and the communal release that had been expected from both had failed to be contrived – the passion just a bitter nuisance as it had nowhere to go but inside under the skin, sinking towards the heart. One solid tear approach her mouth and Cyrelle continued to gape at the sun over her shoulder, straight through the middle without having to recourse to filtering out the magnitude with his closing lids. His gaze traced the detail around the corona, measuring its height along with the blue, red and yellow wash that the heavenly fireball spun out in disgust at the couple’s audacity.

While there was no sign that their mutual desires would be matched by their free will, there was also a silent understanding between them, showing defiance towards the divine force driving them away from each other’s attraction. Let down, they could never see through what they had initiated together – one a living being, the other a ghost, departing quietly without so much as an assuring whimper. As the cloud turned onto the sun and Jem’s sob had become a wining cry, Cyrelle’s image folded in upon itself, reduced to nothing once the afternoon had waned permanently.

Soon after, so had she vanished, having resolved to return home to vanquish all her fears and face the relentless monkeys that had tempted her relentlessly. She immediately set about showing no mercy to the unwelcome fence dwellers and the next morning refused to even look at any male despite their screaming impatience – Jem just focused on her washing and its uniform arrangement on the line. It was important that she dispelled any remote hope from these haphazard fops who rallied against all sensible wisdom, paragliding into her back yard like dizzy primitives with motives beyond reason.

Lacking in concentration from the pressure, she shortly found that somebody had made her pregnant at speed, maybe from amongst the visiting men. However, her motherly instinct wanted to save her potential child for a better life, certainly not run by the imbeciles that offered their faces quite literally to taunt her. When the father had first heard this news he threw such a temper that made her shake from the after-shock. Openly he went crazy and smashed up everything within reach, then later he grew more resigned because it was always up to the daughter what she did, whether it was right or wrong in his eyes. Throughout the week’s duration, he spent in the cellar imbibing the heavy cocktails mixed from stale air and honey wine jars that regrettably showed age, nevertheless his taste buds were judged non-existent owing to their frequent working on strong liquor but it was the only way to cope for the old man.

Meanwhile his angelic child had decided to confiscate herself away from the roaming lads on a more permanent basis but it was not going to be that easy. Cyrelle was always present, judging her, measuring her up to his higher unattainable moral standards and chiding her through his silent amour - he seldom took his eyes away from her. But it was no good; Cyrelle faithfully watched as they hunted her throughout the town, launching at her at every spot; they wouldn’t let her go.

The gentlemen tried to share her out culminating in an overwhelming altercation that resulted in Jem receiving a black eye, with heavy bruising to the shoulders without recourse to any justice but disgrace. She covered her face for shame about several weeks subsequently. Frequently upon a whim, they would shove her into a corner to stroke the contours around her face and solidly declare their despicable yearnings, not just in words but also in obtrusive actions that left her feeling degraded, at their mercy along with a feeling that totalled worthlessness. Jem’s cry was a silent cry, sinking below the tide that the bullies had course to muster. If only she was allowed to keep her unborn child as a mystery to be later solved or kept as a valuable item until she came into the arms of life’s end, then after she may read in its eyes all the answers to her longing pains.

Lounging in the street’s dirt Jem became bewitched, Cyrelle could not protect her and from week to week the laughing would not stop; the haranguing became perpetual; the sneers became even more indelible features on the men’s faces and nothing would keep the monsters docile. It was sometimes in the early hours that these hounds would repair back to their lairs, only to meet and match the next day for more marauding around the neighbourhood.

Instead of letting her remain outside, the young men retaining infuriating audacity, would now come in and pluck her from within the sanctuary and seat her outside for further corruption, regardless that she was prettily crying, introverted and hiding behind her golden bobs. Nobody pitied her, except for Cyrelle of course. Jem’s father was far gone with his dreamy fascinations, acclimatising to various homespun liquors that helped him remain oblivious, happily sleeping from dawn to dusk – it masked his pain and he sought not one motive for these hazardous visitations, comforted by his idleness with out resort to action’s claim. He slept like a child in bliss while his daughter was kept suppliant, suffering the barraging attentions in perpetual motion.

And when their festival was over, the lads left a jeering legacy by uprooting all the garden flowers and fruit that Jem had so carefully nurtured so many springs, supporting their irresponsibility as all of their number was called up to the war without fail. They spat out their past with fervour as they embraced with a new leaf what they thought was the glorious fight.

Jem was just left spread out all neat and tidy on the pavement to seek redress with the storm drains in the humdrum trafficking along her home sweet home, which bordered the garden she was brought up as an ordinary girl. But, she would hang washing no more, now she was a living out a mental nightmare, never hoping to recover from what they stole – they were far over the north sea by the time her senses returned completely. Cyrelle was left close by sympathetic, wanting amends but not having the means to do so, watching her crawl back inside the house to meet her fate quite considerably in the monstrous aftermath during her own personal street conflict.

So it was Cyrelle who decided he too must depart for good but not before he spared her very life before the doodlebug flew by to crush the little village church. He was there at the far back in the congregation, signalling desperately for Jem to get up and leave immediately – he said it all in his intensifying blue eyes, almost luminous in the church darkness. And in her unhappiness she believed him, it would be a record that his affection had reached the zenith, just like the sun did that day in the rose garden – it was far as their attraction would sweep.

She arose to her feet and curtly excused herself past all her neighbouring congregation, ardent not to catch anyone on her way out or to glance at anyone in particular – she had to avoid the stare from all those who had started life’s progress not dissimilar to herself, though these gentlefolk were still shining like the candles uprooted from around a holy font. Jem was the only one who knew that they would be snuffed out and began to feel a guilty at her selfish desertion from what should be her friends.

Ash cornels swung through the mist and smoke plumes jettisoned from the torn masonry, like a giant storm awoken to invade the stricken village. Cyrelle’s mousy curls were all that was seen over his delicate shoulders as he was wafted back to the grave yard where he mastered the will to rest, but it was still no guarantee he would sleep forever.

For several days and nights they duly met, both Jem and he under the same circumstantial motives - it was interminable that they could not meet properly, both living in communal reflections and it became unlikely she would find solace in the relationship continuing so restrained: Struggling to be more alive than the sun, he acted in wariness towards the real earth as their partial union had been an endless distraction when instead, deferring to the Sentinel’s will, Cyrelle decided to make his particular last metamorphosis. So it was a sober occasion that eventually Cyrelle left dear Jem who had struggled hard but would let him go with a goodnight and a loving promise – she would find some way in her destiny to join him but for now sought sanctuary in the clauses set out in realities spectrum – she was alive and would remain so.

It was then that Jem, left as lost property, felt she had abandoned by her pretty bulbul but the creeping sun was still there to substitute until she achieved equivalence with her beloved Cyrelle who rested beyond the mysterious village Keep on his infinite meanderings through the unconscious universe.


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