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Unfinished Piece - Worship and the Flesh

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Postby MileOut » Thu Aug 08, 2002 12:09 pm

I just wanted to post this disjointed piece of writing to see what others think of it. It's incomplete, and jumps about - I just don't know whether it worth continuing.

It was meant to be the opener of a bookend story that was to enclose a collection of short stories using love as the theme.

<span style='font-size:15pt;line-height:100%'>Worship and the Flesh</span>

I

The Crossroads

The eleventh hour of fever, as strong as I suffered, took my mind to love. Not just the agapan proclivities put in posterity by Plato but the grander scale: the crests and troughs that branch out in search of the willing souls, who are themselves, in search of its teachings. With uncomfortable clarity I was gifted the sight of love – not as some solid example but a revelation in the guise of simple metaphor. Think, please, of a crossroads. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose image – no need for a landscape to contain the meeting of paths, a world to contain the landscape. It shouldn’t matter if the paths are sun-dried backtracks or carefully lain concrete slabs, or whether they meander through the depths of treacherous jungle or lead high through rough mountain passes. These paths could even be off the land, navigable by boat, or some such vessel, through channels, estuaries and the colossal arms of any ocean. And that’s my point: it just doesn’t matter. Provided you can envisage a crossroads – just a place where routes are stretched out by centrifugal force. The number of paths is, also, irrelevant. Every time you picture this junction there will inevitably be another track reaching out somewhere. Where? Well, it’s different for everyone.
In my vision I took refuge at the pivotal point, not daring to walk, fly, sail, whatever! along the roads because I knew each of them – each process and finale – as every destination was actually the genesis of my journey to the heart of the intersection. And looking back along each path I saw the many facets of my life and the way that love had embraced me, shaping me to these breathing seconds. And with each breath I took maybe another journey would have opened up to look back upon, helping to understand myself better.
One route showed my life from the womb, smothered in maternal efficiency while another showed the first stirrings of fondness for the opposite gender and every stirring thereof. The woe of lost love tracked forward and back, revelatory in one direction; realised in the other, like Janus recounting one year elapsed whilst gazing readily upon a year sprung afresh. I saw destruction, improvement, and a tender longing; passed my eyes over the very declaration of the heart. Every part of this love, and it was a modest slice, was part of me.
The crossroads was a river, purely metaphysical, and it carried me upstream, trapping me in numerous whorls and eddies to once again live moments of love. It carried me downstream to new experiences, gnawing at the banks of the future, and depositing the silt of the present on the banks of the past which, when dragged against the current, I would sift through again until, in this vision of love, I would eventually drown midstream, between the heart and the soul, between the infinite extremities of love, my last breach of the surface giving a more distilled vision of love as I stared at the sky which was love, at the sun which was love, at the moon which was, admittedly, an altogether darker love, and at the stars winking and dying as I found new loves to balance those I’d lost. I saw beyond this love as God Himself looked down on me with His love and with each splutter of breath that rattled from my throat I felt the love permeate my body, its devastating stranglehold squeezing the life out until I, beyond the mortal coil, could stand in the presence of God and gods, and be all love.

II

When Raymond Met Hesentia

Of course, outwith my fever, the crossroads has been at many times a more literal predicament. Not just for me, but for others. A place where travellers once explored new lands, and merchants would succeed them in their steps, a place where lovers from warring cities would meet in limbo, and where many more lovers severed their respect and belief in each other and returned home to misery, broken-hearted, but optimistic in the tenet that hope springs eternal would also be translated to the rules of love.

This couple, approaching from either end of the shadowed glade, are lovers. She is the daughter of a highly decorated general although you could probably have told that as her appearance is that of the nobility, the way she dresses in cloth woven from the finest loom, cut and sewn by reputed dress-makers, and in the way she glides across the wrinkled trail with her head held high. Made by her mother’s love and her father’s capital, she makes her way to the crossroads, ducking down and cautiously scanning round lest anyone should see her, jumping in fear when the calls of beasts who shun diurnal lives make clear their presence, and with only the thoughts of love pulsing in her heart and head.
And the man? I’m sure you can tell that he is the black to her white as he stumbles along the path, hands in pockets and dirty cap placed cantankerously upon his head so that his eyes are hidden to all but his feet. He is the son of a poor merchant from the south. Little aspirations drum around his head, the thought of living another day is of paramount importance; the only beat giving rhythm to his life being that of his heart.
They meet at the crossroads and embrace each other, the marriage of their lips testament to their adoration for each other. Eyes closed, bodies surging with sensation, they whisper their worship for one another.
“I’ve missed you, Hesentia,” the man might say.
And in their infatuation she may reply with a similar statement.
So they hug again, over and over, happy to be united again.
The girl, Hesentia, has gone against the command of the general, meeting with the common boy. He has noticed the affection growing between the pair when Raymond’s father, accompanied by his son, had been selling his stock in the village. Raymond had taken an interest then with the girl who had, with her friends, been wandering playfully around the village looking at the pitiful wares the traders were attempting to peddle. From nowhere Raymond had come, chatting to the girls, especially the beautiful one, telling them his repertoire of jokes and stories, flashing his accomplished smile. The girls had seen him as entertainment, as a way of having their games and laughs, but the one whom he’d been putting the most effort into making laugh found herself interested in the merchant boy. An interest that was disallowed by the spying father; an interest which flowered to a secret relationship.
So, in their fondness for each other, they would take quiet walks through the forest tracks, holding hands and talking of their latest news, and, more often than not, stopping to seal themselves in love again.
Raymond beds Hesentia in the forest, an experience that neither will forget. Not because it is a fitting milestone to their surreptitious relationship, nor because it is the best sex they’ve had in their young lives, but rather because it is the only sex they’ve had and the greenness of their carnality shows despite attempts to keep their poor abilities secret from each other. Her pain, his enthusiasm, and the sticky climax that remains inside – none of this matters, this is love. Their love.
After their poor experiment with passion they reassemble their clothing to more customary positions and walk hand in hand again along the forest paths, laughing and joking about the sex, keeping the humour tender.
However, unbeknownst to both, their relationship, despite being all hush-hush, hasn’t been the best kept of secrets. Hesentia’s father has known all along about the young couple’s meetings and at times has followed her from the home to the crossroads. This night is to be no exception. He knows that the longer the pair last together the more harder it will be to keep his daughter from rebellion.
Raymond takes Hesentia in his arms at the crossroads at the end of their secret evening. Between giggles and eulogies of love for each other they kiss, hug, and part company arranging to meet in the near future.
Raymond stands at the crossroads watching his dear Hesentia disappear into the dusk, looking back every few seconds to make sure he is still watching, enjoying her attention. Eventually they are out of sight of each other.
Three men step out of the hood of the forest, making clear of their presence with the fervourous crunch of branches underfoot.
“You, boy,” one of the men might shout, his voice carrying weight in the night air. Raymond, in the realisation of fear, takes a step back. Two of the men carry knives, the man with the barking voice stands in the middle unarmed.




III

A Deathbed Sonata

An unlikely couple, but that’s what love can be; a meeting of different people – a crossroads. The story of Raymond and Hesentia is the tale of wandering minstrels, the account given at the campfire, shared between generations, bonding them. In love.
I myself have made use of stories, as I’m sure you have, to touch the hearts and minds of those continuously around me, and those, more tangential, souls that depart the regions of the heart but never the memory.
On my deathbed I called for my children. One by one they hopped in to the room, the first they’d seen me since the fever took me in its terminal embrace. It had been my wish that they shouldn’t see me, pale of face and light of mass, as I hoped to walk out recharged from the grip of fever and be the same parent I had always been - yet more grateful that I had sired them. And now, now that I knew I wouldn’t see them grow to appreciate the blood between us, that I would never be there to aid them in the troubles that life would thrust upon them, I believed that it was time that they should see their father, and listen to what advice and comfort for the future I could offer.
It hurt, I’ll admit, to see their faces as the sparkle of their eyes bled through to a hollow of alarm. For whom it hurt more, I can’t say. The horror that was once their loving father now confined to a sweat-stained bed: his heavy wrinkles drawn upon an undernourished frame, eyes peering out from additional baggage, and his stench, beyond his senses, massaging the air with its contaminated tang. Or was I more revolted at myself for introducing my children to frailty at such a tender, impressionable age?
My youngest started to cry. The eldest, sensing that he had to be strong, tried to comfort her. The other, obviously confused, remained silent but showed no fear as she took one step closer to the bed.
I beckoned them closer, showing them that there was nothing to fear. Telling them that it was I - their father.



IV

The Songs of Angels

Heaven, in more orthodox traditions, is a paradise for those who should be rewarded after a good life; but it’s a desolate wilderness. Everything, the once splendid palaces made of gold, encrusted with precious stones, the landscape that teemed with vitality and beauty, and the moral code, is in ruin. The ‘good’ souls run unruly and godless through once magnificent corridors slaying each other, collecting the bounty of paradise, and trading it for more earthly diversions.
There was no God to welcome me here. No angels flew in the vicinity heralding my arrival with the harmony of lyre and bugle. Not even my ancestors crowded around to take me on a tour of the glories of Heaven and the wonder of God. Not even my mother.
At my feet the corpse of a woman lay, her body torn open by something sharp, her insides feasted upon by numerous insects. By her side the murder weapon rested, something like a machete yet with a blade more ragged, and a hilt that had, at one point, been coated in gems and now looked worthless as someone had prised every stone for their worth. Material gain, it seemed, extended to immaterial plains. And as I cursed humanity for its reluctance to shake off the flesh, I realised I was cursing myself for whether it was because I was fresh from Earth or dignity was still an edict of Heaven I took the rags, meagre and dirty, from the dead soul and covered my body as best I could.
I took the blade too. If Heaven was lawless then it was prudent to protect myself.
Despite its unwelcoming atmosphere Heaven seemed to be marvellous in the respect that it was an overwhelming juxtaposition. Ice and fire lived in peace together, the deepest valleys were situated in the heart of the highest mountains, water flowed both ways depending on mood, roads led back the way they’d came. Even the animals, the great predators and their prey, seemed to live together in some degree of harmony.
Standing in the shelter of a tree I felt a sudden rush of loneliness that chilled the soul. The fact that all my perceptions of this place had been untrue: that here, I had no family, I had no friends. I had no God. Common sense ruled that it would be best to explore my new land, to find a family, to find allies, and, looking at the gilled woman in her painful repose, enemies, no doubt.
But where to go?
All around me the land spread out pushing horizons to great, unreckonable distances. Once majestic palaces stood in devastation somewhere between here and infinity, small bustling civilisations - in the shape of little camps - peppered the landscape, smoke rising from their core.
Thinking once more of the woman I decided it would be best to avoid the populated sites, and started hiking towards the nearest palace in the hope that I would find an answer there to my questions. Maybe even, God. Maybe

A second? An hour? I couldn’t say how long it took me to reach the palace but I wasn’t really that bothered for it was the destination that mattered, not the route. The only real bother was that thus far I had managed to avoid all the inhabitants of Heaven, diving behind the nearest bush or wall and up the closest tree when I sensed someone was nearby. Now, as I stood in the vicinity of the once grand citadel, I accidentally happened upon a couple trudging through the fallen brickwork and overgrown grasses, the man holding his partner round the waist, the woman carrying a bundle of rags in her arms.
They saw me, looked upon me, and I could see in her eyes that she feared me. I held up my hands to show that I was benevolent in my intentions, forgetting that I still held the rough dagger. The man leaped in front of the woman, protecting her and pleading for me to leave them alone. I dropped the knife and gestured for them to pass.
The man still eyed me warily as they traipsed past and I had to turn from his accusing glare. Leading his companion past I saw that the rags she carried gave lodgings to an infant, its restless arms gripping the dirty cloth, letting it go, and gripping again.
I left the knife lying in the long grass and continued to the palace doors.
At one point the doors would probably have separated two worlds. The richness and the rich of Heaven contained within and the poverty stricken left pleading at the gate for alms and something more in the way of an ‘after’ life. Now, however, the strong wooden opening had forgotten itself in its rot, found itself defeated by the barrage of time and the poor, allowing the ransacking of the inner citadel. Standing, dehinged and decayed, it did not bother to hold back the advances of wanton looters, rather it looked on without concern, without dignity.
Inside the palace was empty but for the confusion of fallen bricks and the dead. And the dead were everywhere, strewn unkempt across floor and obstacle, some even pinned to the walls, arms wrapped around the offender that pinioned them as if their last seconds spent were trying to remove themselves from their fatal predicament.
Amazingly, not everyone was dead. There were people who sat beside the empty masses holding their useless hands. Some were praying for the dead, their whispers inaudible as they echoed through the great hall; others though, and this was the splendour, were singing. The melodies sometimes banded together – a hundred-fold - in chorus and then parted to detail their separate verses, harmonious one stanza, and then noisy, indistinct doggerels. The more muffled these songs became the more clarity was awarded them. I realised then that what these people, these angels were singing were not songs; not songs, but something more moving.
These were the songs of lives. They detailed the fall and rise of the dead people, making them not dead people but dead individuals. Beautiful accounts of heroics and cowardice, aspirations and shattered dreams, satisfaction and doleful longing, all told with the same gusto and respect. So, it developed, that these were not only the songs of life but, more importantly, those of love.
For some, love appeared to be an easy ride through life but for others it was an experience fraught with disappointment and danger. It was these songs that struck a chord with me, as if my own heart were in the same key of these doleful soliloquies. And from each stanza expressed I found myself dreaming of the crossroads I had imagined in my fever and reliving my life, my loves, and all experiences in between, learning of the woes of others and, ultimately gaining a greater understanding of myself. And of love.

Stewart J. McAbney



Edited By MileOut on 08 Aug. 2002 at 13:15
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Postby Mystery » Thu Aug 08, 2002 4:06 pm

WOW! I don't know what else to say. That was interesting, and beautiful, but at the sime time it was dark and horrid.
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Postby quantumdaimon » Thu Aug 08, 2002 4:24 pm

Overall, a good piece of writing. One thing that struck me early on in the piece was the number of big words. Remember, this is the twenty-first century, and the general public have the attention span of a frisky puppy in a crowded room. It gives me at least, the impression that someone told you that you use the same words too often, so you grab your thesaurus and start replacing stuff (I can't count the number of times I've done this in essays). I definitely think that you should keep working at it if you can though.
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Postby Mut » Thu Aug 08, 2002 4:30 pm

MileOut, I have to ask: do you write professionally? I mean, do you have any published works? Your writing is fantastic, this piece being no exception. By all means, finish it!
R.I.P. Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
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Postby ds490 » Thu Aug 08, 2002 4:50 pm

Beautiful writing. If you don't get published you'll be hurting yourself.
~ ds490
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Postby Markjd » Thu Aug 08, 2002 5:07 pm

Excellent - just excellent!
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Postby DuoDave » Fri Aug 09, 2002 12:33 am

Good, but like quant said, it reads like nineteenth century literature. We're talking Poe, Voltaire, Shelly. Lots of big words and long meandering scentences. Paragraphs that read like chapters.

An interesting style to emulate but it would be difficult to maintain - let alone read - for novel length.
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Postby Astridian » Fri Aug 09, 2002 1:31 am

Worship and the Flesh is skillfully written. It has a poetic flair and skillfully uses metaphor. I assume the work is directed at an intellectual audience, not an average reader, so the overall choice of wording fits decently. Remember that clarity is more important than verbosity, though.

An advantage to using a large vocabulary is the increased capasity to relate complex ideas in a condensed fashion; a disadvantage to using a large vocabulary is that most people these days seek instant gratification and are not patient enough to learn new words. The very fact that there are alternatives to reading (t.v. is the big one) means that most readers are not seeking instant gratification and have a decent amount of patience (though I am no master of patience and I frequently seek instant gratification).

Editing your own work is great practice for a writer; you should continue working on this.
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Postby MileOut » Fri Aug 09, 2002 4:01 pm

No, I have never been published nor tried. I would like to, one day, when I have a substantial body of work, try.

Thanks for the appreciation - I'll certainly try and finish it.
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Postby MileOut » Tue Aug 13, 2002 11:11 am

No, I have never been published nor tried.


Rather interestingly, a poetry competition that I entered recently has replied to me saying that my poem is now a semi-finalist, and has been selected for publication in The International Library of Poetry's next anthology.
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Postby Cannibal » Tue Aug 13, 2002 11:37 am

That's quite amazing and very Poe, indeed.

You have to write the way you write - never write for an audience - never write for mass consumption - never write for anyone except yourself - be thoroughly selfish and care not one bit about what people think of what you write or how you write because once you do that you cheat yourself and you cheat your readers.

That was straight from a publisher I met many many moons ago :)

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Postby The Mad Monk » Wed Aug 14, 2002 2:49 pm

Stephen King said almost the exact same thing.
In related news, Kenneth Ham reveals that he knows precisely squat about fossils. Film at eleven.

That's Poodle's lovely avatar up there...
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