The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.3

A Brittle Sigh on the Night Air – By Jac Forsyth

Shadow, form and reform. Fold words with the unfold of 10,000 fireflies, ‘Rescue came against my will, yet you presume to judge me on the choices I make? Hauntings always did run common in the halls of your reason, Caswell.’

Time and crime. Sleeper stir, lead with the sanctified. And alchemy of insects come flick-click dripping. Four walls in a crippling.

‘Would you have me hide silent in sandstorms when I am fallen with the crown of Anjou?’ A sigh, bone brittle on the night air, ‘Come, my love, you know me better than that. Every beg, every borrow, every stolen, lays another gilding on my memory. Silent is the one thing I cannot be.’

Sleep crumble in moan and mumble. The seabirds cry. But dreamchaser know the meddling of birds. Sanctuary of dawn is just another trick of the dark.

‘Still you refuse me audience?’ Shadow falls soft along the seams, tears in the too late of this meeting, ‘Ah, my love, my love. In sword and arrow, I know more than most how shame hides refugee in the strangest of places. But the last of our choices were abandoned along with the tide. And it seems to me that the walls you have built between us would benefit from a touch of graffiti. Or perhaps something a little more, permanent?’

Insects take. Sleeper wake. Red on white cotton. Words never forgotten.

From the devil we came and to the devil we must return

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.2

Steep and Narrow – by Ash N. Finn

Evelyn watches the young nurse make her bed. Fresh covers. Five days and three hours without a change of bed linen. Bee had known to change them every day.

“We’re short-staffed at the moment, Mrs. Blanchard, sorry about that. What with nurse Beatrice, eh,” the girl swallows and clears her throat, “away at the moment, and Steve out sick as well. There, your bed is lovely and fresh now. Not that it smelled like it needed changing badly.”

“It’s Evelyn, child. Do call me Evelyn, please. It’s not about the smell. It’s the sand, it gets everywhere, the sand, and especially into the bed. The sand burns my skin, you see,” she holds out her arms for the nurse to see, “And it gives me fever, and makes me shiver, and then my visions, they, they take me to – no, I’d rather not say, you wouldn’t understand.”

Sleeping in the bed the second night had given her burns on her arms, hands, and legs, even on the soles of her feet. No blisters thanks to her quick reaction and escape into the armchair by the window in which she has slept fully clothed every night since, but her skin had turned a fiery red. It’s still red even now and hot to the touch. The soles of her feet hurt most of all, and hobbling around barefoot is all she can do. As little as possible. Her entire frame is sore from sitting in the armchair for hours on end. It will be good to lie down on the bed again.

“Mrs. Blanchard, eh, Evelyn, may I ask if you have taken your pill today? You should take it now and then go to bed, and have a good rest. Here, hold on to my arm, let’s get you over to your lovely fresh bed.”

Of course, the young woman thinks her mad. After all, isn’t this why she is in this place? Should she give up trying to make them see, trying to warn them? Yet, something tells her that the nurse is in danger. There is something familiar about the woman’s features and the unflinching openness in her doe-like eyes. Is she poor Bee’s child? Evelyn’s eyes fill with tears.

“Are you her child?”

“Oh Evelyn, please, don’t cry. What is it? Is it the memory of your last episode upsetting you so much? Try to calm yourself and go to sleep. I’ll stay with you a little longer. Hold my hand, close your eyes. You are safe here, always remember that you are safe here. Shhh.”

“The visions, they, they take me to – it’s a dark place – a steep narrow staircase – deep down – rags and bones – angry sand glowing red – so hot, too hot – scorching, torching – burning drumsticks in my head – bonfires roaring inside my blazing skull – get them out – don’t let it take them there – not their children, too – no, not the children – Bee – too late – so sorry, so sorry. Will you be able to forgive both the silence and the telling?”

“I don’t think anyone is angry with you,” the nurse places her hand on Evelyn’s forehead, “You’re running a bit of a temperature. Sleep now, you’ll feel better in the morning. Oh, and nurse Beatrice doesn’t have a daughter as far as I know.”

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

The Art of Drowning – Episode 2.1

The Perfect Metaphor – by Phil Huston

Caswell was down on one knee, sand drifting through his fingers when the dog stuck its wet nose in his ear, pulled him out of his reverie. He put his arm around its neck for an instant before it was gone, barking birds off the Juliette Simone.

“Saw the video. Christ, man.”

“It’s just sand, Kirklin. It has no form, no stasis.” Cas picked up another handful, opened his hand and let it drift from his palm, between his fingers, watched the breeze scatter it. “The wind tosses it into the air, drops it somewhere new. Where the wind stops, the ocean takes over. Look around. The kids over there, the dog, you, me. Our footprints disappear. As far as the sand is concerned where we were never was.” He brushed his hands, straightened. “Sand retains nothing, has no intention. But it’s always in motion. Always in the moment. A perfect metaphor, a perfect vehicle for thought. Good or evil.”

“Dust in the wind. Appropriate. But a bit derivative, eh?” He put one hand on Caswell’s shoulder, waved backhanded at the ground with the other. “This was where he blew?”

“Yeah. You’d never know.” He stared out past the Juliette into the cold fog that hugged the shore. “This was rage, Kirklin. Not the sea breeze, not sand drifting like a thought through a footprint that was never there, not the predictability of the tide. Pure rage.”

“The evil thoughts and nothing footprints of a mad man?”

“Or woman. We have another body.” He shifted his gaze to the Juliette. “Letting it run through the system, but I know it’s ours. Body was wrapped in a French flag, so the terrorist boys wanted first go. Inside two hours they knew what the victim had for breakfast in 1993. All that deep background eliminated the body from any sphere of theirs, but the free research sent it straight back to Shona’s missing persons ‘psychic witness’ Evelyn. They didn’t see it, a male day nurse for a government house of nutters. Of no consequence to them, and the bloody elephant in the room for the office of secrets best kept. Too bad they don’t talk to each other.” He stared at the ground where Aqualung had been, raised his eyes to his friend. “The DNA from this ship of the damned tells the story of a hundred years of victims with familial ties. We’re going to have to clean her out. It’ll be a circus if I make it official. Can you still manage footprints in the sand?”

“I was born invisible. Like me, the ministry of secrets and lies have no doubt hacked the Doc’s camera since your visit to the Tower. I can fix that for as long as we need to get the job done.” He dropped a black cigarette butt, ground it out in the sand. “Your young associates won’t like it. Being usurped and shoved aside.”

“I’ll tell them they’d like it less if whatever happened where we’re standing happens again with them in the madness’s crosshairs.”

“I can’t find the proper words, at the moment, to express my gratitude for being deemed expendable.”

“You’re getting old. Pretend you’re looking for your glasses in the morning. You’ll find them.” He took the frisbee from Kirkland’s hand, sailed it long and low for the setter. “I’ll have a dog again. When I retire.”

“If we live that long I’ll help you look for one. You’re free to borrow mine.”

“She needs a bath.”

“Settled, then. I’ll pick her up tomorrow.”

***

Caswell watched from the bed of Kirklin’s farm truck as the X5 without light turned a wide arc and backed in next to him. “I told you two to stay away, Shona. Now bugger off.”

Kylie hopped from the passenger side of the SUV. “And you told me we were a team. I know how I want the bones bagged. You bugger off if there’s buggering off done.”

“Kylie –”

“The camera went offline and sent me an alarm notice. Dunning and the secrets keepers rarely check it. I get notices about that as well. It had to be you.” She nodded past him. “Or your friend.” She pulled the surgical mask up from under her chin and over her nose, grabbed a handful of thick trash bags from the open hatch. Shona exited the driver’s side and did the same. She caught Caswell’s eye, raised her eyebrows and shrugged.

“I’ll pick. Shona will archive, you will bag and tag. Grab the bags, Caswell, we don’t have all night.”

Kirklin hung back, grabbed the back of Caswell’s jacket. “Truth told they know what they’re doing and you’re padding your CV?”

“Something like that. Stay up here, keep them alive from this end for me. I don’t come back in an hour, call for reinforcements.”

“There’s a Viagra joke in that I’m going to leave alone.”

We’re the Viagra jokes, Kirklin.”

***

Caswell wiped the sweat from his face with his shirt tail and was ready to chalk it up to age and exertion when he noticed his two younger partners had shed their jackets and were dripping sweat as well.

“Last bag, Shown. Torso fifty-three.” Kylie wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “Hotter than bloody hell in here.” She absently leaned her hand against the Juliette’s hull and found it cool to the touch. “You would think, as hot as it is in here, that there would be some transference. Like if the sun was heating this old piece of iron.” She looked down and the sand was glowing an angry orange-red. She lifted one foot and the bottom of her trainer pulled away like it was covered in hot sidewalk chewing gum. Shona screamed, rocked back on her heels.

“Out.” Cas handed Kylie the bag, spun her around and shoved her through the hatch in one motion. “Up the stairs. Take the bag. Get out.” He turned back, grabbed Shona around the waist and threw her over his shoulder. He ripped her beach slippers off with his free hand and they burst into flames when they hit the sand. She screamed again and pounded his back when she saw the thick, hard rubber soles of Caswell’s work boots start to pool under his feet in the sand that had begun to run as liquid glass.

***

Shona sat in the open hatch of the X5, stared at the surf where Caswell, his pants rolled up to his knees, had gone to stand. “I wouldn’t have feet now, if not for him.” Shona nodded slightly toward the beach. “That’s two.”

“Two?” Kylie, barefoot like Shona, was examining what was left of her trainers.

“Life savers.”

“I looked up your archives on the Henry the Eighth’s headless wives case. He said in the press conference you saved his life and netted the killer.”

“He said that because I’d have got the sack if I fucked up again.” She rubbed the balls of her feet, glanced off at Cas in the surf. “I netted the killer, and would have wound up dead as Henry’s ninth if Cas hadn’t known I’d do something he’d warned me off. Can you imagine if we’d done this alone, like you planned?”

“Do you think he knew?”

“Who knows? We act like he didn’t and he’ll never say. Last time I fall for your girl’s world we do it better alone speech.” She grinned at Kylie. “And the last time I wear comfortable shoes on this one.”

“Can’t say I won’t make that speech again,” Kylie grinned back. “This is the last time I wear expensive comfortable shoes on this one.” She frowned at her trainers and bagged them. “Where’s Caswell’s friend?”

“Somewhere he can see and can’t be seen. He needs to surface, though. Soon. We need his truck to haul the bones and Caswell back from cooling his toes.”

“Who is he?”

“I was told Kirklin is what 007 wanted to be when he grew up. Caswell says he’s the most dangerous man any of us will ever meet. And the only reason that Kirklin’s retired and still alive is the secrets keepers don’t know where his box of secrets is.”

“That sounds so mellodramatic. Like an overacted black and white film full of off-handed bikini sexism and fake karate chops.”

“We didn’t have computer driven special effects back then.” They both jumped out of the X5 when Kirklin materialized leaning on the hatch door frame. “Tell us where the bones are going. Cas and I will be along.”

***

Kirklin and Caswell bounced down the road in the old truck in silence. Ten minutes and a mile away, Kirklin held his hand out the window and pressed a button on what looked like a keyless entry fob. His phone on the seat next to him lit up with live video from the Juliette. “We’ll be on CCTV in the parking lot at the hospital where your baby Doc’s lab is. This won’t be a secret long. I heard fifty-three from both rooms, based on skulls?”

“How did you hear that?”

“The same way I heard them plotting to do it on their own. Your singing smart ass doctor isn’t the only one with tricks up her sleeve. One pin head piezo and the entire ship is a microphone. Enough power and it’s a giant speaker. I wonder how much of your banshee was real, and how much help it had.” He tossed the fob into a door-less glove box. “What’s your real plan with the bones?”

“Pressure. They have to give us the information on the test subjects and responsible crew from the Juliette that they’re sitting on. Doc catalogs the DNA, Shona crosses it with missing and living relatives, we quietly return the bones to the families for ‘closure.’ Or it’s a hundred-year serial killing spree spawned by the Crown’s miscreant boffins playing loose with their ethics and chemistry kits.”

“That’s the best bit. When they know it’s their asses and you get to squeeze them, watch them squirm.” Kirklin slowed, navigated a narrow, wooden bridge. “So that was some or your angry sand tonight, eh?”

“The sand grains on the steps were tiny, glowing balls, Kirklin. The steel itself was the same forty degrees as outside. Everywhere underfoot it was molten glass. None of it has made sense so far.”

“Madness seldom does. Your toes okay?”

“I thought steel toed boots were a safe bet.” He snort laughed, put a bare foot on the dash. “The tops of my toes feel like a long day in the sun, and a good pair of boots are done in. I’ll live.”

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Kirklin took both hands off the wheel, lit one of his black cigarettes. “Here I was all set to enjoy my retirement.”

“You’re a piss poor liar.” Cas grabbed the steering wheel with his right hand. “And a worse driver.”

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

The Art of Drowning – Season One Finale

Fix Your Mind in Chaos – by Jac Forsyth

A golden sadness hangs from the throats of sparrows. They sing in counterbalance to chase out the dawn, but as the sun rises the shadows just grow darker.

Do you feel the weight of me on your chest yet? I have watched as you beg for sleep on nights far darker than this. I am feline in my acquainted now, purred into your dreams as easily as rainstorms and rattlesnakes. And yes it seems that in all my honour I have still found pleasure in stealing substance from your flesh.

See, child, how you grow heavy along the skeletal. Time does not hurry so much in its undoing. Still there is a kindness that. Youth brings a terror that age will beg for. Skin and sin, you whisper out confessions from the sanctuary of your bed and I know you right down to the ground. Groan with me, cry your nightmare in salivated ribbons, crawl in plague and platitude until none can bear the stink of you. And when the sky falls in sirens, will you be found still holding onto the crippling of your reason like it could keep you afloat?

Come close, child, breathe with my synchronicity. You think you can find your way back like the winding of twine, but do you really want to see how far down this can go? We rise and fall a billion times, sand to glass, glass to sand. There is always a beginning, but search out the endings and you will find nothing, just a name torn out in bland conclusions and the fabric of familiar shapes.

There is blood on the tide again and still you hide behind the shame of your insanity. I see the tremors of it corrode at the threshold. You know where the answers are but you watch from the hillside. Madness isn’t flat any more than the earth is, but there are horizons of alignment. Find them. Fix your mind in chaos. You think you know salt, but until you welcome the tide into your lungs, all you know of it is the taste.

I have found the keys to all the doors you keep shut, and in the scouring of this bleached flesh there is finally room enough for two. When you wake, will you dare to know me again? Will you touch your fingers to the black mirror? Will you remember how you betrayed us all? Storm is wound silent in cloth and canker. Time is not linear, child, it just looks that way because the scenery is the same.

Sleep then. Sleep on while you still can. But I warn you to heed the songs of sparrows, death has found us wanting too many times for me to fold patience with your fear. Light a match and hold it to your arm, my sweet Caswell. There are some situations you have to burn your way out of.

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

The Art of Drowning – Episode 9

Like the Rain Follows Thunder – by Ash N. Finn

Evelyn wakes knowing she is being watched. The weight of her eyelids sends the flash of a memory to her stirring mind. Swallow this and you will feel better, and she had swallowed the pill like a little girl following mother’s orders to float toward the siren’s call of a simple sweet melody.

She is alone, her room as quiet as the ocean floor. The chair beside her bed still sits at an angle, but the nurse is gone. Beatrice is her name, and she doesn’t like it. Call me Bee, please, everyone does. A dull numbness creeps into Evelyn’s arm, the one that swelled up after a bee stung her. She was only seven when the furry insect injected the poison of the torturing dichotomy of fury and sorrow into her. Violence and despair. She had slapped the creature hard, trampled it to death as it lay writhing on the earth, then howled in grief at the loss of her innocence. It didn’t matter that the bee would have died anyway. They can only sting us once the bees; in a kamikaze act on behalf of their tribe they rip their guts to shreds and spill their amber blood.

A killer’s shedding of tears after extinguishing a life is like nature pouring out rain in the wake of violent thunder. She turns the chair to face the window. The watchers are out there, she knows they are. When you watch someone, be prepared to be watched in turn. Surveillance breeds counter-surveillance. She gives the windowpane a hard, blank stare. A distant thunder sends a shadow, faint at first, now darkening. Here it comes, as she knows it must, the weeping of the clouds. The sorrow after the killing, mixed with the tears of all the lost ones, is pelting her window in the guise of raindrops. “I know you,” she whispers, “I know you all. Have you come to watch me keep my silence and to witness my ever-growing sorrow?”

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

The Art of Drowning – Episode 7

Solemn Dancer – by Jac Forsyth

Faded and feathered know the solemn dancer. They fold with it and scold with it, and heaven knows they grow old with it. The land crawlers ticker-tape their warnings in a million parades, the biters growl and howl out uncertainty of tribe, and better than most the shallow breathers know how it plays out in drum and scum all the way down to the sea.

Truth is that ten thousand starless nights have taught me the flash of its soliloquies in scale and tail as well as I know my own. The mending of me was stank from the minds of fin and they play out that leap beyond soul more than any I have ever met. They live it like they live the ocean. The source it is, but not the knowing. And in all its abundance I too had forgotten that those who know it best no longer have a need for names.

So what of it here? Here with the takers and the breakers? So many pretty portraits painted that it’s hard to remember they all have the same stink ink behind their smiles. But it seems to me, child, that in all their certainty they still hunt and flee in the same direction.

I know you still see it too, crayoned in the scratchings, mapped out in the meaningless ribbons of their tempered tapestry. Because in all the wreckage of this unheeded I can taste the scars again, rust right through to mercury.

They play hummingbird with unasked questions while the plungers stay solid in their lifeboats and curse the sting of silver air. And so their denial soothes away the salt from my bones. The tower of minuets rings, the table shatters and I cocoon another piece of flesh from its toll. Strange that I had forgotten the hope of never feeling this again.

And what of your home, rag and bone? Will you watch the windows again? Will you waste the night with your thought taking? I have spoken with too many ghosts to imagine that life is the real priority here.

Fear I am but do not call me fear. For in all this broken water you still think of me in nouns. And I am fugitif.

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts

The Art of Drowning – Episode 6

My Candle is Dead – by Ash N. Finn

All in my head. All in my head. All in my head. All in my hay-ay-head.

She rocks back and forth on her haunches, knuckles bone white from gripping her ankles. The storm rages and batters the inside of her skull with a thousand burning drumsticks.

Don’t cry, my child. Your mother is dancing around the rag tree by the old black well to the wail of the banshee.

The angry ocean tosses the ship high and low until it breaks in two. Your father feeds his rattling breath to the eye of the storm. Like every lost sailor before and after him. This here rag is for you, my child. Sing a wish for your father to the torn shroud. It’s going on the rag tree by the old black well. Your mother won’t let the banshee steal it. Take solace from your mother’s ancient practice. Sing your song in your father’s tongue.

A hand, icy to her burning skin, grasps her by the shoulder and stops her rocking.

“Evelyn, please, open your eyes, look at me. Here, take this with some water and you’ll feel better in no time.”

“Tell them we have to find the children and grandchildren of the lost ones before it’s too late!”

“You just had another one of your episodes, dear. Take your Xanax, please.”

The nurse places a pill on Evelyn’s tongue and lifts the glass to her lips. Evelyn swallows obediently, the whites of her eyes ablaze with the remnant of her vision. She grabs the nurse’s arm and pulls her closer.

“Who is your father, child? Do you know the singing child? Promise you’ll tell them. They need to find the singing child, find the children, the children’s children. So many lost fathers. So much anger and desperation. The children,” Evelyn’s voice trails off and she allows the nurse to guide her onto her bed, “Promise you’ll tell them.”

“I will, Evelyn, but it’s all in your head. Rest your poor head now. Here, I’ll hold your hand until you fall asleep. Everything will be fine, you’ll see. Sleep now.”

Evelyn drifts off into an uneasy sleep. The singing child smiles and places a rag over her head, prête-moi ta plume … pour écrire un mot … ma chandelle est morte … je n’ai plus de feu … ouvre-moi ta porte.

The Art of Drowning – An Ethereal Mystery

3 writers, no destination – What could go wrong?

Ash N. Finn  The Perilous Reading Society  & Not Very Deep Thoughts