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 8

Mundane Madness – by Phil Huston

Caswell reached over Kylie’s shoulder, tapped the mouse, dragged the playback bar backwards under the video. He let it play for a few seconds and tapped it again.

“There. That frame. Clean it up. Get it out to the two closest coastal territorials. If nothing drops, expand. North and south, not inland.”

“He came in from the water side.” She wasn’t sure if she should feel insulted or ordered about. “He could have come from anywhere.”

“Look at him, Kylie. He’s bloody Aqualung, having a hell of time dragging the body. Whatever he floated in on, it can’t be much. He doesn’t have a car or access to a barrow or a dolly or a friend to help. Our ‘evil wind’ put a tenner in his hand and told him where to take the body. The locals know him. Find him for us.” He could feel the room continue to tighten. “Please.” He paused a proper beat. “The camera is brilliant.” Unasked and possibly dangerous, but he left those on the shelf.

Kylie made a half turn in her chair, her eyes wide. “They’re amazing, aren’t they? They work like cellphones and they’re smaller than the rubber on my pencil.” She practically stuck the pencil in his nose to make her point. “I can zoom it in and out with my phone.” She held up her iPhone like he’d never seen one. “And I used the Juliette herself for an antenna. With a fine wire to the hull?” Maybe he understood. “I signed the req form and when I told the woman that I was working with you and Shona it showed up in two days. Two days! I never get…But, um, are you sure? About Aqualung being local?”

“Until you tell me different.”

“I’m more of a doctor. And a scientist. Than a, um, policewoman, Detect, Cas. Caswell.”

“All to say you’re a first order problem solver with the broadened perspective the heart of a singer brings. Some problems are mundane, like where did our Aqualung come from. He takes us up the ladder to where mundane stops and the puzzle begins. You’ll have your plate full of doctoring and science-ing soon enough. Send a FAX or email through the system, and wait. But not long. Let me know if you don’t get prompt and courteous responses, even if they have nil. When Shona calls, text me. I’m gone fishing.”

“Fishing?”

“For mundane.”

She wanted to ask him if they were running, or seasonal, fresh or salt water and what kind of bait, but…Most men, especially the older ones, were humorless sods. The DCI seemed different. Still, times like this she wished she’d had a father.

***

“It’s not new, but bloody hell, Shona.” Caswell let out a soft whistle, ran his hand along the fender of the dark blue BMW X5.

“The garage had a note. Four-wheel drive, no bullshit. You’ll just deny it, so I won’t ask. I will ask about four-wheel drive.”

“We need to travel close to the water. Low tide at just gone half past.”

“Looking for?”

“Where Kylie’s Aqualung could have beached his boat at high tide. I checked the charts against his arrival time. He didn’t want to drag the body far.”

“You did research work?”

“Kylie was wounded. Scientists and doctors doing boredom. Couldn’t load her up with more and you were busy getting England’s daily missing sorted for us.”

“You backed up on her?”

“She’s a sensitive lass, Shona, and so in love with her toys.” His voice was on the border of humor and sarcasm, and he followed it with a tight smile across the hood of the BMW. “More to it, like you she’s the defensive that being young and bright brings, and not used to me.”

“You’ve had more Ladies First diversity training?”

“No. Dear old Mum’s manners well preached. Good people are hard to find. Harder to keep. Especially when they’re female.”

“Caswell’s compliments and candy, eh? That’s why I’m driving the beach in a drug runner’s wet dream and you’re on goggles duty. In future, if you’ve flowers on your mind? I’m allergic.”

“All the more reason, then.” He shot the tight smile again, opened the passenger door.

***

“He stays in a stone shed on the cliffs off the end of Barnes Farm point.” No one had thanked her for finding the Aqualung suspect, which she was starting to think was an unkind nickname, and Shown was driving like a wild woman. “He scavenges at night.” She had to close her eyes. “He picks up what he can afford at the off license, but no one sees him drink, or drunk. Do you think he –” The blue SUV skidded sideways, Kylie knew they were over the cliff. Caswell was out before it stopped moving, banged the door of the stone shed open.

“Gone. Dammit.” He twisted either way in a hurried survey of their location, swore again under his breath. “Kylie. The quick look now, or with us?”

“Um, I –”

The door slammed, Kylie was thrown against the back seat and Shona was grinding grass and dirt up fifteen feet high behind them. They could hear Kylie singing under her breath, her fingertips on the window as she watched the shed fade away… “and you snatch your rattling last breaths, With deep-sea diver sounds…And the flowers bloom like Madness in the spring…”*

***

Shona killed the lights almost a mile away and idled up on the grassy rise before it turned to sand, the same half mile point as always from the Juliette Simone. They hoped the half-moon between clouds would be enough and settled in to wait. In such deep silence they could hear each other breathe.

“There.” Shona hissed, pointed at a spot halfway between them and the Juliette, thirty yards to the right off straight line.

“Kylie?”

She adjusted her night vision binoculars. “That’s him.”

Shona and Caswell were out of the car, running. She jumped out behind them and was surprised at how quickly they had closed on Aqualung. He was ten yards away when it started.

The screech was deafening. Feedback meets giant steel grating on steel. And the wind. It was all they could do to stand, much less move against it. It started to swirl, picked up speed and sand, spinning faster and faster until vision blurred and the wind became part of the screech from hell. They held up their forearms to protect their eyes, their faces sandblasted.

Kylie’s “No, no, no, nooooo….” was picked up by the wind and amplified a thousand times. Figures who could have been made of cellophane stood around the Juliette, watching, arms folded, immune to the screeching, screams and sand.

Kylie screamed “No, no, no, no, NO!” again, and Aqualung exploded into a fine, red mist that blended with the spinning sand. Sand and blood, the rags he wore and bits of bone. They could barely breathe. Shona flashed on a holiday in Brighton when she was seven, knew she was drowning. The ocean found her a skinny, unworthy sacrifice and spit her back on the beach, choking, coughing up her watery insides in giant heaves.

Kylie’s soft voice blended with the raucous agony of the wind, sand and blood, rags and bone. And it began to abate. The softer she sang, the quieter it became. The all-enveloping, self-contained twenty-yard wide hurricane dropped from somewhere over their heads, down to their waists, on down to their ankles like a dying hula hoop, eddying around their feet until it was no more.

When the song had faded from her throat, Kylie dropped to her knees and fell sideways into Caswell’s leg. He picked her up in both arms, held her like a rag doll while he and Shona stared at the spot where the fisherman they’d nicknamed Aqualung had been. A spot scoured clean by the wind and sand as if nothing had happened.

***

“A French lullaby you said?” He tossed the t-shirt they’d all used to clean their faces over the back seat and waited for Kylie to finish chugging a bottle of water. All three looked like shell shocked, blood covered sun and sand burned tourists.

“Yes. From my Gran. I don’t know why…” Kylie twisted the cap off her third bottle of water, opened another, handed it to Shona, who stuck her little finger in it and tried to get sand out of her ears and nose. Caswell blew his nose on a gas receipt, held it up for the beach breeze to carry away, poured his remaining water over his head. He bent, shook his head like a retriever before he straightened.

“No lasting harm?” He got a nod from Shona. Kylie beamed a smile, grabbed his forearm and scooted from the back of the X5. “I was wondering, working with you two, when the weirdness was going to start.” She looked into her partners’ worried, red faces, shook Caswell’s arm. “If whatever that was didn’t jam the camera? We can watch it on my phone! So much for mundane, huh?”

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

 

  • From Aqualung, copyright Ian Anderson.

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

The Art of Drowning – Episode 1

The Art of Drowning – by Jac Forsyth

There are times when the wind takes hold of the desert and carries it far out to sea in sandstorms too brutal for even memory to hold. And I was lost and found in the firelight of whispered stories, heroes of ruin sung into lullaby with the sweetness of rum and reminiscence. And maybe there were warnings there, but I was still too young and caught up in the riptide between tales to hear them.

It was vultures that finally drove me down to the abandonment of shore. In my arrogance I called it destiny, but pride is always the last one standing and heaven knows the raptors were patient.

We were a thousand miles from land when the sandstorm took us, and even before the first warnings were called it had ripped away the sea and inked the summer sky dark with scours of long away sand. I should have remembered the stories then. But while the wisdom of sailors cursed in the cabins below, I who had traded my life for the shackles of freedom, stood on the deck and screamed at god.

But sand doesn’t care about the difference between entitlement and entombment and it will tear flesh from reason soon as you can think it. And I tell you, when you taste the first crippling of those loving arms around you, it’s too damn late to forget which way the horizon is supposed to run.

So it was that we were lost to the drownings of contradiction. The others wept out their endurance for a while, but I have a will for adaptation and to be honest, it’s hard to tell the difference between heaven and hell after a while. Somewhere up there daybreak comes flawed from poison night, stolen black and beaten white and the wrecked and wreckage ebb and flow with the circling of planets. Sure it’s not perfect and the fish have no concept of personal space, but this place is more home than I have ever known.

Carve a stone with things you want remembered, say a prayer if it helps ease your mind, but don’t you come looking for me. I have crawled too long in the desert to find anything but sanctuary down here with the bones of sailors.

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