Nocturnette No.3 : The Drowned Usan Town.
By Jan Lakowski.
Old red sun, senile and consumptive, caramelized in the yellowed bruises of distant storms. Setting always.
Blood drips from an ear, garish against the palest skin. This is the woman who came to him.
The rivulets of plasma feel like a procession of insects, crawling across my cheek.
Fear makes you foolish, you'll disturb every beast with that demeanour, Jim. You're incandescent with sadness. A rainbow of tears arc across your brow at all times.
A wild anger, sweetened by despair, blooms in the midnight sunken garden of a mythical mountain village. A forgotten people. Not even the most scintillatingly obscure archaic Journalism could behest an overpaid nutjob to roll out here. You're absolutely singular in rage. A frothing blot. You've ruined that t-shirt with the satanic bar and grill. You're dissolving in your venom, the fount of a deluge. Best get into the Toyota, and drive like an relapsing acid casualty, to the nearest wilderness, and become lost.
This is bliss.
Meanwhile, the saddlebags under these eyes are beginning to look like holes. I have an ocean of blood to give, if you'll only pay for my passage there in years. The glorious undead are among us, shunned by networking women looking for a paradigm of man. See them assemble ragbags of nobodies, in the symbiotic online mind, then turn terrorist and firebomb their childhood friends, drunk in a miniature arcade. The saddlebags under these green eyes allow me the indifference to ride, like a devil, from shithouse to plantation.
Woods so deep the moon lies in there asleep while noon boils the lazy breakfast milk in fury.
I speak only the dead language of underground Egyptian, buried alive technicians. I am electrocuting on the mainline, searching for somebody, anyone, to speak through me, for something.
Anyway, Edgar there, he sees a bottle of £5.99 Co-op rose', it's gone, he is somehow capable of pouring it all into one glass, like Jesus in the old days. Goes searching for the red wine with the highest alcohol percentage, and every night he wins, stomach cramps,a ghost white flabby middle, and the skull face is daily more visible as his skin becomes transparent like a cave amphibian's.
He has achieved the stare of a killer who murdered two sisters. Schoolgirls hunting wildflowers. Raping one, both ably strangled. Aged 12 and 14. Placed a daisy in both left hands, went home for tea.
Because the summer does its best bewitching on the ebb, as yellowed August darkens to tinder dry September. The whole forest nursery would go up in an instant. One stray stubbed cigarette and every furthest house on the isolated coast road burns, warm toes on cool dew grass as the children exit through the windows.
I'd up-sticks to anywhere, for you babe, but just the one place, and I cannot go alone to meet the devil at sunset. Where the dying pines sough in a scratchy wind, he stands swaying like a sea captain, goes dry drunk at the meat of every sentence's end, goggle eyes only just hid beneath the lids. The impossibly long eyelashes, the broken half-nose, his own fear. Why god, is the devil himself afraid? (Because, my wayward son, you have stubbornly forsaken the universe, you see only your own fear in everything, and in everyone. The devil is fearful for your soul. We could both lose a buck, or Whitechapel rouble, in our betting.)
I realise then I'm talking toilet to myself again, asleep stood standing, should be working, but I'm texting.
Anyway, forget that Spaceman. I'd rather fly a Cosmonaut. The inner wiring is all gold, and the capsule is never non-smoking. The Russians know how to die, and I'd rather suffer the reality of a frozen life, than live in the Yankee heatwave delusion one second. That's over romanticizing the myth, I know, but I'm past caring which dreaming goes where and my love is beyond all control in any rainbow shade of consciousness.
The saddlebags under these eyes are twin vortices, wine dark, warm sea green, virtuoso vomitus, a flesh pink ectoplasm, beams from each pupil, could strike any fool down in an instant. But I'll just leave it.
Moreover, I should tell you, dearest, that I am weary of these brutal mornings. My drunk wine belly rotund in ketchup shirt. My greasy loins a drain of poison, my chest a hanging carcass. I ache and itch and spasm in places inside I cannot reach. I am cured, and ripe for the slab.
That comment aside, we could all blame humankind's imminent demise on a certain dark continent with an overburden of artillery. Remember Tsar Bomba, Tsar Bomba, Tsar Bomba! One for every postcard town. But please evacuate the war veterans, women and children first. Let each man stand at every door, for Hiroshima, for Nagasaki, please vaporize my soul! One cannot go to rapture without an inner realm. But imagine them as spent cattle gone to pasture, who'd want an eternal life of bored, babbling asylum dissatisfaction?
That's prison, and man, an inmate animal in a world of free souls, devised an afterlife as punishment to those that refused camouflage or could not conceal their movements as wolves in the shoal. Shot where he stood used to be an idiom, death an ideal for murder. Still, I would not want to be mistaken for one. We live amidst too much protection. Too much control.
Didn't I have a tale to tell? Well dearest, I am drunk, the morning wears on, why didn't you inform me of the enormity, and vast extent, of my digression? Still, there is time yet before a rushed elevenses. So, I will begin****
(Natalie Dresden, immigrant violinist, firebrand politik, quaffing red wine through an explicit smile, squeaks through cute gap teeth or one, barefoot with watermelon glitter, rifling a well thumbed pack of smokes with handwritten notes, aims her gaze over that indelible grin, kisses me with my eyes closed, on my cheek, my forehead, my nose, behind my ear, then I lose my tongue in her teeth, we don't talk, it would be vulgar in this moment, when I begin to talk, this broad shouldered brunette, absolutely fucking rapt)
In our calendar year, 17 hundred and ninety-seven, the forgotten, and undocumented village of Amberhaven, formerly Luthiehaven, was absolved of its collected sin by an uproarious tide brought on by an underwater landslide in deep waters east of Boddin.
The whole lower portion of the town, the harbour and breakwater, shifted on the topsoil and toppled into the sea, and next day only the wooden fishing huts remained soon to decay. 180 lives lost in a waterspout and in giant eddies borne of the undersea cataclysm, or some say out of the maw of the Kraken (whose great horned silhouette was glimpsed by villagers on previous nights against a panicked sunset, its call an impossibly low-toned mixture of creaking cellar door and squealing swine, a declaration of dismay, of a wearing ache. The final word of a melancholy lullaby)
The village was truly a metropolis in miniature, devised of narrow stone stairways, hooded alcoves, towering gables above the tiny harbour where but four boats at once could be moored. The harbour itself was enclosed within a labyrinth of sandbars and offshore shoals. Rocks hard as iron, repellent to any hammer strike, magnetized to hulls, and sailor's blood and hide.
(At this juncture, I am interrupted, first by self-doubt, and then by Gordon who materialises on the carpet before me. You know the sort, mouthful of urinal chewing gum, patchwork cigarettes, medieval swaddling and visible nematodes roving his beard. Writhing, they seem to wave. "I knew that place" he says. I frown, jocularly disbelieving. "It's still there in part, a sort of underwater midden, some walls still standing. All white like porcelain." "No" I state firmly, "The village is gone" Gordon doesn't smile, just peels his melancholy eyes and is absent before I see him move. Natalie never seemed to be aware of his presence at all.)
You could never do any freediving at Usan, the water is thick with silt and weeds, and the currents strong, knotted and treacherous. It has always been this way. So many of these stories are pure fantasy.
I too, had seen the great Viking horns of the Kraken silhouetted against sundown's waning candlelight. A spare honey glow in the inky clods of cloud. It still came on certain nights, aligned as it was to the menstrual moon. Perhaps it was at the root of all the unusual phenomena in the Usan area. But what of it was hidden beneath the waves? Grey thorned tentacles, vegetable eyes and furrows, weathered insect exoskeleton, fish titan come to spawn? Or was it, as I believed, the largest of all crustaceans, and like many of the crabs, streamlined, maniacal, able to swim.
Natalie interjects, seemingly half asleep "Would you show me sometime, the Kraken? I'd love to see it" I laugh, briefly, "You don't know what you're asking, that red wine smells like a electricity exchange, it's muddled your waking with dreaming" She just carries on quaffing through that explicit smile, and the saddlebags under my eyes grow heavier, darker, the capillaries fusing and the claret staining the skin, the skull becoming radioactive and luminous behind this mask of bulbous flesh. "I'll take you anytime" I whisper.
That said, I am sunken to despair, this world is so full of melancholy, when I lose someone I cannot bear that specific pain. I cannot resist scourging my psyche' with its memory. My guilt is planetary in scope, its gravity the ebb and flow of my depression.
I tell her, I must go tonight.
I go alone. Somewhere beyond the stubbly field a dog barks incessantly.This irritates me almost to anger. The air is utterly still, the sky is black, featureless, the moon gone. I pass the cemetery vaults, almost overhanging the beach. I look at my phone. Noone ever texts me anymore. It's about the time she used to ask me how I was.
Then I see.
It's there. Far, far out to sea. There's that horrible implied movement that can only just be detected but not clearly seen. It's turning out there, shifting slowly. Then a terrifying moment of stillness where I am almost sure it has detected my presence, even from that distance, but then again, it resumes its sifting. Perhaps it's feeding I think to myself. It's like watching a great architectural masterpiece, a nouveau cathedral perhaps, in the perpetual freefall of demolition. Yet, there can be no doubt that thing is alive.
I had a sudden thought. The Kraken moved like a bee in the sex of a flower gorging on nectar, or like a beetle grub in its blood lust at the heartwood of an elm.
I remembered then being stood amongst the boulders low on the shore long after sunset, and hearing the sound of a heavy body sliding into the water, somewhere close at hand. However, the sound was confused by detritus and stone, and I could not discern from which direction it had come.
Later, advancing back towards the beach, I found myself in a abhorrent swamp of red seaweed, filled with bustling crabs and ragworms. It smelled oddly meaty, like minced beef being cooked with a lot of garlic, but with none of that aroma's inherent warmth. Laced with ammonia and decay. A metre deep in some places I struggled through this horror, relieved when I eventually made landfall again, in a hidden cove I habitually haunted.
All was not well however, I could not settle. It was too quiet, too still. I kept checking over my shoulder for foreign torchlight. The sea slapped and gurgled running through the sunken gullies. The moon could not be detected. I walked out quickly, not pausing long to pee or to arrange my things for the drive home. I could not shake that vile smell from my memory, nor forget that familiar, yet caustic dread that crept over me.
I sat in the car for a few minutes, making sure I'd locked all the doors. It was only about an hour later that I was finally able to relax and take stock of that brief span of time.
That time echoes the uncanny incident of 200 years previously. In July 1816, a scholar from Edinburgh had visited Luthiehaven and had had the first, and only known encounter with a true sea serpent. All other accounts are spurious, mistaken, fantastical, you know it to be true dear reader. They're bunkum. This tale however, has in its telling an air of authenticity, both bewitched and bizarre, struck till blinded by evil intent.
John Galdry was a solicitor, married but without children, who was writing a tome describing all the villages of Scotland's east coast. Luthiehaven was next on his list. We have little other information about him, other than his brief, yet disturbing account, witnessed by the owner of the local Inn, Mervyn James.
"I was unable to sleep, the night was so close I felt sometimes I could not breathe. I took leave of my room at 2am, dressing quickly. Carrying an oil lamp, I made my way to the cove south of the harbour, and used the spiral stairs set into the seawall, to descend the long wearisome way to the shore.
I did not recognise the place from my daylight excursions, at all. For one thing, the tide was not merely low, the sea itself could not be discerned. I walked towards where I felt it should be, and soon found myself wading through a swampland of sorts, being composed mainly of a dense red seaweed, that reeked of rot. It was then I stopped. There seemed to be an edifice before me, enormous and slate grey. It was not stone, and I could not see its edges. In every direction it disappeared into the gloom. I took it, not without some disbelief at first, to be a part of some great creature. Presently, as I stood transfixed from a distance of about 60 feet, up to my elbows in muck, I saw the head, mercifully leaning in the direction opposite from my own. It would have easily swallowed a horse, and carriage, and all occupants in a casual mouthful. Long, serpentine, with a snout both pointed and cruel, and glittering stars in the blackest eyes. The neck alone must have been close to 140 feet in length, the body was not visible being hidden under....well, it was then I came to my senses. I must have been walking on a thin crust of detritus, poised over the void. A floating strandline if you will. The north sea here exhibits a great depth, a pothole of perhaps 200 feet in width, and 800 feet in depth. Still, the creature seemed unaware of my presence, even in my panic. Perhaps it mistook my lamp light as an outlier of the myriad beacons of the town behind, and of those kept lit on the seawall stair.
In any case, I do not remember my race back to the sanctity of my room, I was mad with fear. It is my intention never to talk of this again, after signing this declaration, and swearing to the authenticity of this statement.
John Galdry, The Sea Bell Inn, Luthiehaven, July 14th, 1816."
If you will allow it, dear reader, let us casually slip forward 200 years to the present day. September 6th 2016. A fiery Tuesday morning with a temperature of 25 degrees now, in Seaton Aberdeen. 11:28 am. The cusp of lunchtime. I have just witnessed an older woman achieve the nominal feat, of smoking three successive cigarettes without the use of her hands (aside from the lighting, which was completed with both her sizeable shopping valises resting on the pavement). All this in the space of only a few hundred yards from the shop! It's moments like these that bring me up to puncture again, the surface tension between my subconscious reverie in the concoction of sliced fresh, still pungent, and struggling, bloody myth, and the whimsical sideshows that occur frequently in this reality. I believe both to be equally as important as each other.
That leads me nicely to exclaim! Canary yellow Usan agates, DO occur from time-to-time, but ARE pretty unusual,being mainly found in just two small areas. One cut just last night, by myself, proved to not only show fine fortifications, but a stalactitic base. To find a stone that combines both these scarce attributes is unusual indeed. Sadly, the stone was found incomplete, missing about 1 quarter to a fifth of one portion of the face. Cut with this fact in mind, one "half" is much larger than the other, as it may be possible to partially dome polish the latter.
I am so weary.
I work for a newspaper, and every morning I sort out the editions destined for the Backdates room.
Only yesterday,the sunlight was so intense, that every top copy's front page is now yellowed to buggery. The same yellow as the convoluted September twilight, the communal sandglass glare at Goldensands, the gold gloaming of two sweethearts at Carsaig on the Isle of Mull.
I am so, so weary.
Anyway, I gravitate towards the coast with work too, if I can. Fraserburgh is a favourite destination. Lovably oldhat, it remains much as it did in the 1960s, or before. The people are colourful. Weatherbeaten women, red wrinkling smiling faces and crow's feet like martian canals. Adidas three stripe silverbacks abound, they noticed my puce shirt and knew instantly I was a cunt. Guilty as charged. Honoured. A beautiful accent, and the good, welcoming, kindly nature of the large Polish contingent here has clearly rubbed-off on the indigenous population, on occasion anyway. A unique koi always pungent with the stench of seagull shit.
There are no agates on Fraserburgh beaches, dearest reader (as far as I know.....) Would that there were, would that there were.
Here I am again, thriving on the page. Luthiehaven is long since sunken beneath an uncanny tide, a long blurring moon, a galloping landslide. Not one soul survived. Will I?
Stood on the unkempt shore in that receding light, the blonde horizon stark in the blacks. Stood staring at that roiling form, many miles out. The horns imperceptibly rise against the brazen storm. I cannot see which parts of it move, but it is not still. Where are the eyes?
As the last splinters of twilight are gnashed into void by a horde of ravening darknesses, I realise that the thing is gone, and I have no memory of its leaving. I turn on my toes, and start towards the car, but I chance a last glimpse over my right shoulder, and recognise instantly that something is there. Just one capsizing horn, and its voice, an alloy of creaking door and skirling swine. I am in the car and I begin to drive immediately, not even stopping to remove my boots. I pause in Montrose later on, and get into comfortable shoes.
Never underestimate the comfort of myth. The heart's habitat can host any possible truth. Grow your windows wilder. There's really something out there.
Some time passes in you, a body brushes past you in the water.
You go to meet the devil at sunset. The once sweet stream now yellowed and stagnant. Everything is poison. The birdsong reduced to the dry hacks of starving crows. You walk like a deep sea diver struggling in the pressures 90 fathoms down. The ground gives way easily. This is the road to Lunan Bay, but you're alone now, the last one in the world. Every girl snubbed you, every friend forgot you. Your dreams dissolve your heart. Walk out onto the sand, white in the moonlight. This is your hanging time, see you spring. Your body whipped up, circles, teeters in the noose. Your blood thickens, writhing with nematodes. It's funny, enough for a laugh. See sanity leaves me easy, I could not care for anyone now. I wanted family, a life, even love. But I hear him walking in, out of the sea. His bare feet slap on the wet sands weight. The weeds revolve around his fingers. Flower eyes, pupils pollen, the whites spume, semen, egg muck. Sees you hung, wailing. The pain is hallucinogenic. Oh so swollen, so much losing. The horse head pulls, the ocean drains. He's there and handles you like a carcass. Remember the cursed mountain, dead river, stagnant oceans. Hear death rattle in his haunches. Quick light, sun of mirth, and blotting the night with well black. And stop it.
Of course, the morning wakes you in a new layer grown over yesterday. Like an agate, egg shell over egg shell.
This brings my thoughts to the mysterious Grey Hole of Usan. Few have seen it at low tide, hidden as it is, a long tedious walk-in from the road, and unassuming from a distance, but once you are swallowed you can appreciate its grand ambition. Very low tide reveals a fruitful vein is here. Agates are generally of a very fine quality, but mostly small in size, ranging from 1cm square and smaller, up to around 6cm. Fortifications can be exquisitely filigree, affected by sagenitic formations, and irregularly marked in quartz.
The smallest agates can be so beautiful. So rich and powerfully lined.
The Grey Hole is a dangerous place, rocks slick and plenty of opportunity for injury. Again, the flat nature of the lower areas means the tide comes in at a gallop. Perhaps then, a warning to the curious.
I'm going in.
So, why is this tract assembled here, this should all be agate-orientated, surely? Well, in practice, in the field, collecting agates isn't all about collecting agates. It takes in life as well. So, I offer a more accurate simulation, if you will, of how my collecting life is connected to my personal life. I feel as a species, we are not candid enough with one another, we need to understand each other better. Technology has compromised healthy, natural communication, I'm marking-up an equivalent, in the realms of the online.
For instance, I have noticed that the fear of never finding love again, which originates in losing a partner for whatever reason, is similar to the fear that agates will be absent by the time I am able to collect in places I can only visit once or twice a year. Just the fear though, no other emotion. That's what keeps me on earth: The fear that I would otherwise miss something life-changing in death, if I do not stay alive.
The toil of old time colliers, was often akin to regular travel between this world and the next. Many stayed. The Dresden firestorm sucked people out of their houses like spiders into a vacuum cleaner. The Japanese believed that the nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only vaporised the bodies of those closest to the explosion's epicentre, but their souls too. The Russian poet Klyuev disappeared while forced to return home through a blizzard from his tenure in the gulag for dissent, while carrying a suitcase full of manuscripts (some say he carried two) These remain lost to this day. Of course, it is likely he was shot. Yet, I draw attention to the great loss of so much art to war, evil and ignorance. Many of the wonderful voices of Hawaiian birds are lost forever, the Tasmanian and Cornish languages are dead, to name but two. Many beautifully unusual Australian marsupials were barely documented, but ravenously devoured, before becoming extinct. Often, humankind is the catalyst for all this needless destruction.
The Treblinka death funnel, that led many to the gas chamber. A German officer interviewed many years later described bodies piled ten feet high, with cesspools forming underneath, consisting of "blood, shit, and worms" Prisoners forced to work here were refused tools or gloves to move the rotting bodies, and would often prefer to be shot rather than partake in their removal.
Mary Jane Kelly, the final victim of Jack the Ripper, almost certainly knew her killer. Her partner read to her the newspaper articles describing the atrocities. There would have been that explicit, terrible moment of realisation of just who she had invited into her room. Jack deliberately removed the skin of her face, leaving the eyes without their lids, and placed her on the bed so as to be facing the window, where anyone visiting would see her first.
This suggests the sort of charnel humour that no man should embrace, at least in sanity, but most men can comprehend, quietly and to themselves. It's theatrical horror, ahead of time, out of place in the context of the grimy, overpopulated canker that London was at that time. He's "displaying his wares" so to speak. Saucy Jack. Except he's gone a little too far.
What I'm driving at here, is that in my life I've always been most intrigued by the extremes of experience. Trauma and anguish, mark the way between worlds. Phobos and Deimos, fear and dread. You may imagine a peaceful exit, but I believe there is always a battle. A war. Mars. Jupiter is the mystery. Impossible, titanic, impenetrable.
It is the same for me with agates, I seek the most bizarre, the most beautiful, the undiscovered stones that do not fit the common template. The stones that exist on the margins between what is accepted as an example of the species. For the most part, I search in the most inaccessible, remote and unfrequented spots, where often agates are not always bountiful. Jasper is less widely appreciated and understood, but there is a large grey area as to where we draw the line between what constitutes a jasper nodule, and a jasp agate. Some agates form in a different type of chalcedony, which is less translucent, more fibrous and wholly stranger. Agates of this type are encountered mainly in the St Cyrus area, although the odd example may occur elsewhere. Of course, it must be noted, as is often the case, I have had to pick up many many stones that MAY exhibit some agate content, from outward appearance, but 95% of the time, they do not.
Moss agates, in combination with fortification banding also display aberrations of form from time-to-time. A fine pseudomorph is rare in Scotland. Sagenite exists in the aforementioned irregular forms of chalcedony also.
In short, I have made it my aim to properly study these unusual, these extreme, these beautiful forms of Scottish agate. I may not always be familiar with scientific, and geological terminology, however, I will know these stones intimately, and share detailed descriptions on my own terms, and, of course, photographs. BS, you say? Sure, I can dig that. There's always a certain quotient of bullshit to negotiate when dealing with a geological species so few covet. I promise to always tell you the truth, and I'll only leave out enough to allow you the joy of randomly successful toil.
Waxen blot of moon. Or phantasmagorical moonlight illuminating every one of the night's bones.
Unfractured nodule, or cracked and healed like a skull.
No rain and ebbing tide, or rain and the rising tide.
Wellingtons, not wet feet.
No great drifts of stinking seaweed obliterating areas of shingle.
No dive-bombing seagulls with their constant call such a potent irritant.
Mountainous seas. Storm, and abyss.
Low, low tide, as if somehow the plug had been pulled and the north sea drained and I could meander through the sandy rock hulks to groves of supine kelp. Agates of rich colour and porcelain skin, buried therein.
No fisherman parked in MY place.
Low low, spring, neap, low, lowest tide.
Dark, rich, blacks, greys, reds, pinks, yellows, blues. Sing.
Low, low, low tide. Lower.
Everything unexpected. Underneath, behind, between, beyond. Just that little bit further on. The last scree of shingle at sunset before the soft September night falls like the dark behind a closing door.
Earth's orbit slips and we are set to collide with the moon, but not before one glorious, monumental, incredibly low tide. With the moon filling half the sky. Lo.....
Intricacy, complexity, and depth of pattern. Unexpected shapes and forms. Alien inclusions. Whorls, tentacles, labyrinthine eyes and fortifications. That combination of warm dark grey and deep orange or red.
Moreover, be resolute. I am sure that life is a fever dream, and as such, is soon forgotten when we take our leave of this place. In my heart I can only feel the melancholy in the stars, the sunset, and the cowled dwellings that shelter under the night. Let this be my mythology. Forget it all, and never pass it on. Start afresh and please, be only you.