Friday, February 18, 2011

FICTION: Threshold by Steve Toase

Sundays always drained the energy from Carlton's already weakened limbs. He spent many 'Lord's days' staring at events streaming past him, not interacting with anyone or anything. The only colour in his life came from the haunted dreams of thorns and dirt, that brought on insomnia to escape from their cloying graps. His loosened insecurity rooted him to the spot in grey shaded rooms, the buzz of life lifting into the air outside.
Carlton sighed and got out of his chair. He walked through the kitchen, putting the kettle on as he passed, and ventured out into the backyard. His domain. A one room flat and a square of stained, crippled concrete. Not much to show for 37 years in the world. In the distance music echoed from the neighbours, tinted by the smell of barbeque. They invited Carlton, but his self imposed bubble cocooned him in isolation

The kettle boiled and he went through the motions of making a cup of tea, sitting down to stare at the TV. The images flowed passed him; a highway of information. He crouched on a disused dirt track. His retreat got worse over the years. His bike sat rusting in the yard unused, unloved. Weeks now drifted past in a blur; rise, work, leave, sofa, sleep. A carousel of mediocrity. The tea scolded. He thought of loss and missed chances, closing the curtains to lock out the world for another evening.


Monday drifted by followed in rapid succession by its siblings, drawing him closer to another weekend. Out of curiosity he ventured into the yard and looked at the despondent motorbike in the corner. The vehicle sat there for two years, weeds and earth trying to reclaim the mineral from the oil, the rubber from the tyres.

He spent the afternoon playing with the old bike, coaxing the engine away from the path of returning to component parts and back to being a way to escape. Hours accelerated in a flurry of oil changes, derusting and swearing. He stood back and smiled. Time to feed fuel into the tank.


The heat on the walk to the petrol station wore him down like waves against a beach; relentless and unforgiving. But he had his petrol ready to bring life back into the bike. The old BSA's single cylinder first echoed through the streets before the war. This type of bike, the M20, dragged troops through France and towards Germany. Carlton appreciated the irony in its new role. Petrol in the tank he advanced the ignition, primed the carb and stood up on the kickstart, bringing his weight down on the mechanism, till the engine jumped into life.

He retrieved his helmet from the life strewn cupboard under the stairs and, not bothering to lock the mausoleum of a house behind him, rode down the street.


The overgrown hill drowned in brambles, twisted under stone cast skies. Hawthorn tress burst out of the scrub, dragging the sharpened landscape into the air He left the bike on the road, its fuel tank empty. This place looked different in his dreams, the scent dank and drowned with decay and silt. Leaves half rotten danced a ballet before becoming impaled. The ground hid beneath snaking tendrils of the plants that ruled this slope; above the sun flew on its decent. He took off his jacket and walked across the thorns drawing blood from his legs and torso as they started to gather round him, the voices coming fully in his mind. Sanity and insanity bled into each other, no longer a duality but an irrelevance. The earth called for his sacrifice; a hymn of blood scratched into his skin. The voices collected bodies to them, clothed in acorns and leaf mulch, stagnant and drifting Their forms separated in the breeze coming back together many times through the hours. He watched them arrive and go over three days, no longer feeling the breeze. On the ninth day he opened his eyes and tasted the soil in the roof of his mouth. The voices were now in his skin, turned dirt and root. Time no longer occured, always here below the earth.


The sun caught the dew on the field, that glittered spraying up from the long grass. The wind grabbed the fine mist and spun into spirals and mazes in the air. Carlton couldn't see this where he lay in the clay, his flesh stone, cracked and split in the steady movement of the bedrock. His muscles twisted cords of limestone, embedded with the fossils of long dead creatures; and his eyes stared blind up into the sky of roots and soil that lay above him. This world lay hidden under crop, plough soil and loam. His world now, until the wind exposed him and the rain eroded him into dust.

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