Hinterland Shift is serial short story, written out of sequence, for Living in the Future magazine.
This issue was published February 2014.
Emily is kissing him through the mouth suit. There is hair in her mouth.
As her eyes open, shut, then open proper, the clarity of her mind brings the present cognitive structures into focus. Sentences spin into forgetting; in their wake awareness rising. She is alone.
In the first moment a vague hollow pressing, painful, becomes sharp lines buckling; reforming the memory up cold. As clouds over sun and then a gap –
We see her rolling across the floor, she is struggling with her boots, lacing them, moving up fast and to the door, pushing and then falling through, her taught frame and.
Our bodies are a lie.
Emily knows this; relaxes. Blinks. It is pissing down. There is a wind up. She recognises the trees. The long grasses have soaked through the bottom of her trousers.
“Kai it’s you…”
“Of course it’s bloody me.”
“Kai, I’ve got an earache.”
One each of seven trees: apple, hazel, oak, holly, alder, willow, birch. A fairy circle – the forest as university. In Ireland fear of violating the old ways can still turn the course of a road.
Reg, moving to Leitrim village, meets a farmer, Joe Brennan, and is asked if he could cut down a grove of trees for him. Reg is warned not to. He doesn’t cut them; those trees are still there. That farmer, a bastard, trying to slide out of an old pact for the sake of his cattle.
In a facsimile of that circle Emily and Kai fix together temporarily. Then slide to the ground. Their knees, facing one another, each looks the other. Their postures shifting gently from awkward to aligned. Their breathing syncs.
All their trousers, and their t-shirts too, are soaked through. Their expressions soften. Their foreheads touch together like old Chinese monks. On the grasses, lank spider’s webs.
Kai knows what Emily has known: some kind of malevolent presence, package holidays – the Captain? An advert for Captain dating.
The experience clarifies; there is a group gathered in a room. Her cousin Will, his friends.
Seeing Will, Emily remembers that she is at her cousin’s house. She remembers that she hates this side of her family. Her friend Joe is there; he is experimenting with new ways of being. Because no one there knows him apart from Emily, he greets one boy in the manner of the Captain – but exaggerated – and drags him, grappling enthusiastically, to the floor.
Now look at the room: if you catch the angle just right, Emily is looking at a book.
On the cover of the book, look into the eyes of the infinity twins. Between them they are holding a book. Between them they are holding a book.
Look closer: on the cover of that book is an image of the infinity twins holding a book.
The infinity twins: a twofold network of feedback loops that are running Emily and also all that she perceives as “other”. Combined force of will drives it; the system isn’t merely apathetic.
Finding this book.
Subtle paradigm shifts in any stream of being rely on flashes of sentience brushing nowness. This allows a shiver of autonomous choice and ensures also that the totality (a construct, but a construct that intuitively reveals the truth it shades) of the system exists in a permanent state of ungainly flux.
Emily has one of these moments right now.
Now Emily is in another room, more central to the grid. On a couch her uncle, from her father’s side, and her aunt, from her mother’s side, are entwined. Seeing them together like that she has the uncanny sense that she is dreaming. The feeling that they are in a dead space.
To the right of the couch there are fire pokers, two – then three – and sharpened. She picks one up, decides to stab her uncle and then herself; does neither of these things, and drops to her knees.
She looks at him, the resignation in her voice is brutal: “You have caused me so much pain.”
Wracked sobbing chokes her.
On the wet Irish ground, Kai vomits and reels from the pervasive stress.