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Solemn
Solemn
by DF Lewis
Published by Nemonymous
05-31-2007
Solemn

SOLEMN

Bournemouth contained the unemotional anemone. The flower bloomed – even though I wasn’t even sure if anemones bloomed at all – towards Bournemouth’s sea front, quite near its pier. Or it may have been Alum Chine, a salubriously peripheral area of Bournemouth with guest houses and neatly manicured lawns. A short springy bridge in Alum Chine stretched over a cultivated gorge where the unemotional anemone was thought to thrive according to hearsay. Could there have been more than one unemotional anemone?


I ever discovered despair even though I had searched the world for happiness. I knew all along that I would never find happiness, thus making it certain that despair would flourish. Meanwhile, I hoped that the consequent gratuitousness of this search would last forever, gratuitousness being neutrally preferable to futility any day.


I knew little of flowers, even less about other natural things like birdlife or geography. There was no point in me even attempting such visual identifications. However, simple sounds, those aural aide-mémoires for negative feelings, were phenomena with which I could confidently deal. And, therefore, seeking a reminder of downbeat emotions that the sound of the unemotional anemone could conjure up was less futile, more feasible.


Success at despair is preferable to failure at happiness. You can quote me on that.


“How are you today?” asked a passer-by in that leafy Alum Chine avenue.


He was evidently a little docile: a man with no suspicions. I should have been a complete stranger to him, but here he was addressing me in a friendly manner, smiling continuously despite my lack of reciprocation. He reminded me of one of those diminutive creatures who basked on slopes across the hills and far away, surrounded by fields of unemotional anemones dancing silently in light warm breezes; he was a skewed version of Gollum: one with no hang-ups, no wrenching facial muscles, one without the need for anything but palely colourful afternoons of lazy nonchalance, ever seeking only peace and quiet or racing clouds across a peachy sky seen from his upward horizontal face amid the unemotional anemones. He sought least of all a ring: that resonant resident noise: a mnemonic for solemnity.


By not seeking, I thought, one often finds.


I never tried to be trite. Only trickly.


“Have you found it?” I asked, hoping he would discover, by answering me, that he was not searching for anything at all, this being my gratuitous good turn for the day.


He scrutinised me squarely as if to think: “Ah we have a fine one here!”


I hoped he wouldn’t understand my kind motives. Very little can be gathered from expressions, even stated intentions, so I kept my face moving with fleeting emotions, most of which were intended to make him more and more wary of me. I would say nothing further until he did.


“Found what?” He scratched his head. He could have said: “I’m not looking for anything” but I had to take him as I found him, so I replied:


“Your little precious.”


“Hmmm.”


I gave him the benefit of the doubt by taking this as a proper contribution to the conversation.


“A flower. A special flower,” I continued.


“To cook what exactly?”


I did not take kindly to jokes. I think hatred must have skimmed a suspicion of a tail across my features, as he tried to walk on without further contact between us. It was hatred, I’m sure, but he may have taken it as rage or even potential violence. I heard thrumming in my ears as pressures built. I clearly heard, too, the nearby surge of sea, as if it now were conjoined tidally with my own body. He walked towards the springy bridge, me in his wake. I glanced down at my feet: were they able to absorb the unexpected shocks of spongy suspension above the tiny gorge, if I followed him across?


At least I had a pace-maker, now. With his lead, I could at last cross to the other side (just this side of ‘across the hills and far away’) where flourished the unemotional anemones of Bournemouth.


Like the nature of a pleasure pier (such as Bournemouth’s), this suburban bridge would stop part way across before it reached its other end upon a new coast; in the pier’s case, based upon my shaky geography, its new coast was the Isle of Wight or Isle of Man. Swung like a hammock between two middle-class avenues across a grassy knoll or gorge, the bridge was somehow even less certain, even less like a rite of passage, despite there being two ascertainable ends. Both pier and bridge, meanwhile, had something in common: gaps in the planks or in the sturdy netting, with sea and foliage respectively seen below. Nothing in between in common.


The local man – or one I assumed to be local – had by now hastily reached the other end of the bridge and he turned anxiously towards me as I staggered against false pressures along the bridge that tricked me at every sway.


I’m sure he was crying. He watched something awfully gooey slip slowly asunder as each gap took responsibility to filter me downwards to the ground where I surely belonged. Despite there not being any rain in the area for weeks (he knew), the terrain towards which I inched in strings of miscooked mississippi mud cake was already sodden to the gills.


I could hardly see the anemones.


The last sound I remembered was the knell of church bells towards which the man had been walking. It was his precious Sunday morning, of course.


The saddest thing was not that the local man was indeed crying, but that he had any emotion whatsoever, joyful or solemn.



Written and published here today
  #1  
By Nemonymous on 05-31-2007
Re: Solemn

For any interested, all my TLO-published stories over the period I've belonged here are within a folder here:
D. F. Lewis - THE NIGHTMARE NETWORK
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  #2  
By Nemonymous on 06-05-2007
Re: Solemn

SOLEMN (2)

The procession was as silent as the proverbial grave. It moved in pairs, each pair moving as if it were a single person, each participant with a black hat, with each step timed by another’s – the road seeming to be surfaced with cotton wool, so delicate were the pinch-toed hesitations before completing each step.

The casket was carried upon the shoulders of the last three pairs: a highly engineered support in well-oiled traction. Indeed, all the pairs moved as a single pair, believing they each carried the casket, even though only the last three pairs actually did so.

I stood, however, alone, walking in equal aspirations of uniformly timed steps, immediately behind the casket, my hand raised so as to steady it should it teeter back from upon the six shoulders who already bore it so ‘frictionlessly’ as it were; there was no need for belt or braces but they said I should be there in case of unsynchronised mishaps. Every procession, however solemn, should have its own troubleshooter. I was bit like a sweeper in football ... or full-back in rugby ... a procession’s watcher and waiter.

The townspeople lined the pavement in honour of the casket’s contents. Their children were well-behaved, many pigeon-toed as they tried not to over-balance from the kerb, some of the youngest squatting – uncorrected for the silence’s sake – in the gutter. A few tourettes cooed (if quietly for them) and this did not seem to alter the solemnity of the occasion. I scowled meaningfully at the worst culprits, having assumed this was a job for the procession’s watcher and waiter.

There was no special uniform for me.

“You’ll have to dress in black like all of us, Gollum,” I had been told.

I had stared back at Chine the head processioneer – resenting the nickname he had used, one that had stuck ever since I could remember, as well as the unwelcome news that I could not dress for the part according to my own taste.

“OK, Chine,” I had said, biting my lip. I was no sound-leaky tourette. I did, however, have leaky thoughts, admittedly. My poker face did not stop me cursing Chine from within with a made-up madness of spells derived from ‘The Nemonicon’.

Chine must have known that magic book, because he had seemed – if sub-consciously – to withstand the bombardment of wish-fulfilment I had put in train vis à vis his worst interests. He merely smiled and later told me to stand at the back when the procession moved off and not to wander wilfully beyond my duty as back-prop.

Chine was at the front of the procession – too tall to be an actual casket-bearer – and I knew he couldn’t look back without breaking the pattern of synchronised solemnity. I hated his smug handsomeness. I also resented the rings that sparkled from his fingers. The rouge on his cheeks. I was not allowed jewellery or cosmetics. I did rather think his whole souped-up demeanour was out of place as I watched him jab and jolt his limbs in time to the steady drumbeat. He was the least coordinated of all of us. He thought his black hat would hide a multitude of sins beneath it. Already my spells were working. It needed the perceived present (not the past) for their full power to be revealed. Transported from pluperfect to preterite for their insidious clarity of righteousness to then be able to blazon forth, even if insulated by being seen as having happened rather than still happening.

I suddenly see it is even more now than before. I’m here ... still at the back of the procession but eager to dodge and weave in the game of death. The pavement spectators – as I call them – are all now turning ugly and sporadically vociferous. The procession’s many pairs peel off from their erstwhile single-minded synchronicity into wild displays of random truths attacking perfectly planned fictions...

Chine turns – his face black with rage – and watches as his beloved procession turns out only to be him ... and me.

We eye each other as if we have been sure forever that this was the duel the town had been waiting for, ever since death faced life in the ultimate battle that awaited us all in some inscrutable past disguised as the future.

“Gollum!” he asks, “What have you done?”

“No sooner he had asked it
Than he became the casket,
I reply solemnly, raising my hand again to steady it.

No cheering. Silent as the proverbial grave. It is ever, for all of us, our own natural goal: to score, unsung. To achieve death. Not in pairs, but alone.
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  #3  
By Spotbowserfido2 on 06-05-2007
Re: Solemn

Mr. Lewis, I really enjoyed reading Solemn (2). At times, the procession and the spectators seemed to mirror the ratio and spirit of participation at TLO itself. I also researched a certain reference, but now realize that I am in for much more reading... Thank you!
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