The princess who rose from the tunnels among the tree roots, elemental and heavy with child, asked me of that victim of possession who lifted the noose from her throat at a word from the angel. I replied that I had not ceased to love such a girl, for she had been the first toward whom I felt half amorous, half paternal: a howling spirit with its young.
My operator waits upon the stone terrace while I circle over the blue-green valley, taking heed of the dips in which mist has accumulated, the belt of trees through which I discern the cold glitter of a river. I hover at the level of the trees until I catch sight of what he desires me to seek, then weave forward in between the branches, causing rooks to lift into the open sky in panic.
A grave young woman, a canvas bag over one shoulder, walks in the direction of the river: for a moment the vision received by my operator is imposed upon my own, and I see her wrapped in a dead lustre, milky white tinged with blue, illuminating nothing beyond herself. She crosses a bridge which appears flimsy in comparison to the massive, ancient posts it is suspended between: I drop so that my operator may note the traces these bear of having once been carved in the shape of creatures neither fully human nor animal, long defaced.
From the other bank, our guide follows a path that becomes ever more difficult as it climbs to the edge of the valley: soon it contracts to a tunnel between the tree roots that coil and bulge from the slope, along which we are drawn to the mouth of a cave. She retrieves a torch from her bag, and walks to the far end of the outer chamber without hesitation, although the floor is rough and the beam so faint that I must rely upon my operator, whose vision is clearest in the dark, to guide me.
Her fingertip scratches a diagram into the dirt on the floor, upon which is set a piece of quartz, a feather, the slender bone of a cat or hare, and a squat figure of black stone. With the quartz in position at one end of the diagram and the statue at the other, she transfers the other items between them in such a manner that they must bypass a number of small obstacles. This section of her play completed, she posts the feather through the entrance to the chamber beyond: little more than a slit in the rock, rimmed with bitter water.
My operator's attention is no longer directed toward her. I am hurried across the threshold in pursuit of the feather, only to be summoned back to the terrace with an urgency that makes my shape buckle and flatten in the air, for my operator has reached ahead of me and found that other who twisted a leash for him out of boredom and a melancholy recognition: the child left to prophesy in darkness.
I shadow Os Mos as he advances, uncertain, along an avenue tunnelled between overgrown hedges, his hand never taken from the foliage to his right.
The false, heroic head he once lifted above more or less the same crowd as that to which Captain Fuller and the anarchist Aldred proclaimed the new aeon has become cumbersome, monstrous. In the dim stale light it resembles nothing so much as the skull of a horse, but is sealed, lacking all seven apertures.
At length he becomes too irked by my pursuit to ignore it further and makes as if to summon me, but no power resides in him now, and when he swivels to claw at my shirt, the effect is merely comic. So he turns and brushes his fingers against the hedge wall afresh, flustered.
When I pushed aside the novelty shop cascade to consult Marie, I had anticipated the black ink mirror, the mysterious creature shifting from dog to reptile as it dozed beneath my chair, but not to encounter the severed head of the demagogue steaming upon the tablecloth.
I did not forget how his fingers had once stroked the rose pattern upon my face, prompting him to joke that I must be Copper Nose: when I responded that I was not due such distinction, he sighed that he had fallen among worthless company. His followers, who had made a circuit of the garden upon their quadbikes, dismounted now, eager to talk of ley and wald, as if that might summon back all that had been lost to the devourer. They tugged off their padded armour to uncover white crumbling bodies.
The head toppled to the floor, to be mauled by the familiar.
Business was quiet but I neither wrote nor kept my promise to a magical order. Instead my time was occupied by repetitive games, the outcome of which no longer held any surprise for me. I dismissed my opponents as little better than automata. These were the poet Simon Parsons and an unknown girl: in print frock and heavy boots, she kept on her woollen hat through the heat. It occurred to me later that perhaps I had been the dummy, finding the same moves, out of boredom and absence of mind, in response to a strategy of gentle variation which could never tire the others.
Into the room where we played came one whose name shifted each time it was uttered: Abaivonin, Abaivovin, Abaivovim. His head was such as might rise from a meditation upon clouds, bruises and stains: a sheath of black scales imposed form upon a liquid body.
Once I set my foot
upon the fault beneath
which the demon
stirred, and fled even
from that, to seldom
than the turf maze or
the house where the
Ahead of me there
walked a man become
wild: the dung he let
fall to the ground
cracked open to reveal
Now the intruder laughed at me as some mere phantom who had become coarse in order to overcome a natural bookishness and timidity; who seduced but would not possess, from a terror of being possessed in return; who maintained a flimsy show of independence despite being strapped for cash and harried. I asked if it was through his curse that whatever power lay in me had come to be dissipated upon hybrid unsatisfactory projects, but he brushed the question aside, and devoured Simon, whose texts form the past of my drift, beneath mantled wings.
There seemed nothing for the girl and I to do but resume our game, so we cleared the third set of little pyramids from the board between us. I admired her dirty blunt fingers. She spoke of how she had crouched down outside the Friends' Meeting House to eat nettles spattered with bird shit. Then our conversation took a strange turn.
He put me in mind of the old, coarse Faust who let a snail crawl upon his arm while he delivered a lecture from the hollow oak.
He gained knowledge of those whose form is the form of magic kings and queens, whose speech is the speech of brute beasts and wild animals, yet I liked him most when he claimed that he could turn whatever grew in that hedgerow into alcohol.
He made no distinction between the phantom he raised and the girls at the market stall drinking apple wine: the soft freckled face and brilliant eyes of one who tugged back the hood of her anorak to show us the colour that had not taken upon auburn hair.
When next I saw him, he lay suspended dripping in the hoist, the jewelled skin having slid from him onto a bed crusted with shit: living, did I stink to him?