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Jamie looked across her knees hugged tight at the slow skitter of sunlight. 

It was her favouritest part of every day, when the low sun moved quickest and the sky and waters ran a million colours. Sometimes she wondered how many of them she had marvelled at and never seen again. Sometimes she gave grateful thanks to the universe that contained such beauty, or to whatever great being had created such a container. More often Jamie thought no thoughts at all. A quiet meditation accompanied by the sounds of the sea.

She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, rubbed her prickly skin gone cold as it turned dark. In a few minutes, like clockwork, her mother would enter her room and call out to her, “Jamie will you come in, my love? It’s dark out.” And Jamie would nod absently, and pluck herself out of her favouritest, most solitary part of the day. 

Below her balcony sloped the town’s white walls, its rooftops busy with sundried spices and hung lines of forgotten dried clothes. And below all that, still visible to Jamie, was the cream beach that she had secretly sworn herself to. She had never known a day of her life apart from its view, without its salt in her ears.

The sunset was colder than most and the fine hairs of her skin bubbled. But Jamie clenched her jaw shut and squeezed her knees tighter, refusing to yield to it. And refusing to yield, she retreated deeper into her thoughts. Below her balcony, further still than the beach, out in the sea – that was where she had retreated to in her mind – the small uninhabited island.

Most days she never thought on it, but Jamie wondered now as she had many times before what the island meant. 

No one ever went there. Some must have in the past, but none did so any more. There was no law or tradition as such that forbade the act – it simply wasnt done by the locals. It was a small unimpressive thing, covered entirely in trees. Short enough to hold your breath and run its length maybe, and near enough to swim to. 

Come to think of it, it bothered her.

The island must have meant something once. It was intoned in their stressed nonchalance. In how adamantly the townspeople ignored its obvious existence. Like a gecko on the wall.

She had swam out to it once in the night, in secret – looked at it in the moonlight, encircled it – and then swam back home. But nothing had possessed her to touch its sands. To stand ashore.

Even now, as Jamie pondered on its being there. With the glorious red sun shining off its treetops during her favouritest part of the day. Even now, she had no urge to ever step foot upon it.

“Jamie will you come in, my love?” Her mother called from her bedroom doorway. “It’s dark out.” 

Jamie nodded absently and shivered.

‘Yes, yes, but it was my jungle, you understand?’ Said Nigel, cradling his crude beverage. ‘Perhaps things did change too fast, too sudden for some. But we don’t choose the times we live in, do we?’

George took a small pained sip of the stuff. ‘We certainly don’t.’

They had been talking all day – what else was there to do? Company was always in short order – largely disagreeable nonsense, but enjoyably disagreeable. Gone was Nigel’s sharp pointed way of speaking; now replaced by something more congenial and tipsy, yet coherent all the same.

‘Now George, I’m only a guest on your fine raft, and as such, I have no intentions of overstepping my bounds. But please accept what I say next as genuine compliment, and not just dutiful pleasantry.’ Nigel paused for acknowledgement.

George nodded him on.

‘We might not have liked each other in the old age, but now we’re all we have left to rebuild with. I pride myself on sniffing out a man’s worth and I tell you now: we need your sort to rebuild the kingdom. To rebuild civilisation.’

George’s flushed cheeks were hidden by the sunset wash. He raised his tin cup and toasted Nigel’s. ‘To rebuilding civilisation.’

—-

Previous parts:
I – KING GEORGE
II – RED PASSPORT

It sounded like a gull at first. A shrill caw that wouldn’t let. George jerked up when he realized what it actually was – a human voice. He looked about, half in panic. How many months since he had last seen another person? A man silhouetted by the sun shouted and waved madly, one hand holding a cloth. George knelt by the waters to wash his face and then ran to his tent.

George sat in his foldable chair, which he’d retrieved from the tent for this momentous occasion. It was best to make a clear first impression, he’d always been taught, but the lesson rang truer than ever these days. As the other man’s raft came within distance, George rested his arms over a folded leg. And in his rested hands rested a loaded rifle. The stranger dropped his tablecloth, both hands up in the air as the two rafts gently bumped together.

‘Bloody hell. Where’d you get a hold of that?’

‘Traded for it’, George lied. He took in the man’s raft. It was a neat thing, larger than his own. Where George’s was made of chopped wood roped together, the stranger’s consisted of segments of timber grouped together and buoyed by large tyres underneath. In the centre was a three-sided shelter. George hoped his face didn’t betray how impressed he was. ‘State your name and business.’

The man pointed to his shirt pocket, and slowly reached into it. He threw the contents to George’s foot – a red passport:

EUROPEAN UNION
UNITED KINGDOM OF
GREAT BRITAIN
AND NORTHERN IRELAND

‘I was an Englishman too.’ The man gestured at Her Majesty’s waving flag. ‘Name’s Nigel. Business is trading if you’re up to it. Could do with some things I’m short on.’

George cautiously bent over and opened the passport, careful to keep the rifle pointed at the stranger. HUGHES, NIGEL. Place of birth LONDON. ‘Not so fast Nigel. Who did you declare for?’

The man, Nigel, looked puzzled. He stepped forward a half step still smiling and met a raised rifle point. ‘What do you mean?’

George took a deep breath. ‘When it all happened. Who did you stand with? The continent? The union? England? The south? Where did your bloody loyalties lie, Nigel?’

The man’s eyes sharpened. ‘You want me to say the union, or England. But it was the south. Are you going to shoot me now?’

George chewed his tongue a moment and lowered his gun. ‘Doesn’t matter who was who any more, does it? What matters is you stood at all.’ He reached under his foldable deckchair and threw out some rope. ‘Name’s George. Welcome aboard.’

Other parts:
I – KING GEORGE
III – THE TOAST

How to explain myself… Have you ever looked upon a colony of ants with such fascination that you were compelled to become one? To live among them, as one of them. To dance and fight and feed and build and die as one?

And then, having done so, to communicate with them?

Perhaps the thought never occurred to you, as you stood over them, insignificant as they are to your higher plane of existence. Or not to the same depth, your imagination throttled by the physical limitations of reality.

Not so for I. For I am the god of all gaps. And I have stood over the creation, not of my own making, that is your universe, this colony teeming with humanoids, and looked upon your kind. Compelled to understand your feeble minds. And in doing so, decided to fold my being an infinite number of times into your restricted dimensions and live untold lifetimes as stars and wildebeest.

Perhaps another metaphor to better attempt an explanation. Imagine yourself at a museum of never ending scale, perusing the exhibitions presented by various artists. And all of it a grand waste of time. Until you come across the One work that moves something in you. Vibrates the waves in your soul. Not a lot. Just enough to halt your motions. To catch your eye and make you ponder. And this piece… a sculpture or flat painting so engrosses you the longer you stare at it, that you would partake in more of it if you so could. If you could pour yourself into it. Climb into its enclosures and become an ochre pigment or marble fragment.

I have been angel, prophet, god and demon. At times all at once. I come to warn and goad and guide and tear asunder. I have been both babe and mother alike, the lion and its meat. I am birthed and simulate an existence. I die and slip forms like you might a cloak. I scream past your little planets as comet, harbinger of doom. Herald of glory.

Still I do not understand you. I can mimic, serve, command. I have shaped and destroyed you, yet always something eludes, eluded, will elude my grasp.

I am not your God. But certainly I am the closest thing to that which you envisage when you prostrate and grovel. And I do not understand you.

I live it through forwards and backwards, inhabit every particle and wave of this colony. My experiment come to completion, I slip sideways into the dark. Spacetime washes over me like passage through a waterfall. I am more again. Resplendent once again in all the dimensions that are.

I stare at your little painting sculpture ant colony. I see my prints all through the weave. I saw it ‘before’ I entered, being outside your paltry concept of time.

I move on now, having written this note in ants tongue as farewell. Onto the other artefacts of the exhibition with infinite disinterest. Insignificant as you are, I could not, I cannot understand you.

Hugh knew exactly where he’d find Stevie when he opened the door. What he hadn’t yet figured out though was how to broach the topic with her once he did. He put his phone in his mouth as he fished around for the keys, careful to bite with his lips. Fridays he always finished work early, but purely to buy her a little time he’d decided to do additional grocery shopping. If she isn’t doing what I think she is… maybe we can cook together. Like how we used to.

He turned the key and stepped in. The thick stench of body odour and old sweat knocked him back. ‘Jesus Christ Stevie,’ Hugh said, jerking his nose away. Dropping the phone – and then the groceries as he tried to catch his phone.

He should’ve been used to it by now. The smell. But it had intensified again. This morning when Hugh had left for work, it was far worse than every other day this week. But in the space of half a day it had become more potent again. The stench growth is non-linear, he couldn’t help thinking.

‘Hey Hughie. Back so soon? Hope there wasn’t any eggs in there.’ Stevie stewed around on the couch but didn’t bother to get up.

‘Stevie. We need to talk.’ Hugh left the bag and phone where they fell.

‘Here we go again.’ To her credit, Stevie sat up now and made space for him to sit beside her. Hugh opted for the table instead, windshield wiping a forearm’s worth of mess off it first. He made sure to block her view of whatever game she was playing. He knew it would kill her.

‘Please tell me you’ve sent off an application this week. Just one.’

Silence. ‘Just tell me you’ve started one then. That you’ve found one opening and got a tab open.’ Nothing. He loaded up the laptop beside him. ‘Give me something to work with. Please.’ There were no such tabs to speak of.

Stevie rubbed the back of an arm. ‘Well. I only just woke up.’

‘And last night? Yesterday? It’s three pm, Stevie and you’ve not so much as sniffed a shower. I gave you a whole bloody week. You promised me.’

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I can’t seem to do anything. It’s like… it’s like my health bar won’t fill back up.’

‘It’s a soap bar you’re missing. Mum would be horrified. You’re a grown woman Stevie.’ It was too much but Hugh had held back for too long. Perhaps in being so patient and kind he’d even enabled her sloth. ‘You used to go on and on about carving poetry into stone. What happened to that girl? What happened to that fire?’

Stevie shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes cast down to the control pad on the floor. ‘I’ve been wondering that myself.’