film, short fiction, women

Peace

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(http://dazend.deviantart.com/art/Cloudy-day-686264994)

Eilhu bore the weight of his armour with each step. He rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, the wound in his side tugging at him. He swallowed, tasting grit and the fading copper of adrenaline. It hurt to breathe, but it was a sweet pain.

He sat down, looking up at the clear blue sky, the clouds rolled in ponderous trails. It was the cleanest thing he had seen in hours and it made him smile with wonder. He loosened his sword belt with shaking fingers and put his fingers to his lips. He shut his eyes and thought of her.

Thousands dead and he had come away with a split lip, all his teeth and a small cut against his right side, where a spear head grazed against him.

‘Your highness?’

Peregrin stood there, hands by his sides, his bow slung over his right shoulder.

‘Care to join me, captain?’ Eilhu said.

Peregrin smiled and shook his head.

‘Not sure I would get up again, your highness.’

Eilhu chuckled and shook his head.

‘We’ve shed blood together, you can use my name. What do you want?’

Peregrin coughed before he spoke.

‘We found him.’

2.

Roderick had tried to escape but Peregrin’s men had cornered him at Elder’s Pass. Eilhu extended a hand and Peregrin helped him to his feet.

‘I was thinking we should plant wheat here. I want to expand our farming.’

Peregrin nodded as Eilhu tied his sword belt and rolled his shoulders.

‘An excellent idea. It’s good earth.’

Eilhu ran his tongue over his lips, tested the cut with his tongue and looked down the hill.

‘It is. Now, let’s go discuss the terms of Young King Roderick’s surrender, shall we?’

Two soldiers held him upright. Rivulets of blood had dried on his upper lip. He showed his uneven, irregular peg teeth and the inflamed gums. His hair hung in rats tails around his face, clotted with dirt and blood. He swallowed and chuckled as Eilhu approached.

‘I can’t say I enjoyed the treatment I’ve received, Eilhu.’

Eilhu tilted his head and gazed at him.

‘It shouldn’t have ended like this, Roderick.’

Roderick grinned with a bravado which bordered on mania. He struggled against the soldiers but they held him with ease.

‘It hasn’t. One of us is still alive.’ he said.

Eilhu asked his men to release Roderick. He rubbed his arms and stretched, staring into Eilhu’s eyes with a hate past reason.

‘Stop the theatre, Roderick. It’s over.’

Roderick clenched his fists and sneered.

‘Never.’ he said.

Eilhu sighed and shook his head.

‘You’re coming back in chains to face trial. I’ve had my fill of killing today.’ he said.

Roderick hissed and spat on the ground.

‘Fuck you commoner scum and fuck your cunt queen. These lands are mine by right.’ he said.

‘I demand trial by single combat. Here. Now.’

The speed with which Eilhu made the very final decision surprised him. He unsheathed his sword and stuck it into the ground between them.

‘If you insist, you sad little boy, go right ahead.’

Eilhu picked up a shield and strapped it onto his right arm. Peregrin frowned and his hand went to the hilt of his sword but Eilhu shook his head.

‘I’m going to enjoy this.’ Roderick said.

Eilhu lowered the shield and stared into Roderick’s eyes without fear or anger.

‘Remember, you chose this.’ he said.

Roderick drew the sword from the earth, turned it in his hand.

‘I’ve never killed a man with his own blade before.’ he said.

Eilhu gave a quiet, indulgent smile.

‘I doubt it.’ he said.

Roderick snarled and lunged forwards. Eilhu stepped backwards, avoiding the arc of the blade and raised his shield.

Roderick followed him, bringing the sword over his head as he screamed with fury.

Eilhu lowered his centre of gravity and slammed the shield forward into Roderick’s chest. The impact travelled through his forearms as Roderick gave a choked cry, wheezing as he fell backwards. Eilhu brought the lip of the shield upwards, catching Roderick underneath his chin and snapping his head backwards.

He fell, the sword clattering to the ground from his fingers, clutching his throat as his heels beat a tattoo against the ground. Eilhu followed him down, slipping his forearm free of the shield and putting his boots against it. He squatted and grabbed a handful of Roderick’s hair.

‘I am proud of everything I’ve done, Roderick. Except this.’ he said.

‘I pronounce you guilty.’

He took Roderick’s head between his hands and gave it a sharp, final twist.

Eilhu got to his feet. He picked up his sword, nodded to each of the soldiers and Peregrin, then returned to his spot on the hill.

The clouds, white and pure, driven by a breeze which caressed his skin. He recalled her lips against his cheek, how she would graze his chest hair with her fingers to help her sleep and the gentle rhythm of her breath.

He sent part of his soul home to her. His body would soon follow.

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beauty, film, sex, short fiction, women, writing

Of The Flesh

1.

By this point, I was unsure as to whether my boldness with Asra was borne of comfort or insanity. Her stories had all pointed to a familiarity with death that leavened her beauty and, I will admit it, her sensuality. That too, added to her appeal, how she carried herself with a brazen disregard for my sensibilities.

She narrowed her eyes, noting my discomfort and sat back in her chair.

‘What is troubling you?’

My studies had consumed me, so my experience of pleasure and flesh had all been sourced in the holy rituals of marriage as it had been preached to me since childhood. Without checking my words, I knew that she had spoken frankly of intimacies with women. Casual ones. Such a thing was, if found to have occurred between men, was considered being as zinna.

‘You are frank about your… affairs of the flesh, Asra.’

She laughed.

‘Are you hungry?’

I nodded, and she called for a servant to bring us food. When he left, she pressed her palms together.

‘I shall talk about things that do not involve my prowess with spear, scimitar or poison. If I digress, or shock you, then please let me know and I shall allow you to catch up or compose yourself as you need to.’

I dipped my quill into the inkpot and hoped that I had not caused her offence.

2.

It has been pointed out to me that my actions and predilections bring shame to my father. Let me assure you that, despite appearances, my father is more thoughtful and considered than his role might allow.

In my travels, I have met with many of the great powers. Some of them, you know of through my stories thus far, but there are others.

On the plains to the west, there are tribes who base their lives around the husbandry of a mighty beast, similar to our cattle, known as a taurusa. They live off its milk, blood and meat, use its fur to make their homes and clothes and carve weapons from its bones. I escorted a scribe, much like yourself, as my father believes that in time, they will come to power and he has always possessed a gift to see such opportunities before they bear fruit.

They recognise that sex is fluid and they refer to those who find delight in the same sex as being berache. They are treated as equals in the running of the tribe’s affairs. It was a pleasant and gratifying discovery when I was told this and that night, I was disrobed and laid atop a pile of skins and given a form of hospitality I would smile about for weeks afterwards. Lithe, supple maidens with skins the colour of tilled earth and pink, wriggling tongues.

My own heart hears a similar call. I take lovers from amongst men and women.

Does this embarrass you?

Are you sure? I follow the will of Allah as you do, and I have known the struggles of what is good versus what I know to be true in my heart.

I have studied the Quran with my father and on my own, I have not found anything there that says that who I am is fahisha. If anyone would see stones cast at me, then it is something in their heart, not the mind or heart of Allah. I might commit acts that some would see as fusuq, but my father and my god see things differently.

My brother, well, you know what happened to him.

He is beyond such judgements.

If it is not my preference, then the zealot might choose the argument of my casual approach. Each time I set out, it might be my last. Even though I would be with Allah, it would mean leaving the pleasures of the flesh behind.
I believe in Heaven but I know that it is found in the senses and the flesh. Consider the delight taken in dance, the taste of water when you are thirsty, food when you are hungry. Do you know such aches in your loins?
I do, and when I find someone whose spirit and flesh might offer an abatement of that, I would be foolish to deny myself such pleasure. Righteousness may help you sleep at night, but a lover who offers me pleasure is a more immediate reward. We live in these bodies only once, and I intend to make the best use of it whilst I am able to do so. The Quran does not prohibit exploration of the flesh, Allah punishes that which is taken by force and without consent as He did in the city of Lut.

I might be casual but I am not careless, and when the opportunity arises, I am considerate and kindly. I will risk censure for the pleasures to be found to cradle another’s face, to look into eyes luminous with want and to press my lips against flesh perfumed and made warm with desire.

Men are harder, hairier and it can be more aggressive although it is not been my experience that women are incapable of such force in the pursuit of passion and release. There is the clash, the urgency of passion. I welcome a man’s strength, the sensation of being made full and pinned beneath it, writhing in exquisite torment until such time as I am insensible and gasping with being made to surrender to his divine fury.

In turn, I take pride in opening a man up to the pleasures of his own flesh, to allow him space for his own tenderness and delight. My mouth has a knowledge as honeyed as any courtesan and there is something about having a man who might kill me with his bare hands, gasping and made languid with a careful press of my lips or the tip of my tongue against a particular spot.

There was one lover. A bold traveller, with a poet’s words and a lover’s lips. His hands were rough, and afterwards, I walked like I were crippled. With delight and surprise that he managed to get one of them inside me. The pressure became almost unbearable, but he worked with a healer’s patience and he had the most beautiful eyes. Brown, you would say at first but as we worked together, and the afternoon waned into evening then night, they took on the colours of the world around them, turning the gold of freshly harvested honey or wine as he used me for our mutual pleasure. I laid there, soaked in oils and shuddering like a newborn foal, panting with ecstasy and he leaned forward, smiled with the skill shown in the quiet acceptance of his innate will to dominate.

He whispered to me that I was his vessel that he would fuck the divine light into my soul. I laughed and then he did something with his fingers that I swear made me see the heavens as though I were at Allah’s side.

Ah, how I miss him.

Sorry, I digress. Where were we?

Women are softer. They are priestesses of a lost memory, a physicality, a tenderness of being held and touched, a perfume of the soul that once breathed, can never be forgotten.

There was a maid at an inn. Ripe like summer fruit, shy and yet she had this glint in her eye, a quiet playfulness of spirit that showed promise. Set against that was a clumsy innocence, a well scrubbed decency and a full fleshy body with skin like cream dusted with cinnamon. I happened to be there to kill a man as it happened, but I managed that and still lured her into my room. She left the inn in my company and took up blades, travelled alongside me.

Forgive me, if I do not speak of her for a while.

All my lovers hold a special place in my memory.

Some of them live in my heart.

There are two who have never left it.

3.

I had seen her turn cold, I had seen her take delight in a demonstration of her skill in dealing out death or resolving a situation without recourse to it. For most of this recollection, I had seen her flush with pleasure and I swore that I knew what she meant by the perfume of the aroused flesh, the aroused soul and how it should be seized upon if offered.

I had not seen her express what she had when she spoke of the two lovers, rough poet and soft maid alike.

I had seen the Lady Asra grieve.

I returned the quill to the inkpot, and the three of us were quite drained.

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2016: BOOKS, TV AND MOVIES

BOOK OF 2016:

I read a lot, and of the books I’ve read that have been released this year, there are two that I felt warranted particular mention.

THE FIREMAN by JOE HILL.

I have this on audiobook and on the Kindle. Joe Hill has been a writer whose work I will always gravitate towards. He has a powerful voice, manages to combine science fiction, horror and fantasy concepts aligned to strong characterisation, a lovely tone, a wry sense of humour and an earnestness that endears me to anything he puts his name to. The Fireman was not my favourite Joe Hill, that honour probably goes to NOS4R2 but of the books in 2016, this is one that I return to, and find something different each time. In it’s lead Harper, he shows that a protagonist can have doubts and flaws, and can pursue their desire without losing their humanity or morality. The central conceit of the spore that causes spontaneous human combustion is wonderfully realised and the book moves towards a clear-eyed assessment of how people behave in a crisis, and within a group. Some of them become monstrous, whilst others show courage and hope in a situation that strains the capability to raise it. I found myself relating to John Rookwood, the fireman of the title and its a book I have returned to, throughout the year, and found new insights within it.

THE GIRLS by EMMA CLINE.

This is a deceptive book, it captures the ugliness of cult-related behaviour, the rebellion of teenage girls and the cumulative damage of history on the psyche. Ostensibly a retelling of the Charles Manson story from a peripheral perspective, it is a book that took my breath away. It seethes with a clear-eyed, raw honesty and the subtlety of Cline’s prose is that she takes you by the hand into some dark places and you go willingly, before realising that it’s a deeply uncomfortable book awash with ambiguities, and all the more powerful for how spare the prose gets, only to explode into washes of exquisite prose.

GIRLS ON FIRE by ROBIN WASSERMAN.

This serves in theme as a companion piece to THE GIRLS, although more explicit and raw than the other book. It goes deep into the tormented psyches and social rivalries of a pair of teenage girls, skipping between multiple narratives without losing track of the central themes and story. It is a charged, erotic book without feeling exploitative. It has a feral heart and was all the more beautiful for not skimping on the insights. A gut punch delivered with a kiss and certainly one that stayed with me long after I finished it.

TELEVISION

WESTWORLD

I fell in love with the juxtaposition of the Wild West and its inherent savagery against the slightly decaying high tech amusement and corporate intrigue. The performances heightened the quality of the material, notably Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood who essayed characters of complexity and confusion. It never quite fulfilled its promise but with subsequent seasons, I hope that it develops the narrative into something complex and robust. Certainly it is beautifully shot, edited and handles nudity, sex and violence with a mature eye and a calm hand.

NARCOS

I’ve read several books about Pablo Escobar, and this show manages to juggle the sheer comic book scale villainy of his rise and fall with capturing the humanity of the man, much like Breaking Bad managed with a fictional protagonist. It does this through the sweaters that Pablo wears, which is a lovely visual touch. Season 1 was a touch meandering and ponderous but the second season is all pay off, and intense as anything else I have seen this year.

GAME OF THRONES

Oh do I have to? OK, it’s moved on past the books and it manages to work with the constraints of television to great effect. I won’t join in on the call for GRRM to finish the books, they’re massive pieces of work and also he’s not anyone’s bitch, as Neil Gaiman said to great acclaim. Still brilliant, and event television for me. Winter Is Coming, and it’s having a fine time getting there.

MOVIES

DEADPOOL

It’s had a hard fight getting to the screen but it revelled in it’s underdog status to become the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. Well, at least until M B BLISSETT: CYNICAL ROMANTIC ENGLISHMAN makes its debut, but until then, I loved this film. Breaking the fourth wall, consistently funny and made the use of its limitations to great effect. Ryan Reynolds has been absolved of Green Lantern related sins forever.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

It’s quintessential Tarantino. Take that as you will.

DON’T BREATHE

A simple, claustrophobic thriller that makes the best use of darkness and a limited setting. It ratchets up the tension to almost unbearable levels and essays itself in a bravura performance by Stephen Lang.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

I won’t spoil it for you but it was a fantastic thriller that again makes the use of a closed setting and hammers you with it.

MUSIC

CHILDISH GAMBINO – AWAKEN, MY LOVE

A late and overpowering contender in 2016, it is rooted in the socially conscious, dirty soul of the 70s with swooning vocals, sensual, heady instrumentation and a boldness that grabs you by the heart and crotch at the same time. Like being stoned on heartbreak and passion, this album has demanded repeated listening.

 

Share your highlights in the comments below.

 

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beauty, culture, emotion, film, grief, inspiration, love, music, poetry

The Goblin King Returns

He opened his eyes
to a ragged
Chorus of cheers
All his subjects
Looked upon him
Their ugliness alleviated
By their love for him
Still beautiful
And with each breath
Restored
‘Your highness’
‘Welcome home, we’ve
Missed you during your
Time above’
He smiles, how to explain
The mark he made
On so many mortals
Words are too inconstant
So he asks for a
Guitar
Fingers against the frets
And so he
Sings

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beauty, culture, film

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino is the only writer/director who would make a three hour single location western murder mystery chockful of violence,  profanity at a Shakespearean level and a cast of character actors. 

Thank god for that.

I love his movies.  He’s an auteur and even his excesses are crimes of enthusiasm rather than any lack of ability.  His missteps are, at least bold ones and that’s what I love about him.
It’s a jaw dropping movie.  Uncomfortable and leavened by bursts of coal black humour as it descends into a final act that is garotte tight in execution and still capable of genuine warmth and humanity.  It’s probably his best film.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is incredible,  playing an ugly, irredeemable woman with a low cunning and a powerful sense of herself.  She has a serpentine sensual brutality and a willingness to go for the moment that makes her riveting to watch.
Walton Goggins is superb, more than holding his own with the likes of Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russell.
Samuel L Jackson has a monologue about halfway through that is one of the most uncomfortable and disturbing things I’ve seen and yet he still radiates an amused mastery of space and performance that makes him the de facto hero of the piece. 
Go see it. It’s important to support original film in a time of reboots and remakes because we need art that pokes us in the uncomfortable places and this film does that.

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film, Uncategorized

Star Wars – The Force Awakens (contains fake spoilers for amusement)

I like to support new, independent cinema so yesterday I demonstrated that by seeing the new, avant garde film from cinema’s enfant terrible J J Abrams called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

So when Disney brought the rights, I held a moment of caution. However, that was misplaced as we all forget that above all else, Disney seek to entertain. Not mission statements, not polemics that should have you running into the streets to start the revolution. Two hours of solid, aesthetically pleasing grand entertainment that make you forget about this world and visit another one.

It was a trip backwards, a curation of what was best about the original trilogy and it’s ‘future is past’ aesthetic. Beautifully filmed, great dialogue and a sense of the epic about it. A respect for the audience who are walking encyclopedias as well as those who aren’t but want to see a good movie.  Star Wars is not science fiction, it is science fantasy, it is Saturday Morning Cartoons wedded to chambara and western morality plays. Good guys and bad guys. It has the best soundtrack in film (John Williams’ score is so moving, and the new one is fantastic), it survived three anodyne toy commercial movies that should have broken it’s potential entirely. It is not a franchise prone to sabotage unlike The Matrix, which fucked itself in it’s second movie.

I’m not going to post details because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but I thought I would make up some spoilers instead.

PLEASE NOTE NONE OF THESE ARE REAL

  1.  The ewok orgy was disturbing.
  2. Jar Jar being the big bad behind the First Order was a surprise.
  3. The musical duet between Miley Cyrus and the Sarlaac was oddly touching.

See it or not. It understood itself as few movies do, all white teeth and bright eyes, spectacle and instant friendships, a child’s morality but so earnest and heartfelt that you buy in entirely or don’t. When Han Solo turned up, looked at Chewbacca and said ‘we’re home.’ my eyes prickled with tears and I nodded to myself in the dark of the cinema.

The old man was right. We are.

UPDATE:

OK, so after a month, some issues came to mind that have soured my experience of it. It felt a little bit too smooth for my liking. A touch too anodyne compared to the original trilogy especially when it came to the idea that Rey feels a bit too perfect compared to Luke. His earnest, farmboy naivete is part of his appeal, and ties into the hero journey, the mythic cycle that came direct from Joseph Campbell. Still, it’s a kid’s film and now that the nostalgia has faded, I liked it less than I thought. In the same way that McDonalds tastes pretty good and then you feel bloated and crampy later.

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