The Map of Antarctica

Fictions for Unseen Spaces

Month: October, 2013

Richter Scale

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Where Night Walking Gets You

Waking up early and walking through the dark streets of the city together is the kind of thing you do when you are newly in love. So this is what we were doing. The streetlights were a low hum of orange, bleeding in spheres into the dark sky. We walked, the two of us. Cars streamed past occasionally, without the pulsing urgency that they possessed in the daytime. You could hear the sound of the grit in the road as the tyres moved over it.

Foxes dashed from the bins, bold as thieves, their eyes bright with scavenging instinct. Everywhere was alive, contradicting all expectations of nighttime.

There were a few places that were open, serving tea and coffee to the night hawks and early birds. Taxi’s went past with drunk couples in the back who had been dancing and flirting in bars and clubs. Their pale, drunk faces gawping out at the grey urban scroll.

We should take a right here, she said, and we took a right turn.

The street was lined with large buildings that stretched upwards in abandonment. From my point of view we were directionless, stretching our legs for the sake of it. She obviously knew differently.

Do you have a cigarette,  she asked?

You smoke now?

On and off, she said.

I looked at her. She was looking, squinting, as though trying to discern something as we moved. Her neck raised and her gaze directed upwards. She shrugged off my enquiries about what she was doing. We continued walking. I told myself we were wandering but we both knew deep down that I was following her lead.

After minutes of innocuous talk about the way neighbourhoods merge into one another, the flow of communities, and the trends in buying patterns of young professionals we fell quiet again. I watched and let the warm breeze of the streets wash over me.

In a lit window, a man in a vest looked out with a toothbrush in his hand. On the street a man unloaded newspapers in stacks from a van and lugged them towards his stand at the corner of the road.

I am looking for something. I have seen it here before, on these very streets. She paused. Maybe it would be better if we got higher up.

What is it? I asked.

I can’t tell you. It would ruin the surprise.

Are we close? I asked, not knowing what to say.

Closer than we were, she said. Then off again. Our footsteps struck the pavement and our psychic maps pressed together in the space between our minds.        

The sky was now laced with a light cobalt, building on the Prussian blues and blacks that had constructed the night.

After a while we stopped and bought some coffee. We stood with our hands around the paper cups like people in wartime. Where does Night walking get you? I thought to myself. I didn’t dare ask.

This will help, she said.

I nodded. I was still unsure about our quest. I didn’t really mind. I was enjoying the walk.

It is getting louder, she said. Have you noticed?

Suddenly the more regular roar of engines and sound of voices talking entered my consciousness. I blinked to adjust. Sound can redefine an environment immeasurably, the variable frequencies of communication. I hunched my shoulders and nodded.

That means we are near. Quick, she said, and started moving at a pace. I struggled to keep up. We are going up this hill, it is here today, I can tell. It is better when it is high up. Confused, I struggled up the hill behind her slight frame, breaking into an unsightly sweat.

At the top, I found her, standing and looking out across the streets of  the city. Lines of lights still shimmering in what was now the breaking of day.

Here it is, she said twice. Here it is. She spread her arms out wide and gestured at the sky. We were alone in the high, vacant street that was lined with semi-detached houses. Our eyes fixed on each other in a desperate, locked gaze and she spoke.

We appear to have found the dawn.

 

Bubbles

I liked it when films didn’t consider what was on the TV when it came innocuously into shot.

A game show, or an irrelevant glimpse of old news,

screening insouciantly into significance.

 

It happens less these days,

so studied are our peripheral instincts;

layering meaning onto background events as they unfold into fleeting moments of

 

Orchestrated minutiae.

There is no escape any more from the knowingness

of artists who consider it clever to let you know that they have seen Citizen Kane

 

Twenty seven times. Who can unconsciously quote Shakespeare like a walk in the park,

as they throw washing powder into the pond

and think that it will feed the ducks.

 

 

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