Thursday, 22 June 2017

Elemental Spells

The well has dried up. Again. There's been wind and rain, but not the right type. The wind sweeping the rain so that it falls across and fails to saturate the land or increase the levels of rivers.
The rivers that used to brim, that were in danger of overflowing, trickle like picturesque streams, creating new paths through the visible mud and stones. Fish, insect and plant life struggle to survive in their much-reduced home.
The sail of a ship atop the swelled seas is filled, pushed onwards towards its destination. The faces of the men on board wet with sea spray and further stung by fine sheets of rain; yet in a back garden, in the heart of leafy England, the pail when lowered comes up empty.
A pebble is thrown down and is heard to smack the bottom, its slap against brick echoing up... up...up; a hollow sound like when you cup your hands around your mouth and call for help. A hopeful gesture that brings to mind being surrounded by hills or mountains or being lost in the thickest part of a forest. The ears strained for a different reply to that of the original sound: water...water...water. But it doesn't come, nor was it, in truthfulness, expected.
Everywhere bone-dry.
The ground hard, the grass yellowed and brittle. Flowers bloom, then wither. Birds sing but stay hidden in the trees, in the little shade they offer. Their leaves shaken free easily, by a light breeze or a creature's touch. New buds of life untethered by any rain that descends from sunny, cloudy or darkened skies.
The weather unusually mild, yet not spiritless nor merciful. The days long, the hours warm, some red-hot. The earth scorched, a fire underfoot, burning deep in its bowels.
The sun's rays hitting towers built of glass so that the light is harsh and strong. Diamond-like cities rise through the haze and from a distance appear to shimmer. Are they real or not? Are they lands that time forgot, ghosts resurrected?
There is the din of working people, spirits or not, coming from these centres of business, and aside from lighter clothing and a few mopped foreheads here and there they seem untroubled by either the heat or the glare. The work cycle – to and from – never stops, the same flow of work changes hands, from department A to department B, to C and D, and even E, where there is a need for a fifth level of scrutiny. Office workers cool, if not calm; flustered by papers and electronic Pings! New e-mail in. The phones ring and ring, and ring.
In the suburbs, life is quiet. Deathly quiet as if there's been an mass exodus, which there has but to indoor shade, temporarily made during daylight hours. Nobody fled with their arms and legs pumping or in a current of marching, though their hearts for a time beat irregularly until the dust of this new living settled. Residents confine themselves to their bought or rented spaces, blinding its eyes to keep the heat out, as outside surfaces underneath a fierce sun bubble like a malodorous witch's brew.
They wear little. They lay down. They perspire freely, adding to the odours of a sweltering earth, and sleep as if ill with a raging fever. Their dreams troubled and hard to break away from, causing them to toss and turn and cry aloud, or make incoherent speeches as if conversing with something or someone.
Everything, everyone gone underground. Though only a few creatures actually burrow to a lower place, to where the walls are damp and softer.
Everything above ferments, turns ripe and sticky. Heavy, near to bursting, and scents the air with its intoxicating sweetness. Begs to be relieved of its burden though there's no-one and nothing to sense its day-long petition.
Every being in suburbia awakens when the sun's gone down and the moon is lighting its own path, traversing soil as well as sand and water.
This is a world, a strange world, full of contradictions and opposites, as if someone somewhere is playing a game with a magic wand or dagger and casting elemental spells.

Picture credit: The Magic Circle, 1886, John William Waterhouse (Tate Britain)