The surreal is usually an element in most everything I write or make, but of course there are different degrees of this. This flash fiction is a recent sally into the pure surreal. It has some uncomfortable themes, but is one of the least harsh of my stories.
The surreal is not a lack of basic rules, it isn’t chaos (that would just be static, if anything), rather, it creates rules for its own use. For a certain purpose, the right rules must be used (imagine playing chess by the rules of basketball). Fiction can achieve purposes which history cannot achieve, because it creates its own rules for events. Fantasy can achieve what non-fantasy cannot, because it creates its own rules for possibilities. The surreal can achieve what the non-surreal cannot, because it creates its own rules for the basic fabric of experience.
Of course, something that would be purely surreal probably could not be conceived by the human mind, so this story isn’t technically pure surreal, but I call it so because, for example, it is more surreal than a dream usually is. Usually dreams have characters and events: this story simply has structure: sequence, themes, moods. If you would like to try and find hidden meanings in it, that may be enjoyable and interesting. But, recalling C. S. Lewis’s metaphor of the beam of light in the shed, do not neglect to experience the story by examining it instead.
If you don’t hate the story, if in fact you would like more, I have a short story called A Heart and the Spirits which is a more surreal leaning story I’ve written. For something more long-form you could explore Gri Leven, a text-adventure in which you can choose your path. For now, here’s this story.
The Burgeoning Chute
Teeth break the surface of the stalk. The ladle breaks the cooled skin of the stew. Smell the smell of salt. It can walk on water because it is a spider. Opening the matrix of a teal is a lightbulb. Flickering in the basement. The window is cool, but there is no wind. She does not speak when the tree bends and the rafters creak under the bed. Her mouth is open, but there is no wind, only a touch that can stir but not banish the mist over the bending grass.
A jackal’s cry rattles the panes of the air, the kettle hisses, and the chair catches on the floor. Cracks in the ceiling watch the ants take their share before the flowers see the sun or moon. The rock opens its mouth, and they all roll forward. Buds are shaken by the foot, and the bread is burnt on top, wet on the bottom; a book slides from the heap, and shatters with the sandals and the dry eggs from the university. Softly ticks the aeroplane wheel: “When the hand opens, the fingers uncurl, the bars rise, but there is nothing to release.” I think the path lies down around the corner in the salmon shell, but do not wait for me to see it. Come after the coarse courage of years has given me a hat without a heel, then ask.
Shifting gravel throws spray on the brow. The quills of a minute worm take it far out of reach. Tracks lie on the heath like brown on a doubtful leaf, I am scattered for all the wilderness to see, and my horns are tossed in the hands of the tide. My feathers are chopped at my feet, shy of speaking for themselves, and great labour is lying in bed out of reach of the door. Outside by the waist of the road, his hooking shears are measured for the bones of the arm; a cripple eats mice because he has hands. In the ditch a dragging horseshoe frightens a nest of hoglets, and raises a dirty pole high in the air, where the thoughts of shadowy moths circle for the same reason as a flag.
Let us go into the deep to find the spheres that fell from the ancient fingers who were so soft to the people. With knife in hand the tricorne turns the stairs into a story. A crate shatters.
“Let me take the child to the glory in the thick branches.”
“Will the stream be so full of small things that will bar the throat?”
“Away the dome!”
Gnash, gnash, there is a greater ear that ripens.
Flush with the chest of the sparrow and the ear of the jackdaw, reaping the lap of the chained emperor (for his seat is far down below the leaning houses). Flowers and sweetmeats crushed under the horse hooves of those whose eyes follow what drifts above them, and there is a voice I make out in the recesses of that well.
Crept up the wall stones in the afternoon sleep of the waiting crest. Why the wind is smelling here like the tail of a long tailed city bear; a step, and the cream is fled from the crust where it lies by the table legs. Their stingray scuttles, longing for a plate to swim in, and the ceiling blinks at it; the walls turn to dust and remain standing. The clocks all tick without hands, and the sound of a deadly swarm vibrates the horizon. Knees of the croucher tip the dancers into the sink. There is a paper there on the desk that cannot take wing, for the circle is lost that would fall and kindle it forward. Treasures of brass pipes howling with heat and water, a dankness that falls on his joints and shakes the jaw from its food.
The broad leaf is cut and clipped into a familiar shape. Snow settles on the pool without melting or crowding. An old man thinks he can talk across an old table, but that which crawls along the lowest trench slips dangerously. Do not touch it, not that it is hot. Bring the meal, and the surf will grind it like forgetful hooves. We feel the single string under the boxes of man’s wide domain. The piano string breaks, and cupboards fall slantwise. Stomachs groaning, and the tower stands high and clear to be burned at the tip. Put me in a chest, small but deep, she cries with her fingers to her lips.
A coat is pulled from the shoulders, the toes of a dog overturn the flat mud. Heavy bells sink into weakened wood, because we made a carpet that could not burn. Telephones that are silent have a feather held to them, while the smell of fermented grease keeps the nightjars awake. Smoke is folded in straight lines on the outline of the spaced out loom of lead belts. The tribal coming of age knobbed weavings formed them.
With our ear to the wooden wall of the plan, a rip in the hillside fills our telescope: it is time to lift up our heads. But a string of crabs claws is snapped by a prancing and pawing bull. Picking up the crumbs of discarded faces is hard for the bats to do, because they cannot walk.
Whether there is time for a spring to flex in the light that shines through the membrane of the drum, the seam in the skin can tell them. A crackling pall is cast abroad and lowers deftly over the peaks and wave tops, silencing them all in the submissive posture of unsown seed. Yet the lungs have not emptied, the cart is yet loaded, and the dust lies lightly on his hair. The vine wraps a tendril round the post, and we go.
The edge is in the valley I am sure, if we try.