The Currawong

A pair of yellow eyes flickered through the undergrowth. She danced from tree to tree, her bright gaze seemed it might spark a bushfire. Her eyes were a surreal yellow that jumped out at you with their sheer contrast. They had depth and if you weren’t careful you could find yourself falling into them. Looking into her eyes I knew I trusted her. She trusted me, even though she was a bird and I was a boy. I wished to tame her but it was an impossible wish for she was wild. Wild from her dark velvet feathers to her twisting ebon claws. To tame her I would have to clip her wings and if she couldn’t fly then she would cease to be a bird at all.

Teasingly, she jumped from branch to branch, higher up the canopy. She too had an impossible wish, she wanted me to cast off my earthly fetters and follow her up. If only I could fly: to sprout wings and feel the sun’s warmth far above the winter clouds. The idea appealed to me. I have a hunch that perhaps the opposite appealed to her – that she wished to swap the vehicles of our souls.

To pluck hands, fingers, knees, and toes from her own body – just as she plucks worms from the earth moistened by morning dew. To pluck all her feathers out except one.

And that last feather she would dip into ink as black as her quill and scrawl a nearly forgotten tale about a bird who was once a boy.

The Owl

 

When I walk through the wood at night my torch shines through the branches and bushes, bringing them to life. The shadows animate with each further step into the wilderness. A dead stump becomes a rabid dog, an overgrown vine becomes a gaunt marching witch. The stars shine brighter here, they gleam through the leaves and sticks as if a thousand unblinking eyes were glaring at me.

An owl hoots in the distance. Suddenly the hellish creatures fall away. Perhaps it was simply the intrusion of reality into my imagined landscape, or perhaps the owl imparted some of her courage to me. For an owl’s courage is only matched by her wit. For an owl, the night is as obvious and unfrightening as the day is to us. She sees no ghouls in the shadows but will spot the smallest step of a frightened mouse miles away. She has no fear of a monster in the shadows because that is what she is.

Though in the day the owl’s experience is equally as unnatural and ruled by imagination as ours is in the night. As the sun rises from the cold dead earth, the owl looks over her domain in coloured in the light. Her eyes are built to see the smallest flicker of movement miles away in the darkest deepest corner of the forest. Now in the daylight, she is overstimulated and sees prey everywhere.

The foliage that blankets the forest floor become a swarming ocean of scurrying mice. Every dancing leaf becomes a darting green sparrow. Even the sun itself becomes a giant egg to pillage from its blue nest. To slice it open with one stoop, spill its golden yolk down upon the earth. An owl would strike her talons down upon the neck of God if she could fly high enough, such is her courage.

Her reaction to this shifting mosaic of quarry is to simply close her eyes and sleep. While out of fear we close our eyes from the dark to hide, she does so simply to dream of greater prey than reality can provide – to scout, hunt, and devour in the day as she does in the night.

Route 663 Rock Bottom

The light changes to green, “Go on, get out,” it whispers.

The bus lurches forward, we sway in unison. Their minds have already jumped miles ahead. The present moment doesn’t exist for them, they’re thinking about dinner cooking at home, they’re scrolling through our phones envious about a friend’s latest trip to Bali, and trying desperately to get their minds off work – when they should feel lucky for having jobs. I can’t jump ahead, I don’t know where I am going and so I’m trapped in the present. And presently we’re coasting past the homeless squats under the railway bridges, I look in with morbid curiosity. In the daytime they are as humble as lambs, but now deep into the night, they cackle as their Gatorade bottle bongs crackle, smoke rising from their bubbling brews. No wonder all the commuters are afraid to look out at them, all except for one. He is old and although his weathered face wears a blank expression, written into the deep lines around his eyes are tales of splendour and misery. He continues fearlessly gazing out at the vagrants. The real fear goes beyond mere boredom, it is what the mind conjures to combat the boredom that is truly terrifying. I can feel it stirring within me now, a buried cask of memories mixing with emotions that have grown potent over the years. Substance will collapse onto style, style will drown in its own blood.

The city lights warp as they shine through the mist climbing out of Yarra, ghostly tendrils claw up the embankment like a swamp monster venturing out from the deep. A gull cries out, its agony echoes out of the fog. No need to imagine any new monsters, there’s enough in Melbourne. I’m leaving it all behind. Too many people, too many ideas. I’m escaping the whores, the fiends, and especially the family and friends – the ones you love hurt you the most. The drunken laughter from the camps fades under the steady rumble of the engine.

I’ll spare them judgement. Everybody has a vice, doesn’t make them a monster. Some vices are vague assortments of fetishes and sins but mine can be measured by kilometres per hour. My main indulgence is speed, distance over time, movement, the closest a man can get to achieving that buried childhood wish of flying and swooping among the birds. Funny that such a dream usually forms within a pram when a child can hardly walk, let alone fly. The sparrow’s swift flight always seemed to bring me feverish excitement despite their tiny size. They also brought me fear as I saw one weaving between cars and disappearing into the impossibly small cracks in the concrete. I feared if his flight were one millimetre off his small body would collide against the bricks, exploding like a firecracker into the same white cotton fluff that filled my teddy bear.

Childhood is over, get with the times. Get on the road. Get on with the job.

Yellow light.

I chuckle to myself. “Yellow means accelerate,” something my larrikin Pop used to say when he taught me how to drive my first motorcycle. A few passengers around me break out of their trance and look at me with confusion. I guess I’m that guy now, the guy so isolated he can’t differentiate thinking from talking aloud. The old man blank expression remains despite my outburst. The bus accelerates, as the driver shoots through the intersection the golden bulb blinds me for a moment. In that short moment, I was taken aback to a far simpler time.

A pair of yellow eyes flickered through the undergrowth. She danced from tree to tree, her bright gaze seemed it might spark a bushfire. Her eyes were a surreal yellow that jumped out at you with their sheer contrast. They had depth and if you weren’t careful you could find yourself falling into them. Looking into her eyes I knew I trusted her. She trusted me, even though she was a bird and I was a boy. I wished to tame her but it was an impossible wish for she was wild. Wild from her dark velvet feathers to her twisting ebon claws. To tame her I would have to clip her wings and if she couldn’t fly then she would cease to be a bird at all.

Teasingly, she jumped from branch to branch, higher up the canopy. She too had an impossible wish I sensed, she wanted me to cast off my earthly fetters and follow her up. If only I could fly: to sprout wings and feel the sun’s warmth far above the winter clouds. The idea appealed to me. I have a hunch that perhaps the opposite appealed to her – that she wished to swap the vehicles of our souls.

To pluck hands, fingers, knees, and toes from her own body– just as she plucks worms from the earth moistened by morning dew.

To pluck all her feathers out except one, which she would dip into the ink as black as her last feather and scrawl a nearly forgotten tale about a bird who was once a boy.

Red light.

The traffic signal is staring at me, its red angry eye looks so enraged it might just burst like a ripe old tomato, leaking pulp out over the asphalt. I flinch at the violent thought and turn my thoughts to the red cherry tomatoes my Pop used to grow. He would look at his plants through the sliding door while sitting in his grand wooden armchair. The sliding doors were so filthy and warped from the sunshine that you could hardly see through them. I remember skipping back and forth past them, I must have been around six or seven, cackling at my warped reflection and my Pop laughing with me.

He wore thick glasses that sat on his proud Italian nose, which was always pointed towards his garden. He still wished he could be out there rather than stuck in that armchair feeling his bones creak like the limbs of a great oak.

“Don’t get old,” he’d tell me half joking.

“Okay, I won’t.”

I can see his soft hazel eyes looking down at me. One second they could show love and the next moment his gaze could cut steel. It is the type of gaze you aren’t born with but is carved into your eyes by sharp moments of love and violence. My Pop saw Egypt, Papua New Guinea, and Libya. He fought through them, he fought for our way of life. I remind myself of this at crucial times, that my day-to-day problems don’t involve a fight against the spread of tyrannical fascism; the stakes aren’t life or death.

I don’t feel the common stresses of life while moving. The rush I feel from speed is not from moving towards something but the comfort of moving away. It’s a naivety, somehow I trick myself into thinking that the problems that haunt my life won’t follow me. I’ve wandered enough to realise that the problem is me, it is a painful fact which took me a long time to admit.

“Hurts like hell to get shot in the gut,” my Pop told me on my tenth birthday. He was shot on the high crest of a sand dune just outside Gaza. He didn’t have time to plug his wound because seconds later his best friend was shot through the head. Down the dune, he dragged his friend and his bleeding guts. Blood never loses its colour when soaked in sand, he recalled to me. So down the side of the dune, a dripping crimson dress was left draped in his wake. He dragged his bleeding guts back to Egypt and dragged his bleeding guts back to Australia. He dragged his bleeding guts to that grand old armchair and watched those cherry red tomatoes drag themselves up from the dirt, and you can bet they stood up straight – to attention.

His pain was worth it, I can only hope mine will be.

Green light. You can go now.

The ghost with a beating heart

There is a ghost who haunts my house, who wanders from room to room. He has never passed through walls, ceilings or floors but I know he is a ghost all the same. He likes to walk alone by the beach, where the waves wash away his shuffled footprints before they are seen by another soul. He is not dead… though he not quite alive. He’s never truly touched or moved the world with any sort of action, neither violent nor gentle. I often wonder what sort of ghost he is: there’s no similarity to Banquo – our ghost has no taste for revenge – he has no warning to press on the living as Jacob Marley did to Scrooge. In fact, our ghost isn’t even aware he is dead.

Instead, our ghost continues to live an illusion of life. When he likes a film, a book, or an album, he pirates it. No money goes towards the creators and he has no effect on the world. He is smart enough to route the system but not smart enough to see that the artists he enjoys will die off.

His only romance is directed towards his computer screen. It all begins – like these encounters usually do – with a passing glance. In our ghost’s case, he spots a possible mate on the Facebook suggested friends list. He stalks like a lioness creeping along the savannah, his mouse pointer hovers over her profile (not yet daring to click anything), he clicks on the profile. He is hidden and anonymous behind the tall grasslands we call the Internet. He creeps down through the decades as scrolling through the pictures. Maybe he’ll put on a nice song (one he pirated of course). Now relaxed, he’ll think about life as a man instead of a ghost – a life with this phantom girl. He’ll place himself in her pictures: tanning at the beach, hanging out at the mall, lying down in the middle of a meadow looking at the stars. He’ll imagine conversations, emotional, witty, deep conversations that go on for hours. He’ll be staring off daydreaming for so long that his computer screen will go to sleep, he’ll wake from a social media-induced opium dream to find his lonely eyes staring back at himself in the black mirror of the screen.

The true tragedy is that even his fantasies are inadequate. They have pieced together limbs from different romance movies and books. He has never experienced a relationship before and so he plasters his face over Ryan Goslings or Channing Tatum to act out his mental performance. His dates have a soundtrack, they are edited, there is no filler. It is a performance which he plays to himself.

His entire life is simulated, his desires, needs and especially his fears. He only dabbles in reality and treats it as an unfortunately necessary ingredient to fuel his dreams. He obsesses over trivial games, games that are mere imitations and poor ones at that. Living life fully is the greatest game, the stakes couldn’t be higher for our lives are all we have ever had. All over games spawn from this. It’s no coincidence that men perceived as lacking manhood, such as our ghost, often play games with no real consequences. The video games he spends hours at contain safe pleasures though they are small ones and have no real punishment for inadequacy. Only when you can feel the sweat stinging your brow and the satisfying tightness of a muscle pushed beyond what your mind’s expectations, only then will you truly feel human. I mean feel in the truest sense: sensation. The most accessible method of achieving this is physical exertion: to feel your soul bulging at the seams of your body. Pain is not necessary to live a happy life but it helps.

Although the ghost who wanders my house is lonely, he is not alone. I am sure that you already have a certain person in your life in mind who fits the description of my ghost (and if not then maybe you are a ghost). In the past, they have always been solitary but now with the socialising capabilities of the internet, enclaves have popped up all over the web. There is safety and power in numbers: colonies of bacteria or swarms of locust are powerful but individually are weak. The same can be found in weak individuals you have never truly felt the strength in themselves alone but find solace in a group. In the later 20th century we called them losers, eventually, they were distinguished into punks, goths, nerds etc. Now in the 21st century, we have even groups that would be considered strange by the last century’s losers: Bronies, Furries, Anime obsessed weeaboos, and Social Justice Warriors to name some of the more well known. Good for them you might say, well you would be mistaken in thinking that. Although humans are social animals and extreme isolation is incredibly unhealthy, sometimes poor company can be equally unhealthy. These enclaves can’t be compared to supportive groups because they don’t acknowledge their insecurities and issues, rather they encourage further envelopment into their strange hobbies. The main similarities between them are their fear of being weak, their emphasis of their victimhood, and an avoidance of adult responsibilities.

If this was enough to find them pathetic, simply look at their warped ideas of sex. Freud would have a field day with these specimens. Sexualisation and fetishes are all warped from the same vanilla brand of sex. BDSM, for example, is the inclusion of pain into the world usually reserved for pleasure. It becomes disgusting when individuals who refuse to grow up also refuse to give up sexual desire. As a result, we see fandom’s move into sexualised territory. Children’s television shows are turned into masturbatory material for sex-starved losers. Nothing is sacred, not even a show as innocent as My Little Pony. These groups are distinctive but are merely minority groups of a larger problem.

Half the world seems to be walking around in diapers, dragging their shit filled pants from one obligation to another. No one’s in control or is responsible; we follow the phantoms of wealth, status and fame – led on with celebrity news and television like a donkey following a carrot hung in front of him. The more we pursue these illusory goals the further they move away, we always need more. Goals that bring real satisfaction are always straight forward (not to say they can’t be complex) and are related to survival. War is an excellent example of this concept. PTSD rarely occurs while the soldier is still at war but when he returns back to his country he finds a home where neighbour fights neighbour, ties to friends and family who bicker and backstab each other seem like nothing to the brotherhood formed under battle. These are things that allow a human to truly feel as if he is alive, sex, love, war, revenge, hunger, thirst, misery, grief, terror, joy, euphoria, bliss, revelation. I believe the worst someone can feel is depressed, to feel numb to all things. A life of joy is undoubtedly better than a life of misery, but I would rather live in misery than be deprived of any meaning at all.

In today’s society, the stakes are lower. We still fight for our lives as our ancestors did but we do not fight against the disease, invaders, animals, or savages. Instead, we fight for our lives shift by shift. We are still fighting for our lives as every person must do, however in this era, our enemies are advertisers who’re sword and shield are laced with deceit and treachery – selling us items that we had no use for before we were beguiled into spending our money. And don’t be mistaken into thinking I’m just referring to the men and women whose faces cringe with smiles tainted with ill will you see on the television with a sandwich toaster-vacuum combination, I also include army recruiters, university professors, charity fundraisers, your boss, and even your mother In this world we can be slain while breath still passes through our lips for decades longer, and god have mercy on you if you have a last moment of clarity on your deathbed – that in your final moments, as the death rattle echoes out of your throat, you realise that you gave the most valuable years of your life away with complacency.

So foul ghost, before you find yourself staring into the void — with only the memories of a settle-for-wife, water cooler conversations, and your children growing up to live lives as dead as you are – burn thy bones. Ignite them quickly else you’ll find the only mark you will have made on God’s green earth will be the six-foot ditch your family dug to forget you all the sooner.