The land of crystal

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Once a place existed where beings could spin the most intricate and complex structures out of crystal. They were beautiful, gravity-defying structures with sweeping curves, tear drop shapes, and filigree patterns. These ephemeral creatures, were vaguely human in form, but with poorly defined senses. It was hard to tell if they had eyes, a nose or ears, but their movements were fast, and purposeful. You could stand right next to them, and your presence wouldn’t appear noticed. They made strange sounds, as if communicating; it was a mournful low-pitched moan mimicking the fickle winds that blew across the turbulent waters. This place was not particularly hospitable, it had a lost and lonely feel, and the residents’ purpose for their creations was unclear.

 

The crystal materialised just beyond their hands, and they seemed to express two discernible behaviours. During the creation of the transparent forms, movements were fluid, earnest and graceful. A palpable sense of euphoria emitted from their shape making. However, this didn’t last long. For some reason, these creatures were building their elaborate designs in the sea! The inclement weather and unpredictable surging waves were not kind to these brittle structures. Suddenly, a different dance emerged. Frantic, sometimes random and jerking movements were made as cracks appeared in different parts. The more detailed the crystalline shapes, the more complex the repairs became. They had to work alone. Their poorly developed senses made them oblivious to the travails of immediate neighbours, and even those who could see better, were disorientated by the distorting effect of the convex and concave surfaces. The apparent transparency of these creations was purely illusory.

 

Listening for just a short while, you could hear the tragically beautiful sound of splintering and tinkling, when a whole structure collapsed from a seemingly inconsequential hairline crack. The being would sit dazed, surrounded by multiple tiny shards. In this state, it seemed unable to create more crystal, but instead endured a painful process of removing glasslike pieces; vulnerable, floating on a shard, exposed, and wounded.

 

However, at this moment when these creatures seemed at their most pathetic and lost, something delightful could happen. Sadly, most would return to their shape making, often similar in design, but with some variation to the previous doomed structure. Occasionally, a metamorphosis took place. Where the shapeless face once existed, discernable sensory organs started to emerge: eyes, blinking, a nose appreciating exotic scents, and ears detecting sounds above the moans of the sea. In their altered form, they would move towards land. The smells that lured them came from a bamboo-like forest. This material would initially seem unappealing, rather simple, and inelegant compared to the glassy smoothness of before, but for the first time their hands could run across a surface and appreciate natural unevenness. They watched how it bent and swayed but didn’t break when the sea winds swept through their stems and branches. With increasing confidence of newly found senses, these creatures of transformation were emboldened to explore. Deeper inside, their reward would come from discovery of simple dwellings made with this flexible and abundant material. Finally, to their amazement, they stood and watched others like them working together to build homes with windows to see out of, and doors to enter.

Tourist law


We queued in the midday heat, and I was secretly cursing not setting the alarm, but there are unwritten rules about “holiday”. You drink more, and wake when you want to, then suffer the consequences.

The queue snaked along the road, and on arrival the bus gulped a mass of pink and white skinned flesh. We were the last to get on, perched on the steps, faces forward, front row seats to the panoramic spectacle of mountain driving by locals versus tourists.

The bus pitched and heaved and honked its way round vertiginous coastal roads not designed for 21st century living.  Then amongst the waves of nausea and emergency breaking emerged an embryonic court of appeal and arbiter of need, a kangaroo court lurched from stop to stop.

As the doors opened and passengers did their best not to the tumble out of this metal carrier, a plea was made by the waiting.

“Ok -you can get on.”

“Eeeeeeh?” erupted from the bus

“It’s a baby – a bambino!” remonstrated the driver 

“Aaaaaaaah” replied the bus

The attractive mum holding a white shawled little girl climbed on and a passenger relinquished their seat; smiles of a peaceful child’s embrace rippled down the carriage. Next, an elderly bag lady tried to get on as the doors opened and she made a bold attempt to climb up against the wall of opposing bodies. The driver apologised and remonstrated with youth’s respect for the elderly, but beneath it all – she wasn’t a chosen one. She made hand movements to her mouth with looks of poverty and destitution, he countered with forces beyond his control and assurances time would tend to her woes. 

And with a swish and hiss of closure, we moved on to the next hearing.

Returning home

 

topwithenspast

He reaches the brow of a hill with a mood like his feet: cold and sore. The fume-filled streets, with their heat and closeness seem dreamlike. For a moment, there are cycles navigating roads like shoals of fish, and smells of barbecue and sweet basil infuse the air. His senses are alive, the city shoving itself through the pores of his skin. A plaintive whistle from the moorland breaks the moment.  He feels its stinging slap, like before, carrying sea salt and sand from the coast.

The cottage comes into view, it hunkers down behind slopes of heather, and sheep in tangled coats of dripping dirt move as if all hope is lost.  From the chimney, a tendril of smoke half heartedly seeks escape. He thinks of his parents moving about within, behind those dark stones, stained from years of damp; this place where light barely illuminates, and warmth is a vague memory. His breath quickens, cheeks burning from the whipping wind and it’s whispering now, a warning.

It will be better this time, he’s not the same.