Saturday 15 August 2015

A Tale Of Two Non-Presidents

A tale of two non-presidents…

I try, as I have said, to avoid expressing an opinion on other nations’ internal affairs. To a large extent, it’s because said internal affairs are as much not my business as our internal affairs are not their business, or should not be.

But things are a bit different when it comes to the Imperialist States of Amerikastan, simply because it is the Imperialist States and believes that it has a divine right to rule the world. In other words, since the ISA makes our business its business, its business becomes our business.

Now let’s just take a look at its business, since who rules it, at least according to its official theology, rules the world.

First, I will discuss the Man Who Will Never Be President, the Great Liberal Hope, Bernie Sanders.

No, Mr Sanders is not going to become President of the Imperialist States. He is not going to become President of the Imperialist States because, for one thing, he is merely a gatekeeper for Killary Klingon. When the challenges to the Klingon are safely seen off he will stand down and, of course, endorse her. He will do this even if he leads her in the preliminaries because the argument already goes that he can't get the general vote behind him, so if he wins the nomination, someone like Donald Trump (a Democratic Party mole whose only mission is to sabotage the Republican Party, as it happens) will win the final election. In fact leading the Klingon in the preliminaries is good from their point of view; it helps in the plan to stifle all other challengers. Who's going to challenge Killary when Sanders is the obvious man to back? And when he steps aside, who will dare vote against Killary since that means the bogeyman Trump - or whoever - will win?

You know, I've been watching elections for thirty years, ever since I was fourteen, and I've never seen an election that was, already, as blatantly maniuplated as this one.

But let's pretend for the sake of argument that Mr Wunderkind is not a dummy candidate and gatekeeper. Let's pretend he's a serious candidate and that he wins. What then?

I'll predict something right now: Bernie has it in him to be a greater war criminal than Obama and Bush put together. The support he'll get from his, voters...will be even more frantic than the worship Obama's acolytes give him. The desperation with which they'll support him will be fuelled by their inability to admit that they've been fooled yet again by a "liberal leftist" who in reality is a warmongering imperialist mass murderer just like his predecessors. They'll hyperventilate while accusing all dissidents of being Jew-hating right-wingers, just as the incumbent’s worshippers call all his opponents “racists”; and their "intelligentsia" will mock those from the left who oppose him for being "unrealistic" and "expecting too much". And as for Germany and the other European countries, they'll turn even more somersaults at his bidding than they do already, for fear of being called "anti-Semitic" and having the word "Holocaust" dredged up once again.

And anyone who knows that Bernie voted to send arms and money to Zionistan while the Zionazis were bombing Gaza, and to sanction Russia when Banderastani Ukranazis were shelling Donetsk, knows that he's got a history of backing Nazism. Some socialist he is. 

Let me remind those who wish to vote for Sanders that this is what they will be voting for:


And this:

So it's probably for the best that he's got no intention of winning at all.

The other person I will talk about is the Man Who Was A President, Jimmy Carter.

Mr Carter has, it seems has liver cancer. I hope he recovers. Despite what I am about to write, I am not wishing him a painful death from a neoplasm. No.

But, let me remind all the Jimmy Carter fans that this was the man who signed the order, on 3rd July 1979, to start arming, training, and funding jihadi terrorist headhunters against the government of Afghanistan, in the full knowledge that this would trigger a Soviet intervention. When the Soviets did intervene, on 24th December, this was the same man who started grandstanding about a "Soviet invasion", boycotted the Moscow Olympics, and threw the door open to the continuing Amerikastani programme of cooperation with Islamic jihadis.

Apparently, Carter is now determined to spend the rest of his life "fighting for women's rights". I'm certain the Afghan women who were in miniskirts and studying in universities for careers in 1979, and who - if they're still alive - are in shuttlecock burqas now, struggling for a living, their sons and husbands dead or maimed or missing, will appreciate knowing of his decision.


Then, this was the man with whose encouragement the then US stooge Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, setting off what Iranians to this day call the Imposed War, in which thousands of Iranian Baseej child child volunteers made human wave attacks on Iraqi positions and were hit by US-supplied poison gas.


This is also the war which directly led to the destruction of the Iraqi economy, provoked Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Iraq’s historical province Kuwait, led to Amerikastan’s twenty years of war against that country, its virtually total destruction, and the current fragmentation and civil war.

[Source: AFP, obviously]
Just because Carter is less evil than his successors does not absolve his crimes in office. He could at least make a beginning by admitting those crimes.

Do you think he will? 

The Wait

Title: The Wait
Material: Watercolour on Paper
Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

I prefer to leave it up to the viewer's imagination what the woman is waiting for and what her emotions are.

Dino Tales

Your quiz question for today: Identify this (sadly extinct) creature.


1. It used to live in China and Mongolia.
2. It was about the size of a large turkey.
3. It had about the brain power, at best, of a chicken.
4. It was a predator of small to medium sized animals – up to the size of a small pig and
5. It was a solitary hunter which couldn't run particularly fast so probably waited in ambush for prey to come by.

No, it isn't a chicken from a mad scientist's lab, cool as it might be.

I’ll give you an additional hint: its name is extremely well known, but most people will completely fail to recognise it when they think of that name.

No, that name is not Maozedongasaurus, either.


Perhaps you’ll recognise it if I show you the Hollywood version?


[Source] you know it, don’t you? Velociraptor. Owing to the Jurassic Park franchise, the second-most recognisable dinosaur in the world, allegedly, right after Tyrannosaurus rex.

Of course, like everything else in Hollywood, Velociraptor looked nothing like that and nor did Tyrannosaurus, which in reality had a longer, narrower face, much less pronounced brow ridges, smaller arms, and in all probability a coat of feathers.

Did I say feathers? Yes, I said feathers. I said Tyrannosaurus rex had feathers. The only questions are whether it had them lifelong or only when a, baby...and whether said feathers were downy and hairlike or a full plumage like the Velociraptor.

Somehow, this looks much more impressive than the "conventional" image [Source]

So, yes, let’s get back to that Velociraptor, shall we? By now, you’ll have understood that Jurassic Park got one hell of a lot of things wrong, but, you know, you haven’t even begun to understand just how wrong.

Let’s see where they began; in the first film, they wanted a relatively small, highly agile dinosaur as an antagonist. In the book on which the film was – very loosely – based, the animal antagonist was based on a much earlier – it lived a full 30 million years before the Velociraptor – dinosaur, Deinonychus. This was about shoulder high to a human, but still looked a lot like the Velociraptor, with feathers, an elongated toothy snout, and a stiff, rigid tail. That's because they belonged to the same group - dromaeosaurs.

Michael Crichton, who wrote the book, chose to call the dinosaur he based his story on Velociraptor for one reason only – the name was “cooler” and easier to pronounce. Crichton even said so.

Sounds like the kind of thing Amerikastani administrations hire marketing agencies to come up with when trying to find ways to invade yet another country.

But that wasn’t quite enough. Crichton didn’t just want a Deinonychus. He wanted an enlarged, scarier Deinonychus. So, for reasons best known to himself, not only did he make it even larger, he decided to give it intelligence on the order of chimpanzees. This from an animal, you need to understand, with a brain to body ratio that would make it much, much stupider than a sparrow. And, of course, he decided to make it a pack hunter capable of fast running, because a solitary ambush predator just wasn’t scary enough.

At this moment, whether Deinonychus was a pack hunter or not isn't even established either way.

So in the film based on the book, the turkey-sized, solitary, Mongolian Velociraptor became an oversized Deinonychus with a behaviour pattern no actual Deinonychus could ever have managed – moreover, a Deinonychus that didn’t even look like a real Deinonychus – even without the feathers.

As for the feathers, that can at least be excused partly – at the time the original film was made, there was not yet evidence (though there was certainly lots of suspicion) that Velociraptor and Deinonychus had plumage. Now we know that not only did they have plumage, they were basically toothed, clawed birds.

But that was not the end of the confusion. Not yet.

You see, while the original Jurassic Park was being made, a much, much larger animal was discovered – another dromaeosaur – known as Utahraptor (go ahead and guess where it was found). I remember reading back then (1993) about how though the film “velociraptors” were admittedly bigger than the real ones (they didn’t say how much bigger), this was validated post facto by the discovery of the Utahraptor. Unfortunately, the real life Utahraptor was another feathered stiff-tailed quasi-bird beast, and as much bigger than a Deinonychus as that was than the real Velociraptor.

And then, because things weren’t complicated enough, the subsequent films in the franchise resolutely refused to correct the initial mistake, thereby fixing the fiction in the public eye.

So I don’t know if you’ve been keeping score, but here’s what:

1. Velociraptor was a small, solitary, feathered ambush predator from China and Mongolia with a stiff, rigid tail.
2. Its name, because it sounded sexy, was given to a larger, but otherwise similar, predator from an earlier predator from North America.
3. Said larger predator was then scaled up in size and given abilities far beyond its capabilities, and this was “validated” by the discovery of a larger member of the group, still.
4.Then this totally fictional creature that was thereby created was fixed in public consciousness as the original Velociraptor.

Click to enlarge enough to read the names [Source]
That gives you an idea of the dromaeosaurs, but if you want scale, here is one:


Really, this is sounding more and more like the propaganda campaigns that created myths like Russia’s “invasion of Ukraine” and “Assad’s gas attacks”, isn’t it?

The people responsible how to make a tangle so intricate most people won't even try taking the threads apart again.

So here's a Velociraptor racing with a, trying to kill and eat it.

He might prefer to eat the makers of Jurassic Park instead.

This is a post about sex and about Bill

A day or two ago I read an article about the emotional aspect of sex, and how men are much less emotionally involved in it than women, and that kind of thing.

Not exactly.

I must say that from my experience, sex without emotional entanglement is liberating for both partners by far.

No, I'm not going to link to the article in question, because this isn't about it, it's about me.

I'm not now in a relationship and I am, therefore, celibate. I have had sex both in and out of relationships, and I've been much more badly hurt by the women with whom I have been in relationships than by the others.

I lost my virginity to a woman who wanted recreational sex, said so, and took her pleasure with me with neither of us pretending there was anything to the act more than intercourse. Yes, we used each other, but we both knew we were using each other, and there was no pretence involved. We were looking for different things, it’s true. She wanted sexual release, and said so. I wanted to feel that I was desirable enough for a woman to want to have sex with me – this was after an episode of being used by another young woman who left me psychologically sexually crippled for years – and that, too, I didn’t try to hide. We each got what we wanted, went our separate ways, and never met again. And that episode – though it was far from the best sex I ever had – remains one of my best and most treasured memories.

On the other hand, sex I have had with women with whom I was in relationships caused me much, much greater emotional grief and turmoil from the memories when those relationships ended - to the point where I ended up depressed and suicidal. And going by the things the women involved said to me, it wasn’t much better for them either, psychologically speaking.

If I were to be given a choice today between having sex with and without emotional involvement, I would at once choose the latter, because there would be no regrets on either side afterwards.

Yes, by the way, we men do invest a tremendous amount of emotion into sexual relationships – to the extent where the absence of emotional entanglement is a positive relief. It is not true that we necessarily get a big charge out of notching up marks on the bedpost; that’s one of the more ridiculous myths. It is true that some of us have been hurt so badly that we don’t want to be hurt again.

That’s all I would like to say on this subject.

For now.


Wednesday 12 August 2015

Badlands VIII: The White Worm

Three days after they entered the valley, the narrow stream they were following spread out into a sheet of water, slow-moving and muddy, which filled the valley floor from side to side. Even the beast balked at the sight.

“Demon,” he said then, knowing she was there, somewhere close. “Should we turn back?”

“The way back is closed to us, Man.” She murmured the words in his ear, her arms sliding round him to touch the beast’s neck and urge it onward. “There is no way but forward, here.”

The beast, at her touch, stepped forward reluctantly into the water. It deepened slowly, crawling over the beast’s hooves up its legs until it was up to the creature’s belly and lapping at the soles of the man’s boots. The beast walked slowly, testing each step, and once or twice backed away from a spot before taking another path.

On either side the cliffs rose, vertical slabs of black rock, disappearing into the low grey clouds overhead, the clouds that had not broken even for a moment since they had begun following the slopes that led down into the valley. It was oppressively hot, and the knight wished he could take off his mail and overshirt, but the buzzing clouds of little insects that gathered around them had already covered the exposed parts of his face with welts. The beast did not seem particularly bothered by them, but it was obviously uneasy in the water.

“What do we do if it gets deeper?” he asked. “I don’t know if the beast can swim, but I certainly can’t, with this armour.”

“We’ll see if it comes to that, Man.” The demon appeared, stepping past the beast, up to her breasts in the water. “I’ll try and find a way for us.”

As they moved on, thick mists rose from the water, coiling and turning in the air until it became a grey murk which mixed with the clouds overhead until it became almost impossible to see any distance. Shadows grew in the mist, and became clumps of vegetation, grey and twisted, that struggled up towards the sky like the fingers of drowning giants.

Something splashed in the marsh, waves rippling against the beast’s flanks, and a long shadow passed by, just below the turbid surface. The knight had the impression of a great tail waving, and then the shadow was gone.

“What was that?” he asked the demon.

She had not even glanced round. “Nothing that could harm us, or had any wish to try. Be careful, though, Man. We’re being watched.”

“We are?” He looked around, but could only see the coiling mist. “From where? Who’s watching us?”

“I can’t tell yet who they are, or where.” Her flame-coloured hair blazed in the murk as she turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. “But we are being watched, you can be sure of it.”

As though in response, a noise came out of the grey, moisture-laden air. It started low, a moan that built quickly into a warbling scream and then an unnerving wail that echoed back from the cliffs, over and over, until it was no longer possible to distinguish between the echo and the original sound. It was everywhere and all around, bouncing from the water to the clouds overhead and from cliff to unseen cliff, rising into a screech that sent the beast’s ears flattening against its head. Through his gauntlets, the man could feel it trembling.

And then suddenly the noise ended. The silence was so total it was as though someone had slammed an immense door shut. Not even the beast’s heavy legs seemed to make any noise in the water.

“What was that?” the man asked when his ears could hear again.

The demon shook her head. “I don’t know. But I have a feeling we’re going to find out.”

The beast plodded on into the mist.


It was evening, and the mist was growing heavy with darkness, when the demon raised a claw-tipped finger to point. “Look.”

“What is it?” the man asked, and then answered his own question. “A village.”

It was on a pile of matted vegetation that grew out of the water like the hump of some primordial animal. The village was made out of matted vegetation, too, dome-shaped huts crowded together, dimly seen in the mist and gathering darkness. A few boats floated beside it, flat with low sides, little more than rafts.

“What should we do?” the man asked. “Should we pass it by?”

“Quite apart from the fact that I don’t think we should be out in this marsh at night,” the demon said, gesturing at the thickening darkness, “we need to find out where we’re going. We’ll probably find out something there.”

They had hardly stepped out of the water, the matted plants undulating under their feet, when shadows emerged from the huts and began to slip down towards the water. They were small, quick moving, but the demon was faster. She snatched with one hand at a darting shape, and came up with something small and wriggling with its arm clutched in her hand.

“You let me go,” the thing squeaked. “You let me go, monster.”

“We’re not monsters.” The knight climbed off the beast’s back and bent to the creature. It was human of a kind, with smooth hairless blackish-grey skin and large eyes, dressed in a loose outfit that flapped around its body. It wriggled and twisted, fruitlessly trying to free itself from the demon’s grip. “We don’t mean you any harm.”

“That’s right,” the demon said. “We only want a little help. Call your people and tell them there’s no need to be afraid.”

“That’s what you say,” the thing replied. “You’ll get us together and then you’ll kill us all. We know your kind.”

“Our kind?” The demon and the knight exchanged glances. “We’ve never been here before today. How do you mean, our kind?”

The creature – the knight could still not decide if it were male or female, old or young – grimaced as the demon’s claws dug harder into its skin. “We’ve been watching you all day,” it said. “We’re just harmless fisher folk, and yet you come straight to our village. What else could you want but to destroy us, like the others?”

“What others? We don’t know of any others.” The demon shifted her grip to the creature’s shoulder. “Look – fisherman – I promise you that we’ve no intention of harming any of you, nor do we know what ‘others’ you’re talking about. All we’re doing is trying to find our way out of this marsh.”

“Call your people,” the knight said. “They can safely come back to the village. Nothing will happen to them.”

“I’m going to let you go now,” the demon told their captive. “Don’t try to run. We’d catch you at once.”

The thing blinked its large eyes and whistled loudly several times. “They will come back,” it told them, “but they know all too well bad things will happen to them. Bad things have been happening for a long time now.”

“Bad things?” The darkness was so thick by now that the knight could barely see his own hand as he gestured. “I imagine that bad things happen a lot in this marsh.”

“Only to those that do not know it,” their captive said. “We have always lived here, and it has never held any terrors for us, until the monsters came.”

“Monsters again?” the demon asked. “What monsters are these that you keep talking about?”

“Monsters that now haunt the marsh,” another voice said. A second of the fisher people came up cautiously, ready to bolt into the darkness at the slightest alarm. “Have you not even heard them?”

“Heard them?” The knight remembered the scream that had come out of the mist earlier. “Perhaps we heard sounds. But we didn’t know what made them.”

There was a silence, broken only by the gurgling of marsh water in the matted vegetation on which the village was built.

“Perhaps you had better come into one of our huts,” their captive said reluctantly. “Then we can talk.”


The captive’s name was Urugun. He – it turned out to be a male – offered them smoked fish to eat, and when they declined, nibbled at it with no great sign of appetite. The little hut, lit by a tiny fish-oil lamp, was crowded with the fisher people, who seemed to have lost their fear enough to come to see the demon and the knight for themselves. Outside the hut, the beast waited, occasionally shifting its weight from one massive leg to another.

“It was a long time ago that the monsters came,” Urugun said. “I can’t tell you how long exactly. One by one, our people – those who went to fish in the deeper part of the marsh – began to disappear. They would go to the best fishing areas of the marsh, where they had always gone, and none of them would ever come back again.

“Of course we went looking for them, but we never found anything – except, sometimes, an overturned boat or a torn net. These were parts of the marsh we knew well, where we’d always fished, and nobody had ever suffered so much as a minor accident there. And now they were disappearing without trace.”

“Perhaps there was some kind of freak storm...” the knight suggested.

“No. There never is any kind of storm on the marshes, and in any case they weren’t so far away that we wouldn’t have noticed a storm that struck them. Besides, it wasn’t just once either. And then there was what happened to the others.”

“The others?”

“This isn’t the only village on the marshes, as you might imagine,” the woman Urugun had introduced as his mate, Kular, took up the story. “We know each other and keep in touch, visit each other and trade among ourselves. Some of us went one day to the next village out in the marsh and...there was no one there. The village had been destroyed. It had been torn to pieces and there was no trace of the people, except for some blood stains.”

The knight and the demon glanced at each other. “An animal?” she asked.

“There’s no animal that could do something like that in the marsh, never was. We know all the animals here.”

“Still, if one had come from somewhere else, it might have destroyed the village and then left again.”

“But that wasn’t the only time this happened. Since then we’ve found at two other destroyed villages, and several others that we used to hear from have fallen silent. We’ve no idea what’s happened to them. So, when we saw you out there...we thought you were the monsters come for us.”

“I see,” the knight said. “But you have no idea what is actually doing all this?”

“No. We hear strange cries in the marsh sometimes, but that is all. We’ve never seen anything.”

“We have thought of leaving the marsh,” her mate said. “But where could we go, what could we do elsewhere? Fishing and the marsh are all we know.”

“And you don’t have any idea what these monsters might be? There aren’t any old legends or anything?”

The villagers looked at each other. In the tiny, flickering light of the oil lamp they looked uncomfortable. “The marsh has plenty of legends,” Kular replied eventually. “How can we say which one might apply?”

“Warlocks and the spirits of the old gods,” her mate added. “Ghosts of the dead, who are jealous of the living and filled with bitter hatred. Who can tell?”

The knight tilted his helmeted head and stared at them. “You clearly have an idea what it is,” he said. “You don’t want to tell us, but you have some kind of idea in your minds. Isn’t that so?”

The fisher people looked even more uncomfortable. At last Kular broke the silence.

“There is a tale of the White Worm,” she said. “It sleeps in caverns under the marsh, where the air and the light never reach, and emerges only once in a thousand years. It’s the colour of the mist and the marsh, and it is hungry, for it has fasted for those thousand years. When it comes out, it consumes all it can find, until at last its hunger is sated, and it sinks back into its caverns until its time comes again.”

“And you believe this,” the knight stated. “It’s might be only a tale, as you said, but you all believe it. Maybe you don’t believe it’s a worm, but you believe that’s what’s doing all this. And that’s why you don’t want to leave – you’re hoping it sates its hunger and goes back to sleep once more, before it reaches your village.”

“Well...” Kular replied. “How do we know what’s true and what isn’t? A thousand years is a long time.”

“It’s supposed to scream,” Urugun added. “It is said to be so filled with hunger that it screams out in frustration when something it swallows fails to satiate it. And you’ve heard the sounds in the mist.”

“Is there anything else they say about it?”

Urugun and Kular glanced at each other. “Uh,” the former said, “there are the legends which claim the White Worm does not wish to feed on our bodies, so much. Our flesh and bones are little to it. What it feeds on, what gives it delight, are our fear and our pain.”

“And it makes that fear and pain last a thousand years,” Kular added.

Nobody said anything for a few moments.

“These marshes must be huge?” the demon asked. “From what you say, since there are many villages, yours must be at only one corner of them.”

“Yes, we are a fringe village, close to the borderlands. Nobody really knows how big the marshes are.”

“We,” the knight said, “were looking to find our way out of the marsh. But from what you say we were merely wading into the middle of it.”

“You soon couldn’t wade,” Urugun said. His thin lips lifted in the rudiment of a smile. “It gets a lot deeper further on.”

“There are ways out,” Kular put in, “but you’d never find them without help.”

“We’ll help you get out of the marshes,” Urugun said. “Since you aren’t the danger we’re afraid of, and...”

The knight didn’t hear what the fisherman said next. His attention was fixed on the demon, who seemed to be listening hard to something, her head cocked.


She didn’t answer. Rising, swift on her bare toes, she slipped to the entrance of the hut and disappeared into the night. Slower and heavier in his armour, the knight, stepping clumsily between the people squeezed into the narrow space, followed.

He found her standing at the edge of the mound of vegetation, staring up into the darkness. “Demon?” he asked again. “What happened?”

Without looking at him, she raised a hand for silence. He followed the direction of her gaze.

High up, two dim reddish circles glimmered in the murk. They had already faded away before the knight realised that they had been two enormous eyes, looking down at them.


They left the village in the morning. It was as hot and grey and oppressive as the previous day, the clouds of insects as troublesome, the mist as thick as ever. The fisher people did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary at all.

Urugun had volunteered to guide them out of the marsh, and Kular had insisted on coming along. They had taken one of the flat boats, poling it along, though there was a paddle for deeper water. They had tried half heartedly to make space for the knight and the demon on the boat, but it was obvious that the little vessel was far too small.

“It doesn’t matter,” the knight told them. “I have to stay with the beast, and she doesn’t need the boat. Just lead the way and we’ll follow.”

The demon and he hadn’t yet discussed what they’d seen the previous night. Part of the reason was that the fisher people hadn’t given them the privacy to be able to talk; also, the knight was far from sure what the dim eyes he’d seen even meant. Perhaps it was merely some denizen of the swamps, well known to the people who lived there.

The little boat poled slowly along the water, ripples from its passage washing the beast’s flanks as it followed cautiously in its wake. The demon, freed from having to mark the way for the beast, sat behind the knight, her arms round his chest. Occasionally she disappeared, ranging into the mist to one side or the other, before returning again.

“I thought I saw something,” she murmured after one of these expeditions. “But there wasn’t anything there.”

“Do you think someone’s watching us?”

“If there is,” she replied, “it’s not the fisher people. I don’t know why, Man, but I’m extremely uneasy about this – much more so than yesterday.”

“Don’t you trust those two, then?” the knight asked, his lips barely moving. The couple in the boat, one bent over the pole and the other peering into the mist, weren’t, to all appearances, trying to listen to them, but he had a feeling they were keenly aware of everything their charges were doing.

“I don’t think it’s to do with them – I’m sure they’ll be glad enough to be rid of us. It’s...”

The boat vanished.

It happened so quickly that neither the demon nor the knight saw it clearly. Something like a bank of white mist drifted across, between them and the boat, and then as quickly was whisked aside. And the boat was gone.

The beast reared for a moment, forefeet rising from the water, and came down again. The man and the demon were left staring at the water where the boat had been.

It was left for the knight to make the obvious comment. “They couldn’t have got away so quickly.”

“They didn’t get away at all,” the demon said. She pointed at something floating in the water. “There’s their pole.”

The knight felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck. Slowly, deliberately, he reached for the sword of nameless metal slung on his back.

The scream came from the mist. Close, much closer than the previous day, so close that the air itself shivered from the noise, so close that the water surface and the mist seemed to flinch from it.

“It’s coming for us, Man,” the demon murmured. “I can feel it coming.”

A moment later, it hit.

It hit from above, like a knife ripping through the curtain of the mist, with the speed of a striking snake. The knight had a confused impression of a pair of dim red eyes set on either side of a mouth ringed with teeth, surrounded by a nest of writhing tentacles. He tried to bring his arm up, but it was already too late, the sword being knocked out of his hand with the force of the impact. And then the mouth had closed around him, snatched him effortlessly up from the beast’s back and pulled him up and away.

Time stopped. Everything froze in place.

It was cold, like a thousand million stings of ice biting at him through his armour, sucking his breath away, filling every part of his body. It was the essence of pain, pure distilled agony in every part of his being. He hung suspended in an endless whiteness, whiteness which pressed against his eyes, penetrated his mouth and nose, nestled inside the sinuses of his brain. And the whiteness was pain beyond imagining.

His body went rigid, unable to move, unable to continue to exist, and yet unable to seek relief in dissolution.

For an endless, timeless moment, he hung in the pain, feeling it, making it, knowing it consumed.

And then, somewhere deep inside himself, he heard a whisper, in a familiar voice.

“Pain is a sensation, Man, just a sensation, like an insect on your skin. Wrap it away, close it away from yourself. Fight it.”

She was not here, he knew. But her voice was, and that, for the moment, was enough.

He fought. He clawed at the pain with every fibre of his being, ripped it away from his skin and bones, from the inside of his eyes, from the depths of his lungs. He stripped it away, pushed it together deep inside himself, a hard clotted mass to be sealed away.

And, even as he did so, more icy needles of pain fastened on him, hooked into his muscles and tendons and the marrow in his bones, a dozen grasping at him when just one was before. Grimly, bit by bit, he stripped them away, too, and pushed them into the hard mass inside himself.

Then he began to seal it away.

In the immense, endless white, he thought black. Black was hardly even something he could imagine, but he forced himself to create it, starting with not-white and thickening it, condensing it, into a sheet of rippling darkness. He wrapped the pain in it, fold by fold, until it was hidden in pure dark, until the white could no longer get to it.

Then he began on the needles of pain and cold that had seized on him again, and sealed them away too.

Again and again and again, over and over, until the darkness began, slowly, to push back the whiteness, until there was more black inside him than the white, until he could almost begin to move his fingers and toes, until he could nearly breathe again.

And then, suddenly, the pain and whiteness were gone.

It happened so abruptly that he did not realise it for a moment. He hung for a moment, as before, and then realised that he could see, and hear, and that he still existed as something more than black-wrapped pain.

Time snapped into being again.

All around, he saw shadows. Near and far, big and small, some still and some writhing, they floated around him, above and below, on all sides, blurred and dark in mottled grey. He had a sense of something drawing its breath, concentrating its efforts, something immense and famished with a hunger that could never end, which was gathering its forces before biting back again.

And this time, when it did, he knew there would be no respite, no way out. It had taken the measure of him, and would destroy him totally and forever. Despairing, he took a deep breath, wondering if he ought to expend it in a scream.

Then the mottled grey fell apart.

He saw it part, as the blade of the nameless metal came through. He saw the blade slash and cut away, hacking, the blade that he had wielded so many times, ripping away the grey, carving it into ribbons of cold and mist, stripping it away from the shadows that writhed and hung unmoving.

And then the grey was gone, and he was falling, falling, into water and mud and the swamp, back into life again.


I still can’t believe it,” the knight said.

The demon moved his head into a more comfortable position in her lap and stroked his cheek with one forefinger.

“What can’t you believe?”

The man turned his head to look at the sword, which the demon had leaned against a thick tree. The beast stood beside it, looking on impassively. “That you actually used my sword. And that you won, as well.”

The demon shrugged. “I realised it wasn’t something I could fight with only my powers. It wasn’t just energy – it was a real creature, too, something with physical form and substance. And since you were so kind as to throw your sword to me when it snatched you...”

“I didn’t throw you my sword.” The knight struggled to sit up. Below them the ground sloped away to the edge of the swamp, but they were back on dry ground. He had a vague memory of Urugun and Kular guiding the beast as the demon carried him in her arms up out of the water. “It just fell.”

“Doesn’t make a difference what you intended, Man. I had the sword, and you had your courage. We each had the weapons we needed.”

“My courage? That’s ridiculous.”

“There’s nothing ridiculous about it, Man. You fought it so hard that it had to gather all its strength against you, with nothing left over for anything else. That’s why I could rip into it. That Urugun and Kurla are alive are, I’m sure, only due to you as well. It put so much effort into consuming you that it ignored them almost completely.”

“What happened to it?”

The demon shook her head. “It fell apart. It began glowing, as though there was a white fire inside it, and then it simply tore into pieces. I don’t know if it’s destroyed, though, or if it’s just gone back into its cavern under the swamp. Assuming such a place actually exists.”

“It was very old and very hungry,” he told her. “I don’t think it could have existed so long if it could be so easily destroyed.”

“I don’t suppose anyone will know for a thousand years. But at least, for a thousand years, the swamp will live again.”

The demon sat beside the man, her head on his shoulder, her arm around him. “Demon?” he asked.


“What would you have done, if the Worm hadn’t been distracted with me?” he asked, after a while.

“Fought it anyway,” she answered simply. “I told you once that I’m never letting you go again.”

He stroked her hair, and ran his finger down the fluted surface of one of the horns that curved down past her face.

“Man?” she said.

“Yes?” He turned towards her, and her lips were waiting for his.

“Do you think the beast will mind?” he asked, when the kiss ended at last.

“I’m sure it’ll be happy,” she said, and pulled him to her again.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Monday 10 August 2015

The Things that Keep Me Going

Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is the comforting knowledge that we are only hairless apes crawling on the surface of a ball of rock spinning around a nondescript star on an outer spiral arm of one of thousands of millions of galaxies, and that said star will burn this planet to a cinder in a thousand million years;

That one day long ago armoured jawless fishes swam where I am breathing living metabolising now, and they too, thought their world was all-important; and then they were supplanted by jawed fishes, and that sea dried, and giant lizards walked the land, and, after them, monster birds and apes;

 – so none of this really matters, because all this will be gone –

That the bad electrochemical impulses in my brain telling me that the happiest day of my life will be the one that puts an end to it can only win in the short term; that, when all’s said and done, I am just a mass of chemicals that will return to the universe from which I came, starstuff that will return to the stars;

That I am not even a droplet in the river of time, that my life and death are as meaningful as the life and death of a bacterium in the gut of a termite in the African savannah;

That in a hundred years my life will have as much meaning, or as little, as that of a Turkish soldier killed at Gallipoli or a deer shot by a hunter behind the Western Front;

That there is really nothing new under the sun, and that nothing I am going through will have been unknown to someone else, suffering in exactly the same way, somewhere, somewhen;

That life is, after all, a self-curing disease, and that it will end somewhere, at some point of time, and this is something to be grateful for, because immortality is the worst of all punishments;

And that I am, in the scheme of things, less than a dot, and what I hold important, less than nothing at all.

And the kiss of a dog on my face in the morning
The touch of wet beach-sand on the soles of my feet
Motorcycle rumble between my thighs,
The colours of an evening
The laughter of a friend

These are the things that keep me going.

And each day is another day,
Each breath a new breath.
And my life and death 

The things that make me cry
Mean nothing at all
And in a thousand years
Will mean as much as the dust of yesterday.

These are the things that keep me going


Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 

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