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WIP `Pandemubiqarium`

by sanguimane 

Posted: 10 May 2005
Word Count: 2738

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Having found herself alone in Terminus, Tarva's natural intellectual acumen and logical personality ensured that she was pitched into a hysterical panic during which ran around the huge place weeping, screaming and crying out for mercy from whatever malign deity had stranded her there.
More than any analytical ability or sudden calm, exhaustion and hoarseness were the eventual antidotes to this state.
Heaving great breaths and expressing the most heartfelt sobbing she collapsed against a sturdy metal stanchion (Rusty) and looked around with wide despairing eyes.
The massive size of the building seemed to crush her down with its imagined weight; the million high windows admit not sunlight but some corrosive radiation.
“Suebia!” she croaked, riven by grief and imaging every shadow of the vast structure to be or portend the return of her beloved. Intermittently further gusts of green mist proceeded across the tundra of tarmacadam, the verdant fog harbouring the vilest reek. One such enveloped her where she clung and she swaddled her face against the odoriferous brume.
Reeling from the stench she staggered away towards the offices and found herself by chance beside the window of a emporium. This place seemed, to judge from the window, to vend common or garden stones from the road alongside the remnants of an exploded china cabinet. As this seemed an unlikely source of revenue Tarva was obliged to judge these items to be of some especial antiquity, given that their intrinsic worth seemed so low.
The presence of wares however, suggested a vendor and Tarva entered the establishment in search of this surmised person. She found herself standing before a wooden bench naked of anything bar a tiny aureate bell attached by a golden chain to the wall at the far end of the furniture. She picked up this small thing and wondered at it in that there was no inherent sensations of weight whatsoever.
After a slight hesitation she vibrated this item with the utmost timorousness. The resultant peal was suitable to have been rung from the carillon of a mighty cathedral, such that she flung the tiny object from her and squealed in discomfort. The vibrations from the chime shuddered in the floor beneath her naked feet and shook dust from cracks in the walls.
Hands clapped over ears she crouched and waited for the pain to ebb. Upon straightening once more she found a curious creature regarding her from the far side of the counter. It was, to judge from the pudgy face and shoulders, a being that tended towards the rotund, its rubicund face dominated by a broad flat nose around which the other features were arranged as an afterthought. A mass of white curls, like unto the blonde locks of a babe, tumbled down from beneath a strange small hat which was no more than a stiff circle of red fabric equipped with a short military style scarlet brim. It was wearing a large crimson knitted object of such bagginess that it obscured any contour of the body beneath.
It sniffed, which given the size of the proboscis involved was no small task and Tarva could almost imagine that air was sucked past her into that mighty nozzle. The creature abstracted its gaze in contemplation for a moment and then announced,
“No age to it. No artefacts about it. Not selling must be buying. With what may old Cearlie Otero serve you, young…” A look if intense pity suddenly convulsed the red veined face. “So very very young Miss? A gee gaw, a nick nack, a trumptydoodle of some kind, for your curio shelf back home?”
“Nothing thank you Mister um, Otero.” chirped Tarva. “I was simply wondering if you could…”
The creature face, that had been registering a strange mood of entrancement now stiffened to a chill mask of flesh.
“No. Sorry. Got one already.” he barked, picking up the tiny bell and replacing it in its accustomed position. “Good day!”
“What? I… no pardon?” wittered the girl, light headed from three days famine and ready to swoon. As she swayed upon the meniscus of a strange grey mist that had swirled of a sudden into her mind another person entered.
This was a youth who endured that class of beauty that defies description by reason of a lack of defects, for his tanned flesh was pure and unmarked, his face pleasingly arranged with complete symmetry beneath golden hair teased into tiny curls. In her weakened state Tarva was mesmerised by this quintessence of vapid male pulchritude and could not but stare at him. It was impossible to tease any sense of character from the perfect features; he was a beauteous conundrum.
“Mister Vestouche!” cried the creature behind the bar. “To what do we owe this very great honour sir?” He snorted towards the golden youth like a slobbering hog and then announced, “Ahhh, I smell good news from the dig!”
“Begob! Cearlie you ugly old rutter!” cried the youth with great gaiety as he placed a large and heavy looking burlap sack upon the counter. “That nozzer of yourn don’t never fail, do it?”
“Never been known yet Mister Vestouche!” answered the insulted creature with a wide happy smile. He doffed his peculiar tiny red hat, tipped it towards the youth and then snapped it back into place in shorter time than it takes to tell.
The youth was just about to prolong the badinage by a further exchange when he was obliged to turn in surprise and catch something that fell into his arms.
“Damn me!” he cried. “A girl?” The fainted Tarva, bereft of senses by a potent cocktail of trauma hunger and stirring lust, had swooned upon him. “Lorks, but she weighs nothing…” he sympathised, staring down at her white flesh and golden hair. For a moment it was as if Vestouche gazed onto the silvery depths of a mirror. “Poor little things half staved.” announced the youth, then looking up to glare at Cearlie Otero.
“Tis none a’ my doin’ melord!” cried the rotundity, “She just this minute wandered in!” The youth favoured Otero with a look that indicated he was barely persuaded of the others innocence but that this conviction in this regard hung yet by a thread.
“Well, price them up.” he grunted ruefully, nodding at the bag. “I’m taking her to the Missy Hapemorns! See if we can’t fatten her up a bit, say what?”
“You shall of course do as yer please Mister Vestouche.” said Cearlie, looking sympathetically at Tarva, who was beginning to return to herself by degrees, although seemingly as yet unaware that she was supported by a fellow being.
“What?” she asked.
“Begob! You fainted m’dear.” announced Vestouche, seemingly quite delighted by the novelty of the action. “And I am taking you to Missy Hapemorns!” Tarva nodded with complete incomprehension but allowed herself to be manoeuvred towards the door.
When standing at that portal Vestouche looked back to see Otero touching the bag lasciviously, attempting to read the shapes within by sense of fingertip. He was sniffing at it like a hunting dog in search of prey. “I’ll be back later for me money Otero!” cautioned Vestouche.
To this the little creature looked up to reply but, seeing only the closing door could not utter, so great was his olfactory transport.
“Come, me dear.” Sighed Vestouche, ensuring that Tarva was sufficiently strong to remain upright unaided. He fluttered around her as if positioning a rare item of fragile china upon a shelf and then concluded, “We have much to discuss over dinner.” As she took a step he noted the slender muscles of her legs through the shabby dress. His appreciation of these was akin to that of a connoisseur of fine wines appraising a bouquet, curiously passionless and technical. There was in his perfect face the hint of an expression that spoke of an expert considering his chosen arena.
He surged forward, took her by the arm and gently but persuasively manoeuvred her into a different direction.
“Bun shop is this way me dear.” he murmured. “And what might your name be, my delicate bloom of the platforms? I found you outside platform Twenty shall I call you that? Twenty?”
“Oh no sir!” pleaded the girl, aghast and afraid at what she saw as an odious coincidence. “Please call me Tarva?”
“Very well my girl, very well!” he soothed her with insistent urgency, alarmed at the effect of his light words. “No need for tears little one. Tarva it is.”
“Thank you sir.”
“And are you as hungry as you seem, Tarva?”
“Oh, yes sir. Easily so.”
Vestouche nodded slowly, assimilating this simple statement as if it contained a host of possibilities and variables.
“I myself, am an archaeologist, do you know anything of that science my girl?”
“No sir.”
“If we maintain our association, and begob, if I don’t rather hope that we shall, you will pick up a smattering I don’t doubt.”
“No doubt.” agreed Tarva politely. She was not smitten with the perfect features of the lad in a romantic manner as yet but her gaze kept returning to them, as might the attention of a climber to a spectacular view of the mountains they scaled. She wondered what that oh so symmetrical face would look like transported by some emotion or begrimed with dirt, panting with exertion or twisted by lust. The face was not only like that of some perfect statue in shape but also in immobility. If there was a stir of desire in the girl’s heart it was for sight of humanity in perfection, if there was any intention of hers towards him it was to satisfy curiosity.
They entered the shop below the bun sign wherein Tarva was sufficiently impressed and startled by the appearance of Miss Hapemorn. Thereafter she and Vestouche proceeded into the main hall wherein she evinced surprise that the place was festooned by humanity in such a splendid throng so completely denied the platforms. These predicabilities out of the way the menu was brought and she studied it with keen appreciation.
As they awaited the ordered fare she saw Suebia enter the room along with a dark haired woman. Hope and joy ignited in Tarva, blossomed to a furnace and thrilled in every limb.
Then a remnant flame guttered and perished in Tarvas chest. Its presence there made her feel sick, even as the drifts of dying drifting smoke troubled her eyes.
For the newcomers were kissing and fondling each other.
Lost to herself, the very muscles of her body forgot their function. Hereupon Tarva slumped down into her chair, supported only by the skinny wooden arms. She gazed dumbly at the conoodling couple as they passed by, utterly oblivious to her.
“She…” choked Tarva.
Vestouche had also been observing the two females, once again with that curious air of distracted calculation.
“That’s an associate of mine, Miss Ruttwar Courl, something of a bad sort don’t y’know? Drugs and the like, can’t abide them myself, very ageing to the skin. Begob! But there is something undignified about ‘digging in’ I always think. That dark skinned girl must be her latest fancy… doubtless to be dragged back to the Barnunt Shard and paraded before that little gnome Krin.” Now his voice lowered to a hiss. “She’s half Priapan I hear, in her mothers side. Damn graceless Priapans.”
The ire expressed against this mysterious class betrayed a little stink of jealously amid the general gust of outrage. Something very like an emotion caused a small nerve to twitch in Vestouche’s perfect jaw.
A period followed during which the gorgeous youth might well have recited a list of historical events or listed alphabetically the names of every bird in the world for all the attention Tarva paid to him.
“The box!” Some one bellowed and Tarva jerked out of her blank reverie. She saw Throme rise, stagger, clasp a waiter, and continue, “I left my box at the counter!” at a completely unreasonable volume.
“Gor, don’tcher ever shuddup?” inquired a voice, muffled but still recognisable as that of Suebia. The sweet tones once attributable to a lover but heard in the wake of love are ever jarring, like shades of all departed things that haunt the living.
From her vantage a good distance away, Tarva watched the ensuing kerfuffle amid the diners with a listless eye. Her pale face trembled as her eyes filled. These were anonymous tears, unrelated to any particular emotion but they laid claim to her as she reviewed a positive cavalcade of potential moods, these passing before her like the flags of various nations.
She moaned, evidently bent low before all the desolation in the world and weary at the demanded choice.
“Never sigh so little flower!” cried Vestouche. “No tears now, come…” He attempted to stem a veritable tide proceeding from her eyes by means of a lacy kerchief hopelessly inadequate to that or indeed most other tasks. “See?” he cajoled. “Here is our order being brought, you will feel better after a feed I’ll be bound? Come on now, eat.”
Although the mechanism that allowed her to swallow seemed mysteriously compromised and every morsel squeezed down lay in her stomach like a cold pebble, her starving frame recalled sufficient of mastication to allow for eating. In fact, so keen was this memory of her body that a considerable portion of viands were conducted inwards.
“And now…” Vestouche inquired when the carnage was done. “Let us test your manners. Stap me, but you seem to me a well brought up girl.”
“I was raised by a man that taught me many things.” intoned Tarva.
She watched as Throme and Suebia walked out with Ruttwar Courl. Her life came to a close along with the door. Now in the cold afterlife of her own existence she heard her companion purr,
“And what did he teach you about gratitude my pet?”
A warm gloved hand brushed her thigh and then slid along towards her knee.
Abruptly a factotum once more, she adopted the stone-like stillness of that trade, designed neither to deprecate nor encourage but merely allow. The creeping palm slipped around the curve of her thigh and down into the warmth between her knees.
She was acutely aware of the coarse weave that formed her filthy undergarment. This was clothing from the Domestic Costume General Emporium in Demubiq and fit for a domestic, which was what she felt herself to once more to be.
“I have been taught to please.” muttered Tarva. She had been whisked back in time to a previous state by the ghastly infidelity of her beloved. It was as if all that had occurred between Demubiq and now had been annihilated in a trice.
“I should very much like…” growled Vestouche softly, seducing in tone albeit no such nicety were necessary. “To get you back to my room… and enjoy myself with you… what d’you say t’that my pretty flower? There’s a new dress in it for you, if I’m pleased.”
“I need a ticket to the end of the line.” she said, turning her cold wet face towards him.
“Do you, begob!” exclaimed Vestouche drawing back and removing his intrusive hand. His expression was that of substantially impressed. “Well that’s a fine big sum for even a ‘grateful’ girl to earn.”
“I’m obedient.”
“Hmmm. Are you indeed?” rumbled the man meditatively, hooking his hand over her knee and so very gently teasing her legs apart beneath the table. “Are-you-indeed?”
“You may have your way with me, in any manner that you please.” She spoke with the solemn dispassion of a contractor. “I will not fight you. From now until the train leaves you may have your will, and on the train as well if you so wish. Just so I get to the end of the line.”
Now Vestouche bore the look of one whom, while playing at cards, imagined himself to hold the winning hand until he conned a certain sly look flit the face of an opponent.
“In any way I please, eh? Do you really mean that Missy?”
She nodded emphatically, maintaining her stoic expression only by an effort that paradoxically caused it to shudder.
“For a ticket to the end of the line, yes.”
“Now lets not get ahead of ourselves missy.” he cautioned, once more withdrawing the hand. “Let’s see how you ‘measure up’ first, eh?”

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Comments by other Members

Terry Edge at 16:53 on 14 May 2005  Report this post
Let's take a look at the first sentence. You start with passive writing: 'having found herself alone in the Terminus'. Okay, I know this is not in modern style, but readers are used to the subject and the active verb coming early on. e.g. 'Tarva was alone'. Therefore, to start passively indicates that we are going to be wading through a lot of words to come; which in fact we are.

'Tarva's natural intellectual acumen and logical personality ensured that she was pitched into a hysterical panic' doesn't make sense. Why would intellect and logic ensure that someone would be pitched into hysterical panic; wouldn't it be the opposite? In any case, why would anyone be in panic, just because they're alone in a terminus? 'Weeping' and 'screaming': these are actually two dissimilar actions, one caused by sadness, the other by fear. 'Crying out for mercy from whatever malign deity had stranded her there'. Surely she wasn't actually crying, 'Mercy from whatever malign deity has stranded me here!' Why don't you just tell us its name?

Then there's, 'The massive size of the building seemed to crush her down with its imagined weight; the million high windows admit not sunlight but some corrosive radiation.' Surely, its weight is real, not imagined? Tense change in the second part of this sentence, and what does it mean, anyway? Are you saying the windows actually admit radiation not light; or just that it seems that way to Tarva?

“Suebia!” she croaked, riven by grief and imaging every shadow of the vast structure to be or portend the return of her beloved. Intermittently further gusts of green mist proceeded across the tundra of tarmacadam, the verdant fog harbouring the vilest reek. One such enveloped her where she clung and she swaddled her face against the odoriferous brume.

I'm sorry, but I gave up reading closely with this paragraph. How can there be 'further' gusts of green mist when we haven't had any yet?

I scanned the rest of this entry but it strikes me that this is writing for people who appreciate intellectual obfuscation over emotional content. You give us no idea of Tarva's character, only contradicting actions. There's no drive in the narrative, instead it meanders around a lot of superfluous, unnecessary or just plain wrong words.

I appreciate that there are different styles of writing, and this has echoes of the early novel. However, apart from the fact that times move on, complication should still make sense in terms of character and story. But I've struggled to find any here. You provide no reliable locators – we have no idea what time or place we're in. And I've just realised that I'd better finish here before I spend any more time on what may turn out to be some sort of hoax I've just fallen for.


Okkervil at 17:26 on 14 May 2005  Report this post
Hem, hallo. I think maybe Terry was a teensy bit unfair- though everything he says is valid- but as opposed to resentment at the occasionally almost deliberate (surely?) wall of confusing premodifiers and prepositions, I was frustrated. I think maybe you've knotted yourself up in a thesaurus here (not be too mean): this feels like it could be quite a cool, atmospheric piece if you opted for some adjectives with less than three sylables. Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoy gothic, maybe even deliberately archaic, modern pieces and this feels like it could be in the same vein as China Mieville, but like Terry pointed out a couple of times, things here don't always end up making sense, and I supect that's because the long-words you've opted for maybe don't have quite the same meaning as their shorter brethren. I mean: the first sentence- I think you're suggesting that anyone with any sense would be scared to be stuck where she is- why not just say that? I like reading a book with a word I don't know cropping up every other page, but this feels a little pretentious, and that first sentence's incongruous senselessness makes the reader more aware of every subsequent little niggle. Terry's right as well, that Tarva has no character, she just moves around the set pieces. There is a great setting here and potential for a story, jus' cut down on some o'those long words and it would be more accesible.

(Welcome to Writewords, too- don't run away, I don't hang round the fiction much, I just noticed dear Mr. Edge's remarkerations)


Incidently, I would be guilty of thesauruseration all the time if I didn't have more self control. So I epathize with the dilemma!



Terry Edge at 12:33 on 15 May 2005  Report this post
A further thought. This piece is complicated – denseness of words, long words, etc. The other night, I was watching the Foo Fighters on 'Later'. Now, to me they sounded very complicated and noisy, but I had no way of knowing if it was skilful noise or just noise (I'm not a musician). Then the guitarist played a song by himself on acoustic guitar which showed that he was a very talented musician. Therefore, if I wanted to, I'd feel confident in investing time in listening more to their complicated stuff, knowing that it's built on skill, understanding and experience, rather than self-delusion. You can probably see where this analogy is going … Before writing complicated and densely worded prose, one needs to master the basics: dynamic structure, gripping characterisation, convincing dialogue, effective location, etc. Mind you, there is a very strong argument that if you can do those things, then there's no point in being complicated. Human beings tend to be complicated, mainly because for various reasons they don't like to tell, or face, the truth. The writer's job, therefore, is to unravel that complication, so that reading a story is not just a journey into other people's worlds but a means by which we can understand ourselves a little better.


sanguimane at 17:42 on 21 May 2005  Report this post
Thanks for the time and trouble, perhaps I should have emphasised the fact that this is not by any means the first chapter of the piece?
The intial joke seems from current opinion to not work and so I may adjust it to make it more obvious?

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