My apologies for the late story today. Currently in the mountains of north Washington with extremely shotty reception.
Anyway, the final installment of Nocturne is below. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.
Also, I am pleased to announce that I will be hosting guest writers Ralph Walker and Grinia Bradwell for next week's Fresh Story. These are both very talented writers and I think you'll like what they've got in store for you next week.
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Nocturne (part 5)
At the south end of the pavilion, rising up about six feet above the sea of little bobbing heads, was what can only be described as a rolling wave composed entirely of small children.
‘Jesus Christ! What the fuck is this!?’
The child-wave was pushing down the middle of the aisle, gaining momentum as it surged toward us.
We turn and pick up the pace with even less regard for the little bodies that we’re having to knee and shove out of the way. The muscles in my thighs begin to throb as we plow through the sea of miniature people towards the exit.
There’s a cry from overhead and out of the corner of my eye I see Amanda go down as a little Asian boy drops down from the ceiling on top of her.
‘Shit!’ I reach over and grab the Asian child off her back and pick him up diagonally by the thigh and bicep and do an Olympic discuss-style spin. I let go and send him crashing through a plywood rack full of scented candles. I turn and lean over to help Amanda up. ‘You alright?!’
‘Yeah, let’s go!’ I take her hand and we start back for the door. The sea of children starts to rapidly recede below us as a chorus of screaming, youthful laughter begins building up to a crescendo above and behind our heads. We turn around just as the massive child-wave envelops us in its shadow.
We turn and dive forward and are immediately picked up and carried off in an amorphous surge of Velcro-strapped shoes, ponytails, chocolate covered faces, and sticky little hands that roll and tumble out of control along with the movement of the wave. We ride the wave, hand in hand on our bellies as it begins to crest and break overhead.
‘Seriously!’ I yell out over the sound of child-laughter, ‘where the FUCK did all these kids come from!?'
Amanda and I are riding the wave with surprisingly good balance, and making good time toward the exit. The glass doors were coming up quickly on the left, but the wave is plowing forward, on a direct course for the brick wall adjacent to the exit doors. Just before the wave looks like its about to make impact, I dive down into the mob of children, yanking Amanda down with me. We are trampled down by little feet and little warm bodies as the wave passes by overhead. We shoot up and gasp for air just as the wave crashes against the wall and splashes back. The recoil flings open the glass exit doors and we are picked up in its wake and funneled out onto the sidewalk along with a couple dozen kids that come tumbling and rolling out underneath and behind us.
* * * * * * * * * *
‘It’s, well, if you think about how long humans have been around, right? And then you think about how long we’ve had language. It’s really, if you think about it, human beings have been around and communicating with each other way, waaaayyy before we ever had any words to capture our thoughts.’
I put the pipe back in my mouth and stop to take a couple of puffs before handing the pipe and the lighter over to Amanda.
‘No problem,’ I say, as I hold the smoke in my lungs.
Amanda flicks the lighter a few times to get it started as I admire the statue of Governor Edward Cornwallis shooting up from the middle of the park to our right. I empty out my lungs into the evening in a slow, steady exhale as I recall the last time I remember walking through this park. It was a few days after I’d arrived in Halifax and I remember being very sad. I was passing through this park on my way back from having just dropped my mom of at the Halifax Westin. I waited there with her until the shuttle came to take her to the airport. She cried as she hugged my neck and climbed onto the shuttle. I watched the bus pull out of the parking lot and drive off before crossing the street to head back to my partially moved-into studio apartment. I remember walking through here and suddenly realizing that the one person that I knew in Canada was now gone and that I was all alone. My heart felt heavy, like it was pumping mercury instead of blood, and I sat down on one of the benches surrounding the statue. I remember starring down at the ground as tears began to pool up along my bottom eyelids and drip down onto the concrete below. I missed my mother.
Amanda nudges my arm with the back of her wrist as she hands the pipe and lighter back over to me. ‘Here you go.’
‘Thanks.’ I take the items from her, pocketing the lighter and shoving the pipe back in my mouth, and we turn and continue north up Barrington Street.
‘Anyway, so, yeah. So, basically, what I’m saying is that we, as a species, have been communicating with one another for longer that we’ve had the words to communicate.’
‘Right.’ Amanda nods as she blows out a plume of smoke.
‘So language, while it has been hugely helpful to our species as far as effective communication goes - and don’t get me wrong; language is awesome. Words are awesome. The development of language is probably the best thing that we’ve ever done. But, for all of its benefits, language has also held us back too.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘Well, it’s basically; we’ve basically relied too much on it. We’ve gotten ourselves to this point where, to us, language is communication. In other words, many people - most people, I would say - are of the belief that, if there isn’t a word for it, then it doesn’t exist. I mean, I don’t think that that thought actually goes through anyone’s head, but, subconsciously…’ I tap the side of my head, near my left temple, with my index finger. ‘Subconsciously I believe that most people feel that way. Which really just isn’t true.’
‘Yeah, right. Like, just because there isn’t a word in the dictionary for something, it doesn’t mean that it doesn't exist. I mean, like, everything is unnamed until it’s discovered, right.’
‘Right. But, I’m not even talking about physical things, like discovering a new element or a new species of bird. No, I mean like emotions,’ I make a gesture like I’m pulling a lump of something from my chest, ‘like feelings.’
‘Right, right. I--’
Still considering myself somewhat of a visitor in a foreign land, to hear someone call out my name in the street was a bit startling. I look up and see Jim’s daughter Halle up ahead of us, standing at the end of the sidewalk. She was lurched over and wobbling, ever so slightly, from her waist. She held two bottles of beer in each hand and kept one eye squinted closed as she looked at me.
‘Halle!’ I jog up to her and throw my arms out for a hug.
‘It’s you,’ she says as she leans into my hug and reaches around with one of her two-beer-wielding arms and pats me on the back.
As I hug her I suddenly remember that I am on mushrooms and my pupils are the size of nickels. Not wanting my advisor to find out about my recreational drug use, I decide to remain a safe distance away for the remainder of our encounter and to avoid eye-contact if possible.
‘How’s it going?’ I say as I release her from the embrace and step back.
‘What’s…’ she furrows her brow and let’s her head fall to the side as she points up at the pipe in my mouth.
‘Oh, ha!’ I say as I pull the pipe from my mouth and hold it out in front of her. ‘You like it? It’s my pipe?’
‘Pipe?’ From the way she says this and the accompanying look of confusion on her face, you would have thought that I had just told her that I was holding a time-traveling butt-plug or something. Realizing that Halle was at a level of inebriation where she would almost certainly not remember this conversation tomorrow, let alone what size my pupils were, I am suddenly more at ease talking to her.
‘Yep. Oh…’ I turn to motion towards Amanda, who had just walked up on my left. ‘This is my friend Amanda.’
‘Hi,’ Amanda says, as she waves and pinches her face into a smile.
Halle turns her head lazily as she looks over at Amanda and uses the beer bottles in her hand to give her a single, semi-circle wave.
I use the mouth piece of the pipe to point over her shoulder. ‘You out for Nocturne?’
‘Yeah, you know, Nocturne? The art festival?’
‘What’s a Nocturne?’
‘You know,’ I put the pipe back in my mouth. ‘It’s where they open up all of the art galleries in Halifax and they have all these public art performances all around the city. Its really cool. You should, uh, you should check it out.'
Halle looks at me with disinterested eyes and shakes her head.
‘Alright, cool.’ I nod my head. ‘Where you headed?’
She looks over to her left and points vaguely to a cluster of houses. ‘There.’
‘Cool, cool.’ I look over at Amanda as I take a breath through my nose. ‘Alight, well, it was nice seeing you. We’re going to, uh, we’re gonna head off and go check out some more art.’
Halle closes her eyes and waves to us with the two beer bottles in her left hand. It seemed like she attempted to tell us bye, but nothing came out so she just ended up mouthing the word instead of actually saying it.
‘Okay, see ya.’ Amanda and I wave as we walk around her and head toward the South Street crosswalk.
‘Who was that?’ Amanda asks, once we’re across the street.
‘That was Jim’s daughter. She worked with me in his lab this summer. She’s in medical school now, though. Just started this semester. Her and her twin sister.’
‘Shit. Looks like she’s having a good time tonight.’
‘I know, right? Yeah, I’ve never seen her like that. I mean, I’ve only hung out with her a couple of times, but, you know, she’s generally got her shit together.’
We pass Pavement Coffee on our right and I turn around to see how far Halle had made it in the direction of her party. She is nowhere to be seen.
Amanda turns around. ‘Damn. Where’d she go?’
‘I don’t know,’ I say, as I pull the pipe from my mouth. ‘But she's moving surprisingly fast.’
‘Yeah,’ Amanda says, as she shrugs. ‘Didn’t expect that.’
‘Neither did I.’
We continue to look back in silence for a moment before turning around and continuing our trek toward the city.
‘Anyway, where was I? We were talking about language, right?’
‘Yes. You were telling me your definition of art.’
‘Right. Yes. Yes, the problem is that we’re relying too heavily on language. It’s like the only things that exist to us are the things that we have words for.’
‘Alright, yeah. Yeah. I can see that. But what’s, ah, what’s this have to do with the definition of art.’
‘Yes. That. So, I’ll tell you. So, that’s my definition of art. The whole of art and artistic expression, it’s all an attempt to communicate in a way that is beyond language. It’s communication via a primitive, unspoken, unspeakable language. That’s it. That’s my definition of art.’
‘Hm.’ Amanda looks down and furrows her brow in thought.
‘That’s the criteria by which you evaluate all art; how well it speaks to you in this ancient language. Does it evoke things inside of you; in your head; in your heart, that you don’t have the words for? If it does, then it’s art. How effectively it does this is the metric by which you asses the quality of the art. That’s it.’
‘Wow,’ Amanda curls down the corners of her mouth and nods. ‘I like it.’
‘Yeah, and this applies to all art: painting, dancing, filmmaking, sculpting, you name it. Even writing, which uses language itself to communicate in a way that goes beyond language. All of it, all of it, all art must strive to communicate via this ancient unspeakable tongue. If it doesn’t then it’s not art. All else is just, well, it's not art. Everything else is just limerick and propaganda.’
* * * * * * * * * *
We laid there splayed out on the sidewalk, me on my stomach and Amanda next to me on her back, taking deep breaths. The children around us had nonchalantly gotten up and dispersed out in all different directions, laughing and skipping into the evening.
‘Th’fuck just happened?’ I say, with my cheek mushed up against the concrete. ‘Th’fuck did all those kids come from?’
‘I don’t know man,’ Amanda says as she rolls side-to-side and gradually props herself upright. She sits spread eagle, in a slopped forward ragdoll position. I sit up and on my side with my knees bent and most of the weight on my hip and the palm of my right hand. I look over at Amanda. She had a strained expression of thoughtful disbelief on her face.
‘Man,’ I say, as I shake my head. ‘All those fu--’’ - donk!
A vacuum insulated thermos comes spinning through the air and nails me on the side of the head, ricochets off, and hits the ground with a hollow tink-tinktink-tink, and starts rolling away.
Fucking Christ!’ I say as I rub the side of my head, where I could already feel a bump swelling up. I look up toward the exit doors to see a chubby little kid in one of those stupid knit-caps with the thin ropes hanging down from the sides and a little puffy yarn ball on the top. He is in, what looks to be, a little-league pitcher’s follow-through stance. ‘Fuck you, you little shit!’ I yell out at the kid, as I scramble around for a rock or something to throw back at him. ‘You fuckin - fuck! Shit!’ Of course, the one time that I really need a rock or a chip of concrete, there is nothing to be found, so I settle for indiscernible yelling; ‘AAAHHGGGRRM!!’
I look up at the kid and he produces a meaty little middle finger before darting back inside.
Amanda’s eye’s light up as she sees the thermos, ‘Fuck yeah; the tea!’
I sit there for a minute with my eyes closed, rubbing the side if my head and rocking back and forth. Amanda helps me up and we brush ourselves off, grab the tea, and start down the sidewalk towards the waterfront.
‘That guy Pat,’ I say, as I continue to rub the side if my head. ‘What time you think he goes to bed? Like tonight. What time you think he’s going to bed tonight?’
‘I don’t know. Nocturne’s over at like midnight. Say, an hour commute. I guess, like, maybe two. Two thirty?’
‘Like, you think he’ll be asleep by two thirty?’
‘Yeah, I would guess so.’
I pull out my phone.
‘What’re doing?,' Amanda asks, as she looks over at me.
‘Setting an alarm.’
- the end