Speaking in Fish

Thursday, 21 April 2005 By misha
Not much sleep but lots of dreams. Weary dreams, ghostly yet vivid. Some wet, some more drought-stricken than not, like my life. Some days reality looks piss-poor by comparison. Last night was this: I stood in a long narrow corridor, both ends of which were lost in darkness. Weak fluorescent lights flickered on the high ceiling. My feet were bare. The floor was buckled parquet. Numbered doors ran the length of one side of the corridor, as if in a hotel, and along the opposite wall hung a corresponding number of framed paintings. I approached the nearest.

It was gold, ancient and dusty, the frame a convoluted Baroque intestine, the leaf peeling from the timber. The subject matter itself was obscure through years of neglect and accumulated grime, but as I stared an image gradually emerged of a cat entering a partially open door. Glancing around, I realised the painting was a representation of the very door opposite, which was now standing ajar too, just wide enough for a thin black cat to creep through. Of the room beyond all I could see were swaying shadows cast in a dim, amber light.

Someone groaned and I moved closer. As I reached for the knob the door slammed shut, cutting off the strained sound. I glanced back at the picture but could no longer make out the detail. I watched as the image grew darker and darker, until it was completely blacked-out. Or was I just closing my eyes?

I blinked and saw a woman in a diaphanous white gown and a flood of pale hair - a Botticelli Venus - standing at the next painting along. She turned towards me with a wan smile and slowly shook her head. "I'm afraid it's locked from the inside," she said with an air of genuine regret. And then - so sadly - "Is this your idea of love?

Love? Well, that hopeful notion was nailed to the masthead ages ago. Jesus had more catchy proverbs than sense.

When I was a kid, belief in God - the vigilant Good Guy Up There that looked like a mix of Charlton Heston and Charles Manson - was as instinctive as farting in bed. These things are atavistic, I guess, like fear of the dark, picking scabs and melting toy soldiers with matches.

I wasn't a dumb kid, just naive. I really thought there was Someone "out there", some blithe guardian angel taking an interest, looking after me despite the apparent chaos (better put that in capitals too, especially these days: Chaos); Someone who had the map and knew what all the squiggles and tiny numerals meant. By my late-teens I realised what an utterly malicious old fraud God really was.

Turns out its a joke map, with joke points of interest and joke directions. A scavenger hunt. Scenic Lookout? A stinking garbage dump. Picnic Area? A bleak greasy carpark. Next stop: another famine, eco-disaster, another dirty war and other, more commonplace horrors. Factory farms, factory jails. I could never see where love fitted in. God's will? God swill!

And God's the bloody cartographer!

It was obvious the Kingdom of Heaven was just a scam, a Baroque/Fascist dictatorship in the sky, religion just another popular franchise, and Christ (a little glitter here, please) was a dupe, a stooge perhaps, or perhaps worse: the fat, well-fed goat who led dumb sheep to slaughter. And then I met Karen and knew just how much of a vicious prick God really was. Some divine sense of humour. Down comes the emotional nuke. Drop the s and slaughter is laughter.

Old horrors stalk the new millennium. New mass graves, new mass perdition. There is no redemption only remorse. I hope there's no afterlife because that would be the final obscenity.
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