The Hercules train

When he reached the edge of the world Hercules looked out at the heavens with a heavy heart for this, his greatest quest, was over and it was the pursuit of it he had cherished most. The edge was like a beach, oblivion lapping onto it in wavelets. He had an urge to see what was beneath, so he lay flat on the sand. Carefully he leaned over to see. That part of him that extended beyond the world stopped being. The sensation was of weight and mass and energy reaching only to those parts of his body that stayed on the sand. Beyond these, where his head and his fingertips had been there was a blind consciousness, which Hercules told himself must be the state of his soul. He had endured many hardships in his life and the Gods had taunted him with endless trials for the body they’d made him. The sensation of nothing that could be seen or touched, excited him. Only beyond the world could he be freed of his need to be and become, instead, only the notions he held true of justice and honour. Without a thought the hero edged forward, neck then shoulders gone, then chest. He found a purchase on the sand and pushed towards where zero and infinity were indistinguishable, where now was all of time and peace as absolute as its absence. He let himself slide into it. At the last moment as the hero struck out beyond his embodiment the buckle on his sandal caught on a length of vine. But, as his physical consciousness had been all but extinguished, he had no idea, as he drifted out, of the calamity he had set in train, as first the vine, then its roots and the things it had ensnared slipped towards nothing and the world he’d honoured with his bravery began slowly dragging itself, each small part so connected, piece by piece into a void beyond.

The lover

Twin sisters shared their girlhood home in a way. One occupied the rooms in front, back to the kitchen, which was in the middle of the house. The other took everything to the rear. A schedule, pinned to the kitchen door, limited their need for further contact.

They were seen coming and going occasionally, but never together. Over time the occupants of nearby houses changed and the knowledge of the family that once lived at the house was lost. In its place a single woman, pleasant but reclusive, emerged, though no one knew her name. Beyond Luskin Rd, in the files of the country’s corporations and agencies the women disappeared as well. Surviving frugally, as their father had, taking only what they needed of the savings he had hidden in shoe boxes beneath the pantry floor, they left none of the usual evidence of their existence.

When the fire broke out – old wiring in the roof space – it spread unseen above them before bursting through old ducting into rooms at either end of the house. It converged towards the middle, the kitchen, where two charred bodies, embracing in death, were to be discovered by fire-fighters dousing the embers.

So it was that a mystery woman, an unknown lover perhaps, became the talk of the people of Luskin Rd in the days after the fire. Only the old cat, who had been with them all its years, knew the women’s real story, but it took that secret with it days later when starvation overcame it.

 

Ambush

After trouble in town the boys take to the hills for a licking of wounds and a bit o blarney besides that for theres always stories from exploits and the hills is the best place for em. Up in the hills stories grow big like alehouse yarns and therell be whiskey to be had and good times and thats what a band o fellows wants most. More even than company with lasses I reckon true enough a fellow wants a yarn and whiskey and up in the hills is always plenty enough of both and Eddys brother Danny will most likely do a song and a jig and the world will be great like it should be. Like the Lord intended itll be with the sun shining bright on his making. So when Stevie Boy sends a message down I think sure that’s for me and I drops me shears and leaves with Cuttler cursing cause his sheeps half sheared and I take his pony too on a loan for wages and goes up there at a fair clip cause I’d not be missing the fun of it thats for sure. And the boys are there havin a fair old time and soon enough I has a bottle and a full pipe and I’s leaning back with em. The sun is warm and it makes the whiskey smooth and sure nough the airs soon filling with singing ballads and the crows joining in and theres nothing in the world as good as that and nothings going to spoil it cept thats when theres a shot – bang – in the bushes and next moment theres all hell and the clearings got troopers and dogs in it that have crept up on us and us only drinking and singing of lasses and things and Joe takes a pellet but hes up and all the rest are up quick smart and their rifles loaded too. Ready like they been waiting and next moment its shots exploding near me head and Dannys rifle smoking and the two big coppers go down before they can reload. And as quick as it started the other one is high tailing and Eddy grabs me arm and we give the dog chase and we calls to the others to clean the mess and they ought head off north where weve got another place and we get to our horses just as the yellow cowards mounting his and we’re on after him in a flash. And he aint got no chance hes getting off not with Eddy chasing whos the best horseman round and sure a match for any fat Scotsmen. At the bottom of the spur Eddys got him bailed up. When I gets alongside hes got his pistol drawn and the copper is near going to shit and Eddy just looks at first staring at him then he spits like hes got a bad taste and he cocks his pistol. The Scot hes pleading like a girl to a fellow and he says if hes shot theres others will come and Eddy says I aint never shot a dog wasn’t lame and needed putting down and the Scot looks worried then when Eddy aims at his leg but instead o shooting he says you tell them others and you tell them good it was me that shot them two up there dyou understand. And the dog nods and Eddy says true and that in defence of life and limb it was too and as God is witness that’s the truth and you tell it good. Then he takes the scoundrels gun and his horse and kicks his arse down the hill and we turn and head off north. And Eddy says to me its bad times coming.

Spring

Ravaging seas, once navigated, are glimpsed

in distant memory, on horizon’s edge,

a mere patch above the abundance

of fortunate life’s fortunes. Greens shimmering

in an afternoon sunlight’s cast demand

those bitter winters past, finally, relinquished.