06 August 2005

A miracle


Animal hides pulled high around their necks, they wore their hair long and unkempt. This unwashed huddle hunkered down on haunches. Forming a circle twelve-strong they watched attentively the stranger in their midst. Craning their necks to get a better view, black eyes darting nervously from the stranger’s face to his slim, graceful fingers. A murmur of guttural tones greeted his preparations.

Watery afternoon sun slanted across sinew, tendon and weather-beaten flesh. Their primitive intellects had been promised a gift and they would settle for no less. He knelt at their centre, this tall man of athletic build, this elemental magician, this modern Prometheus, an old man of twenty seven summers, blue-eyed and blonde, brow knitted in concentration.

Bark prised from a dead tree limb lay before him. In it he had gouged a neat hole just big enough to admit a fingertip. Into the hole he inserted one end of a short straight stick. He began rubbing the stick between his flattened palms, spinning it in the hole and the men watched curling wisps of grey smoke. His drilling produced hot, powdery sawdust which glowed cherry red when he blew on it. From a fold in his hide he deftly withdrew a dry cottonseed head. He touched this to the embers and it too glowed brightly.

His pursed, thin lips blew harder. A sudden flare appeared as the cotton ignited. Sounds of astonishment greeted this development but ignoring his audience he dropped the blazing cotton onto a pile of dry leaves. The onlookers flinched and retreated a pace at the first burst of fire. Now he propped twigs around the crackling magic and new flames licked them hungrily. Larger branches were ferried to him and he arranged these tent-fashion around the flickering fingers of orange and yellow.

Thick blue smoke wrapped the heap for a moment but soon red tongues darted through, hissing and snapping, burning and returning plant life to dust. The small crowd gazed in awe and wonder as green timber crackled and spat diamond sparks.

A stranger had entrusted this band with a device of heat and light and destruction. It would shape civilisations as an influence for good and evil, industry and warfare. Drawn to the epic power of the display no one noticed the magician was no longer among them. When at last heads turned and scanned the distance, a plume of dust betrayed his position on the horizon. He walked barefoot, a small hide bag on his shoulder. In it he carried cottonseed and a short straight stick.

High above him a shooting star streaked like fire across the twilight sky.

27 comments:

finnegan said...

I love the view from up here---hope there aren't any terrorists planning on taking this tower down.

I've gotta run V, but will enter again on another floor.

Going down!

superflywebpimp said...

torso crouched, jaw protruding, on wobbling leathered office chair i hop and grunt, slapping my screen with primordial grunts of appreciation.

Jen said...

Hey, I've missed you.

finnegan said...

An intimately transcendent scene here, glowing with baroque intensity.

In this work, as well as your earlier meditation on Herr Ripper and Catherine Eddowes, the mind's eye zooms in on the subtle but telling gestures of the players---each subtly worded "shot" elongating the action and buiding a riveting "mise en scene" tension.

Where you straight-cut from paleolithic shaman-scientist's slight-of hand to the fire itself, a subtle exchange takes place that even the onlookers themselves are too overwhelmed to notice...not until his ghostly apparition is silouhetted against what had turned from a watery twilight into a dusty gloaming.


Larger branches were ferried to him and he arranged these tent-fashion around the flickering fingers of orange and yellow.

Thick blue smoke wrapped the heap for a moment but soon red tongues darted through, hissing and snapping, burning and returning plant life to dust. The small crowd gazed in awe and wonder as green timber crackled and spat diamond sparks.


The man appears, then disappears, haunting the scene like a benevolent ghost.

Patry Francis said...

I'd like to read more of this. Didn't want it to end.

transience said...

i loved how every masterful word contributed to the unforgettable finale.

Perfect Virgo said...

Superfly - now I have a mental image of you adopting a primitive stance and engaging in chest-beating! All this juxtaposed with the anachronism of your PC screen.

Jen - I missed you too, are you back now?

Finn - a nice review my friend. I was particularly interested in the way you compared the scenes with film footage. I always try to create a moving image for the mind's eye and I think you saw this one.

Yes, a 'benevolent ghost' sums up his presence and unsen departure. (Glad you made it down the tower safely.)

Patry - I am still testing a variety of subjects and styles. I am so glad you think this one may have succeeded. (Getting the length of a short piece just right is hard to judge.)

Transience - I put a lot of thought into this and scraped off as many superfluous words as I could. As the subject was elemental I felt the language should be suitably concise.

NMAMFQLMSH said...

You are a miracle!
Peace,
JJ

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - you are beautiful!

Grace said...

Great piece PV. The thing that occured to me is how did they come to find rubbing sticks made fire? I mean if you dont know what fire is, why would you rub sticks together? I'm just daft! :-)

Perfect Virgo said...

Grace - odd isn't it? I did a bit of reserch and nobody seems to know. Early man saw fire occurred in nature (Lightning strikes, forest fires etc...) and must have worked out how to copy it. Friction definitely produces a lot of heat!

gulnaz said...

wow, i am so impressed by the excellence of your writing!

finnegan said...

Grace, it could be that our shaman was working up some inspiration in the privacy of his lab hut. Thus working, he was struck by the sudden appearance of smoke, along with a slow-creeping burning sensation and a smattering of sparks that travelled with lightning speed to his cerebral cortex. This could be deemed as science's first AH HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

The rest, as Virgo so lovingly cronicles, is HISstory.

Dionysius said...

This shows why one has to be very careful in interpreting ancient documents such as the Bible. A man in our midst who did something which is novel to a small group can be easily catapulted into God-like stature. Fire appeared magical to the primordial people and it is easy to see why their notion of hell was composed of this infernal substance. Great descriptive piece PV.

Grace said...

AH HAAA! Finnegan, you may indeed have something there! The first eureeka moment? HISstory, very good indeed. A message for Finnegan there PV, there seems to be a spate of people hijacking others blogs for a chat! Have a look at the party we had at Kennys place on Saturday, it was a riot! LOL :-)

Perfect Virgo said...

Gulnaz - thank you for such a lovely compliment. I am glad you liked this one.

Finn - "inspiration in his lab hut!" Well I've heard it called some things!

Dionysius - purely a descriptive piece this one. I feel they were inspired by naturally occurring fire rather than Finn's shaman, but it's a nice image to hold.

Grace - hijack away, I don't mind! Some of your conversations are more entertaining than my posts! I just read Saturday's party - you rascals!

Grace said...

Never PV your posts are always extremely entertaining. Do you want a Gmail email account? I have invites to give away, let me know?

Perfect Virgo said...

Grace - what do you reckon? Do I need one? I have a Hotmail e-mail... I'll have one if it benefits you!

Grace said...

PV it benefits me not, I think it might attract less spam than a Hotmail account. I will send an invite anyway you can decide!

finnegan said...

Grace, Virgo, I've mentioned elsewhere that this sort of backroom banter is one of blogging's best attributes.

What a difference from the real world, where people most often speak before thinking.

Cocaine Jesus said...

i love the air of mystery that surrounds the witchman vodoo king. just who the hell was he? where does he come from? is he in reality of another time or indeed another somewhere else? appearing and disappearing as though part of the mist of legend. beautiful tale.

Perfect Virgo said...

Grace - thanks, do send me an invite!

Finn - "backroom banter" between chums, a fine pastime indeed! We think then speak, we are thinkers here...

CJ - fire seems such a precious thing I wanted to convey the sense it might have been a gift. I dropped hints that the stranger may not be of the same race to fuel speculation. What was his mission, where did he come from? I like loose ends...

finnegan said...

one of the main reasons why this blog thing is so damned gratifying, eh?

Dionysius said...

Slight change of theme. The Flea stated in your careerending blog the following: "People talk about "honest work". But tell me, what's honest about doing a job you hate, for a company that doesn't give a shit about you? If you ask me, thieves have more honesty than the average worker!"

This is profound. The average worker is a dipstick. He doesn't even think. Just goes and comes in a stupor. Thieves have to think on every move they make. As I get older the more I begin to examine this silly species we are forced to be part of by birthright.

Perfect Virgo said...

Dionysius - we're stuck in the system I guess. The only 'honesty' about working for a despicable company is the knowledge we are not spongeing off the State. It's the same elsewhere I'm sure, but in the UK our welfare system encourages young girls to have babies at 16 because they will be given an appartment and a weekly cheque. Now that's what I call really dishonest. I see dozens of them out shopping, pushing prams with their little DSS passports snuggled up inside.

That's what seperates us thinkers from the crowd, we look beneath the surface. Hmm, maybe I should launch a criminal career?!!

The Flea said...

Brilliant! Virgo, I am amazed at the speed in which your writing improves. I say that with all due respect. You cut the fat and leave us with the freshest blood-red meat. There's no gristle here my friend.

Great subject. Great concept. Great atmosphere.

Reminds me of "The Inheritors" by William Golding.

Perfect Virgo said...

Flea - I watched a short TV documentary recently and was amazed at the simplicity of creating fire. I began to wonder if man developed the idea or was taught it - far-fetched I know. I had a mental picture I was trying to paint with words. I think it's recognizable.

I'm vegetarian so fat and gristle are always off the menu!!