Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dali's Egg ~ 4. Jane

The red dust at the centre of the clearing rose in flurries around the tiny bells that tinkled at their ankles as one by one the village appeared from the forest, greeting John with smiles or nods or just plain indifference. Dr Morose escorted John into the dining area which stood beside the smokey kitchen where he was served a bowl of steaming meat by an Oriental woman. The meat was dark, rich and tender; John felt the edges of his tongue tingle as he chewed the first mouthful.
Dr Morose watched, his eyes curious to the expressions that washed across John’s face as he consumed the medallions of meat, the juices hot on his fingers.
“Good, isn’t it?”
“Hmm” John swallowed, “Very, what is it?”
“Well technically it is Gull, it was once explained to me that there is actually no such species as Seagull. Unfortunately it’s the only edible thing on the island… well the only edible thing available to us anyway.”
John raised his eyebrows and continued to eat, noticing that the village was now busling with activity.
Morose explained that in order to soften the first encounter, they cleared the village whenever a newcomer arrived.
"So where exactly is this then?" asked John as he finished the last piece of meat.
“Where?” Morose rose and leaned over the table to pat John on the shoulder. “C’mon old man, lets get you somewhere to sleep.”

Some time later, John sat on a makeshift bed sheltered from the midday heat by the shack that had been allocated to him by Dr Morose. He watched as the Doctor crouched next to one of the villagers with a basket of large red leaves. The villager’s chest and back was covered in hundreds of tiny scars, most of which were old and stood out pink against his deep brown skin. The doctor was treating fresh bleeding cuts on the man’s body with the sap that he squeezed from the leaves.
These ministrations were interrupted by a tanned woman who entered the clearing with purposeful strides.
John watched as what began as a polite interaction developed into what looked like an argument between Morose and the tanned woman. She was clad in a khaki skirt, a white cotton shirt decorated with pastel flowers, and sandals. She kept her arms crossed over the straw sun-hat that she held to her chest as the doctor gesticulated angrily before her.
After some moments she raised one hand in the doctor’s direction, palm forward. She replaced the straw hat on her head and with a final comment and a cutting gesture of the hand she strode across the clearing in the direction of John’s shack.
Ducking to avoid the low threshold she entered the shack and John was treated to a waft of cool air that fled before her as if in deference to her power. She removed her hat with her left hand and extended her right toward John, pausing until he took it,
“Mr Gabriel, welcome to the Team, and welcome to Eden” she said, her accent American. Her hand was dry, the grip firm, and John noticed that the fingernails were bitten to the quick.
“I’m Jane Grissom, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance” her tone bore the confidence of a woman who had never been contradicted or convinced otherwise.
“How do you do… Ms Grissom?” John raised his eyes to her face, tanned with blue eyes and straight white teeth, handsome in a bland sort of way. The smattering of freckles across her nose made her look younger than the forty-odd that John judged her to be.
“Call me Jane” she said, “It has fallen on me to organise this place, so if you need anything over and above the normal routine, you’ll need to come to me.” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder “The doc’ will see to your medical needs, otherwise you are free to do what you please. Besides contributing to the chores – fishing, cooking, cleaning and such - all of which falls under Suki’s charge.” She flashed him a business-like smile.
“Where exactly is ‘here’?” John asked
“Mr Gabriel,” the smile vanished “That is a difficult question, a questions that goes beyond the realms of everyday considerations. Eden needs to be run as efficiently as possible, given these extreme circumstances. The team does not benefit from difficult questions – it’s non-productive.”
“Absolutely. Non-productive. Mr Gabriel, keep it professional and we will get along just fine. Believe me, you wouldn’t want the Judiciary to get involved” She let the threat hang in the air between them for a second before once again replacing the hat and, drawing a chest full of air, said in a brighter tone “So, anything you need - my quarters are about a mile upriver. So long Mr Gabriel” She flashed her teeth once more before departing as briskly as she’d arrived, leaving John to sink back down onto the bed, his eyes followed the clean white shirt on her retreating back.
He noticed that with the exception of Morose, the boy from the beach, and the magpie that perched on the edge of the water tank, the commune’s scattered inhabitants went about their chores and avoided looking in Jane Grissom’s direction as she strode across the clearing and disappeared into the trees where the path led upriver.
“Americans eh Gabriel?” Dr Morose approached the shack “Can’t handle things on an individual level, always gotta root for the team, rally round the star spangled banner, work together for the good of all”
“She in charge here then?” John looked at the spot where the Jane had disappeared into the trees.
“She thinks she is,” said Morose with a smirk as he gazed in the same direction. “Give her her due though; these huts would never have been built if it wasn’t for her leadership abilities. Got everybody’s shoulder to the wheel she did – got us all working as a team.” He turned back to John with a sigh “The irony of it is that she can’t even bring herself to live with the team, prefers to rule from afar – the downfall of all empires.” He gave a short barking laugh and offered John a cigarette.
“Thanks” John accepted and lit the cigarette, drawing the nicotine laced smoke into his lungs like a seasoned smoker. The ensuing coughing fit brought tears to his eyes and his mouth was as dry as old wood – he stubbed the cigarette out on the wooden sill.
“Where do you get them from anyway?” he asked in a strained voice.
Morose tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger “Ask no questions old man”
“How do you get by without asking questions?” there was a hint of indignation in John’s voice, indignation which bordered on anger as he continued, “I mean, where the fuck is this place?”
“Steady on old man, you’ll get used to it. Truth be told, we all suffer from a little-known virus called Infoamnesia, keeps us from worrying about the questions, helps us to get on with our lives – enjoy life a bit. Know what I mean?” he slapped John on the shoulder, “You’ve probably been exposed to it already, you’ll feel better after some sleep – you’ve had an eventful day”


James Higham said...

Oh, I like that. Sorry not to be more profound.

Jimmy Bastard said...

Okay, you've whetted my appetite ( but no for gull meat) and I'm intrigued as to where this interesting new journey will take me.

Justin Russell said...

This Eden sounds so damn interesting that I believe I want to visit. I think I could even survive on gull meat for the duration, even for the full duration.

Yodood said...

Are other people's words the proper cure for curiosity's itch? Normally one leaves with their own question in tact and new questions about the source of the answer they got from the other. questioning natural experience leads to ever new questions as well, but they're more inclusive, having digested the original question in answering.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is too good;"Infoamnesia"...I'm hooked. And I'll have a bit of that gull stew, if you don't mind...

Pisces Iscariot said...

James: no profundity required here :)

Jimmy: steer clear of the gull meat

Justin: mmm... are you sure ?

Yodood: unanswered questions soon lead to investigative action ;)

Subby: as I said to Jimmy: steer clear of the dang gull meat :o

Justin Russell said...

Am I sure? My curiosity and enthusiasm often get the better of me and I want to gatecrash the narrative bodily and enter into the stories that pique my inner explorer.

So am I sure? No, the earlier reply was a tad premature, but your possible world seems to offer more intrigue than the mudane reality I open my eyes to every day.

Anonymous said...

Sparky writing; kept my attention all through. (Interesting about the amnesia virus.)

Can't wait for The Stripper!

Tom said...

Are you kidding? Life on a white sand beach and yummy gull to eat? OK, enuf questions.

Pisces Iscariot said...

Justin: is that reality really so mundane?

Cinnamon: Hope you're not disappointed :)

Tom: see you there then :D