The following two stories are posted as a part of the Aotearoa Affair Blog Carnival, guest edited by Rachel Fenton. The theme for this month’s carnival is “Past Myths, Present Legends” and the Berlin Wall and Bernard Moitessier both come to mind. If you’re me, anyway.
Berlin Story (a version of this first appeared at 52|250)
Once upon a time there was a man who loved trains. He rode a train to work. He vacationed in old-timey steam engines, took his family on countryside train-rides. He dreamed about trains that lit up all corners of his city, that didn’t speed through dark spaces where no one got out. He built a model railroad in his basement, with trees and mountains and people and villages and trains that went wherever they wanted to.
Once upon a time a girl met the man who loved trains. He took her to his basement and showed her his little city. He walked her out back, along the traintracks as far as they went, which was not very far at all, because overgrown weeds greened over rusty red, and just beyond was a wall that could not be climbed. The man told her of a past she knew from books: airstrikes and airlifts, hunger and hope. His life was in those tracks.
Once upon a time the man and the girl danced together, smashed concrete with hammers, thumbed their noses at ol’ Erich and laughed at outdated regimes. Trains rumbled behind his house again.
Once upon a time, the man who loved trains was dying. The girl recalled the tiny free world, and the bigger walled world. She remembered Tanzen and Klopfen, the feel of history’s concrete weight in her hands. On the day the man died she climbed her attic steps and unlocked a chest full of memories. She pulled out a small hunk of concrete — the one with a bit of blue, the colour of the man’s eyes — and placed it in her pocket. Outside in the garden, she smashed it into yet smaller pieces and blew the dusty bits free.
* * *
The Long Way (first published in the January 2012 issue of Flash Frontier)
She stroked her last stroke and kicked her last kick, and then Gemma found herself on an unfamiliar beach. Washed up. But alive. She tasted salt, heard the snuffle of a dog. And she smelled sun-sea-air: life itself. She crawled under a palm tree and slept for days, maybe years.
In a dream.
She dove deep into sleep, met Tangaroa. Asked for pocket change for the bus but he laughed, scolded her for wearing fins instead of growing them herself. She swam on smoothly, did not say Goodbye or Nice to meet you.
In a dream in a dream.
Gemma swam into a kelp forest, pulled herself down. When she got to the holdfasts, she kept going, deeper. It smelled damp and rotten all around her, but she liked it here, down under the root of things. She glimpsed rootdwellers, small antlike creatures with lights in their windows but she forgot to ask them for change, forgot the bus. Anyway, how could ants have change in their tiny pockets? But one told her to keep going. Gave her a surfboard and said his name was Bernard. Moitessier? – the first thing she’d said in days, maybe years. But he’d already vanished into the kelp forest.
In a dream in a dream in a dream.
So she took the long way. And years later she landed, this time with a surfboard, here. A beach. A palm. A sleep.
Frangipani floated on the air. Gemma stroked the dog, named him Bernard.