The old department store had been standing at the junction for over a hundred years. With it’s tower and four storeys it had been hailed as the building of the century. The tenement buildings on either side with small shops and craftsmen’s dwellings on the ground floors and over-crowded apartments above looked sadly on when the doors first opened on the bright, electrical illuminated concourse. But it was a foretaste of the nightmare to come. Thirty storey and higher skyscrapers now filled the skyline. The incessant drizzle only added to the mood when news of impending demolition was made public.
while hunting in the forest
is beset by thirst
Salmacis looks for his love
in an eternal embrace
Finding a body
buried close to the surface
may suggest foul play
Impassive she sits
on her throne of silken thread
object of desire
my needs allay any fear
of her consuming passion
Sit, stand, understand, grow, spend
I declined my host’s offer of a stool on which to squat, instead choosing to eat while reclining on one of the sofas as was the custom in my home country. My slave, as he had been trained, remained within a few paces of me. I informed Valerian that it was time that he and his people should start their insurrection against the tyranny of our hated Emperor. He found it hard to comprehend that such a favoured nobleman as I could cultivate such revolutionary thoughts. I realised he was unaware that when I was a young tribune I had chosen to pay to the assembled nobles vast amounts of my father’s wealth, a form of insurance if anything should ever happen to him. Very timely as within one year he was condemned to exile in Sardinia, leaving my mother, brother and sisters at the mercy of our political foes. Now it was time for revenge or a honourable death in the attempt.
One of our earliest most memorable moments from watching wildlife programmes on the T.V. has got to be our introduction to the vast animal migrations across the African Plains. Wide expanses of bleak, dry, arid grasslands where the herds of wildebeest, antelope and zebras have exhausted the earth’s supply of fodder in one spot and have to follow the rains to another grazing area. A mass movement of animals that is now, sadly no longer to be seen due to the expansion of man’s domain and the diminshing resources left for the inigenous wildlife. In not too many years the only way we shall ever know what these migrations were like will be the remaining film footage. In case you aren’t sure to which piece of film I am referring the sight of a crocodile almost dragging a wildebeest into the water remains one of the most epic struggles of prey and predator witnessed and filmed by man. Once seen, never forgotten.
“You’re not really thinking of going in there are you, that’s where the cats ate that old couple isn’t it?”
”Of course I am, you don’t believe that silly story do you, I mean can a couple of cats eat people, I ask you?”
”They may have been big cats.”
Lupinus stopped and raised his right arm. He glanced to right and left sniffing the warming morning air. There was nothing to see on both sides but a mass of dense forest. “I smell woodsmoke,” he explained, “but it may be from an old fire or perhaps more recent. It is quite strong however.” I knew better than to question his judgment, after all that is why he had been chosen to accompany me on the journey. A native of this strange land he seemed to have almost magical senses, hearing, eyesight and smell. His tastes left a lot to be desired, he abhorred fish oil, perhaps he found the smell rather overpowering. He was not averse to the meat from the pheasants that we had introduced though, declaring them to be good, much better than his native avian choices and took every opportunity to attend a meal where he knew pheasant would be on the menu. For this journey though we had brought very little of either, relying on our wineskins and small packs of bread and cheese. After all we would shortly be arriving in Camulodonum. The prefect of the town would be happy to provide sustenance for his unexpected guests from Gaul. We had important news to deliver concerning a local woman. Apparently a strikingly good looking woman but still obviously barbarian in speech and habit. Lupinus had spent the previous day trying to convince me that the women of this island had rights equal to the menfolk, they could even lead armies and make all the decisions that we Romans would not think of entrusting to anyone but members of our Senate. “Nonsense, ” I had scoffed, “they are only good for two things, keeping you fed by day and warm at night, oh, and producing sons of course.” Although even I am inclined to believe that they have a devious nature and are probably secretly laughing at our mistakes, occasionally offering advice that we should be foolish to ignore. It was my turn to feel slightly uneasy, I could smell nothing, let alone see more than ten metres to either side, the trees and undergrowth were so deep. Anyone could be lurking in there, I could even be walking into a trap, after all Lupinus was originally one of these barbarians, he had been hostaged when he was but a young boy and as far as I knew, had never expressed any desire to return to the home of his parents or contact his remaining brothers and sisters. No. I was being unnecesarily wary, I would trust him with my life, but? Anyway only another couple of hours and we would arrive in the town. I was looking forward to a hot bath, a change of clothes and an evening banquet………..
I put the book back into my rucksack. It was a pleasure reading the story of Paulinus. The book was recommended to me as my landlord knew that I would be walking down the same old track that those two unfortunates had taken some two thousand years before. Ironic that the manuscript on which the book was based was recovered from the old cellars. A part of the town that survived the storming by the Iceni. Reading between the lines it appears that they were on the way to warn the Provincial governor that there was a stirring in the North and with the legions away in the far West they should think about shaking the dust off the uniforms and weapons of the local militia. Pity poor Paulinus arrived at about the same time as the good-looking red-haired woman who he thought incapable of anything but cooking and cuddling. That’s the way it goes. Anyway that’s my rest over, time to get walking again before it gets dark, you never know what’s lurking in these woods.
Grendel woke up with a start. There was that awful sound again. Voices, high-pitched, whining, grating voices. Not the calming, soothing voice of his mother which he still missed after all these years. He was glad for now she couldn’t stop him going down to silence the town again 280 characters
On these fabled walls
a poet did once inscribe
visions of paradise
even now we search in vain
for these stately pleasure domes