Have you ever wanted to discus writing within the modding world? Trying to find someone to help edit or review your writing? Or perhaps just looking for a place to receive criticism? Then this may be the group for you. As this group is currently in development, some systems and details will be fleshed out in the near future. The forums are now open and set up for use. If you want to post your writing, go to the forums and (depending on length) post the writing itself or a link to it from elsewhere. An example will be posted momentarily. If you want to discuss a particular subject or style, start a thread in the forums.

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Dear Esther - Script Tweaks (Groups : Writer's Club : Forum : Work in Progress : Dear Esther - Script Tweaks) Locked
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Dec 21 2010 Anchor

Hi all - this is a Writer's Club remix of the "Dear Esther" audio trigger script by Dan Pinchbeck.

Here I've tried to address some of the issues I have with Dan's version, namely that some of the descriptive images are overly elaborate. I've also trimmed some of the excess verbiage.

By also removing specific references to named places, I think it strengthens the idea that the Narrator is utterly adrift in his mind / this landscape / mindscape - with no concrete outside memories to use as (contrasts? benchmarks? excuses?) to or for his current condition.

Having said that, I still feel slightly unsure about the script as a whole.. do you think it's mildly cheesy? Not that there's anything wrong with that..

But just imagine for a second it was called something like "My Dearest Agatha", a tediously polite period costume drama narrated by some 'chap' sporting a steampunk moustache and a ridiculously English upper-class accent. Anyhow - enjoy :)

PS: Imo this 'alt-mod' as a whole is certainly a welcome change from the usual / default (and largely brainless) fps-shooter.. but 'Best Upcoming Mod'?? Nah.. trust me - Cry of Fear with pwn Esther from a great height when it arrives.
= = =


Dear Esther. My mind has given birth to this dark island. Somewhere along the longitude and latitude of my days without you, a split opened up inside me and the island beached itself here, all bloody and raw.

No matter how hard I try to correlate all the elements which brought me to this point, this place remains a singularity - an nodal point in my existence that violently refuses all hypothesis. Each time I return I leave fresh memory markers that, in the full moonlit glare of my hopelessness I prey will blossom into insights and private revelations.

Dear Esther. The gulls do not land here anymore; they just cry and wheel far above. This year they've shunned the island completely. Perhaps it's the depletion of the fishing stock which is driving them away. Maybe it's me.

When he first landed here, Donnelly wrote that the herds were sickly, and their shepherds the lowest of the miserable classes that populated this place. Five hundred years later, all that remains are fragments of the myths - or lies - that they lived by.

[narrative pause]

Dear Esther. I've lost track of how long I've been here, and how many visits I've made overall. The island's landmarks are so familiar to me now that I have to remind myself to see its true shapes and forms.

I could stumble blind across these rocks of memory, the ragged fractal edges of these precipices of time, yet without fear of missing my step and plummeting down to the vast forgetting sea. I've always felt that, as one stumbles forward through the randomly swerving years, it's critical that one's eyes are kept fully open.

"First Climb"

It was Donnelly who first reported the legend of the hermit; a holy man who sought solitude in its purest form. It's said he rowed here from the mainland in a boat without a bottom, so all the sea creatures could rise at night to talk with him. How disappointed he must have been with their murky oceanic chatter.

Perhaps now, when all that haunts the ocean is the rubbish dumped from the distant passing tankers, he might find peace. They say he threw his arms wide in a valley to the South and the cliff opened up to offer him shelter; they say he died of fever one hundred and sixteen years later. The shepherds left gifts for him at the mouth of the cave, but Donnelly records none of them ever never claimed to have seen him once. I've also visited the cave and left offerings, but, like them, also seem unworthy of his appearance.

"First Beach"

Sometimes at night you can see the lights from a tanker or trawler. From up high on the frozen cliffs their drifting forms are flat and mundane, but down here they fade even further into ambiguity and abstraction. I cannot tell if they belong above or below the waves. The distinction itself now seems mundane; there's little better to do here than indulge in contradictions, whilst waiting for the windswept fabric of the moment to unravel.

There was once talk of building a wind farm on these shores, far away from the rage and the intolerance of the mega-cities to the North. The sea was far too rough to cross, they said: they clearly never came here to experience the calming effects of the island for themselves.

I would have supported their development myself; a stark white forest of wind turbines would be a fitting refuge for a hermit. Revolution and impermanence combined.

[narrative pause]

When you were born, you mother told me a hush fell over the delivery room. A great red birthmark covered the left side of your face. No one knew what to say so you cried to fill the vacuum of their silent judgment.

I always admired you for that; that you filled whatever vacuum you found. I too, in my own way began to manufacture voids and silences, to help enable you to manifest your talents. The birthmark faded by the time you were six and had gone completely by the time we met, but your fascination with warning signs and cures for imaginary ills remained.

"Cliff Path"

I am reading Donnelly by weak afternoon sunlight. He landed on the South side of the island, followed the path to the bay and climbed the mount. He did not find the caves however and he did not chart the North side. I think this is why his understanding of the island was flawed, incomplete. He stood on the mount and only wondered momentarily how to descend. But then, he didn't share my visions.

I saw that Donnelly's book had not been taken from the library since 1974. I decided it would never be missed as I slipped it under my coat and avoided the librarian's studied gaze on the way out.

Unfortunately, when the subject matter is obscure, the writer's style is often even more so. Perhaps they feel theirs cannot be the words of a stable or trustworthy reporter, since the subject of their study necessarily dictates a certain labyrinthine form, an uncertain pathway. It is therefore perhaps fitting that my only companion in these final days also be worn thin with doubt and mystery - a stolen book written by a dying mad man.

[narrative pause]

The mount is clearly the focal point of this landscape; it almost appears so well placed as to be artificial. I find myself slipping back into the delusional state of ascribing purpose or deliberate motive to everything here.

Maybe this island formed during the moment of impact; when we were torn loose from our moorings and the tracks of our civilization scored invisible lanes and highways on the surface of our minds, breaking the troubled surface.

"White Lines"

Someone on the Island was dying, becoming so ill they gave up what hope they had left to sacrifice. They slowly made their way to the cliffs, cutting parallel lines into the rock with shards of black volcanic glass, exposing the white chalk beneath.

With the right eyes, others will see them from the summit or from the fishing boats in the harbor, and know to send aid or impose a magic cordon of protection. They might even wait an entire generation, until whatever pestilence stalked the sheer cliff paths dies along with its host.

My own carved lines shine for the exact same purpose: to keep any would-be rescuers at bay. This particular infection is not simply of the flesh.

"Valley Top"

The shepherds were a simple people who secretly feared whatever imaginary deity it was they worshiped. There was no real love in the relationship either. Donnelly tells me that they had one so-called holy book that was passed around in strict rotation. It was actually stolen by a visiting monk, two years before the island was abandoned altogether.

In the interim, I wonder, did they assign chapter and verse to the stones and grasses, marking their geography with similar spiritual insignificance - walking the book and inhabiting its inherent contradictions?

Esther, we are not like them, you and I; we feel no comfort in the random transference of our beliefs. Even if we did, there's little to be gained. No tired old man parting the cliffs with his arms; no gifts or totems laid out on the damp morning sands for the taking. Just the turning of the tides and the shrieking gulls.

The bones of the hermit are no longer laid out - I have stolen them away to the innards of this island where the carved lanes all run to memory black - it's there we will light each other's face with their strange luminescence.

A quote from Donelly about the islanders: "A motley lot with little to recommend them. I have now spent three days in their company - that is, I fear, more than enough for any man not born amongst them. Despite their tedious inclination to quote from their holy book at every opportunity, they seem to me the most forsaken.

Indeed, in this case, the very gravity of that realization - that we have all been forsaken by the spirits - seems to find its most direct expression in this very landscape and in the weary, troubled faces of its people."

It appears to me that Donnelly too found those who wander this shoreline to be adrift from their own beliefs and their mythic source. I wonder if he included himself in that hypothesis, and indulged in its natural consequences.

"Paul #1"

Dear Esther. I met your old lover Paul. I made my own pilgrimage to his home. We drank bitter herb tea he made at his stove and tried to connect. Although he knew I hadn't come in search of an apology, reasons or retribution, he still slowly spiraled upward into panic, thrown high and lucid by his own wild internal speculations. But it was his imagined responsibility to uncover the secret of the Island that made him old; like us, he'd already passed beyond any ordinarily conceivable boundaries of logic or restraint.


I threw my arms wide and the cliff opened out before me, making this my new abode. I transferred my belongings from the wooden hut on the mount and lived here instead. At night it was freezing, and at high tide the sea lapped at the entrance.

To climb the peak I must first venture even deeper into veins of the island, where the signals are blocked altogether. Only then will I understand them, when I stand on the summit and they flow into me, uncorrupted by time or the incessant chatter of theoretical conjecture.

I will leave you gifts outside your retreat, in this interim space between cliff and beach. I'd leave you bread and fish, but the stocks have depleted and I my emergency supplies have long run out. I would row you back to your homeland in a bottomless boat - but I fear we'd both be driven mad by the chatter of the sea creatures.

I find myself increasingly unable to find that point where the hermit ends, and Paul and I begin. We are woven into a sodden blanket of causeless effect, stuffed into the bottom of a drifting boat to stop the leaks and hold back the ocean.

My neck aches from staring up at the aerial; it mirrors the dull throb in my gut where I am sure I've begun to form another stone. In my waking dreams it forms into a perfect representation of you, dear Esther - staring out along the muddy island tracks at the approach of your lover, speeding inward from the inland dark, clothed in a vacuum of fatal calm.

"Valley Return"

He maintains he wasn't drunk but merely tired. I can't make the judgment or the distinction anymore. I was drunk with tiredness when I landed here myself. I felt my way up the cliff path in near darkness and camped in the bay where the trawler lies beached. It was only at dawn that I saw the wooden hut and decided to make my temporary lodgings there.

From what he'd told me in the margins, I was expecting just the aerial and a transmitter stashed in a weatherproof box somewhere on the mount. The hut has an air of uneasy permanence to it, like everything else here; erosion now seems to have swallowed it completely.

Even the vegetation has fossilized from the roots up. To think the islanders once grazed animals, the crumbling remains of their occupation the only evidence of their misplaced efforts. Only the silent death of memory reigns here - the water too polluted for fish, the sky too thin for the birds and the stony dry soil cut with the bones of hermits and shepherds.

It's said that human ashes make good fertilizer, that we could sow a great forest from all that is left of your swaying hips and ticklish ribcage, Esther - with just enough left over to thicken the air and repopulate the bay.

[narrative pause]

I dreamed I stood in the center of the black sun and the inverted solar radiation cooked my heart from the inside. My teeth have curled and my fingernails have fallen off into my pockets like loose change. If I could stomach it I'd eat, but all I seem capable of is saltwater.

Were the livestock still here, I could turn feral and gorge myself. I'm as emaciated as a body on a slab of open sky, torn apart by the birds for a premature wake without mourners or remembrance. I've rowed to this island in a heart without a bottom; all the dying bacteria of my body rise up to sing to me.


Dear Esther. I've have now explored this particular oceanic zone over twenty-one times, but although I've all the necessary reports and talked to the remaining witnesses, and have cross-referenced them all to within a millimeter using my own collected memory maps, I simply cannot find your precise location.

You'd think there would be enduring marks, to serve as evidence. Caught, somewhere between a fatal loss and faded vision. But although I can always see the destination in my mind's eye, I've yet been unable to pull ashore.

"Second Beach"

Dear Esther. I am on my final ascent. This will be my last letter. Do they pile up even now on the doormat of your empty house? Why do I still post them home to you? Perhaps I can imagine myself picking them up on the return I will never make - find you waiting with the television and the cat and all your middle class comforts.

They must form a pile four feet high now, my own little ziggurat; an ancient moss-covered megalith of foolscap and manila. Over the centuries to follow they will fossilize; an uneasy time capsule from an island of abandoned memory and unforgiving promises.

Dear Esther. While they cataloged the damage I found myself afraid you'd suddenly sit up, stretch and fail to recognize me. I orbited your past silently, a sullen comet, our history trailing behind me in the solar wind from the fluorescent tubes in the library where you worked.

Your hair had not been brushed yet, your make-up not reapplied. You were a beach laid out for investigation, your geography telling one story, but hinting at the deeper mythic geology hidden behind its cuts and bruises.

Dear Esther. I've found myself to be as featureless as this ocean, as shallow and unoccupied as this bay, a listless wreck without identification. My rocks and my thoughts are these bones and a fence to keep the precipice at bay.
Shot through me are caves, my forehead a mount; this aerial will transmit you into me. Over exposed, my nervous system on fire, an empty page where Donnelly’s boots and yours still trample. I will carry a torch for you; I will leave it at the foot of my headstone. You will need it for the final tunnels that even now carry me under, deeper and deeper into myself.


There must be a hole in the bottom of the boat. How else could new hermits have arrived, and preyed before their own projections?


It's only at night that this place makes any sluggish effort at life. You can hear the clanging buoy and see the aerial. I've been taking to sleeping through the day in an attempt to resurrect myself. I can feel the last moments drawing upon me - there's little point now in continuation yet there must be something new to find here - some nook or some cranny that offers a vital perspective worth clinging to.

I've burnt my bridges; I've sunk my boats and watched them go to water and despair. All night the buoy has kept me lucid. When I thought I would never unlock the secret of the island, I sat at the cliff edge and I watched the idiot buoy blink on through the night. He is actually silent and passive, and has few thoughts in his metal head but to blink each wave and minute aside until the morning comes and renders him blind as well as mute. We've much in common.

I've begun to wonder if Donnelly’s voyage here was as prosaic as it was presented in his work. How disappointed not to have found the bones of the holy man! No wonder he so hated the inhabitants. They must have seemed like barnacles to him, mindlessly clinging to the underside of a rock on the muddy shoreline. Yet I understand now why they clung so hard - it was the only thing that stopped them from sliding into the ocean, and back into oblivion.


I don't know the name of the wreck in the bay; it seems to have been here for several years but has not yet subsided. I don't know if anyone was killed; if so I haven't seen them myself.

Perhaps when the rescue comes to lift them home, their ascent from the island will scare the birds away. I shall search for eggs along the North shore, for any evidence that life is marking this place out as its own again. Perhaps our very presence keeps them at bay.

As a young man I remember running through the marshy sands of Croneer and Carnast; there was none of the shipwreck I find here. I've spent weeks cataloging the rubbish that washes ashore here and have begun to assemble a collection in the deepest recess I can find.

What a strange museum it will make. And what of the corpse of its curator? Shall I construct a coffin of black volcanic glass, and pretend to make a sleeping snow white of us both? Why is the sea so becalmed? It beckons you to stride upon its surface like a holy man; but I know all too well how it will ooze under my feet and drag me under.

These rocks have withstood centuries of storms but now, robbed of the tides, they stand muted and lame, temples without cause or worship. Soon I will attempt to climb them, hunt among their peaks for the eggs, the nests that the gulls have clearly abandoned.

"Lower Valley #1"

I had kidney stones from drinking too much, alone, in sorrow. One day you visited me in the hospital. It seemed years since we'd parted ways. After the operation, when I was still half submerged in anesthetic, both your outline and your speech were blurred. Now my stones have grown into an island and made their escape and you have also been rendered opaque by the crashing car of a drunk.

"Lower Valley #2"

I have begun my ascent on the cool green slopes of the Western side. I've looked deep into the mountain and understood that I must go up and then find a way under. I will stash the last caches of my personal civilization in the stone walls and work deeper in from there.

I am drawn by the aerial and the cliff edge: there some form of rebirth is waiting for me. I've begun my ascent on the windless Western slope - the setting sun is an inflamed mad eye of a gull, slowly squeezing shut against the light shone in by doctors.

My neck is aching through constantly craning my head up to track the light of the aerial. I must look down, follow the path under the island to a new beginning. I have begun to climb, away from the sea and towards the center. It is a straight line to the summit, where the slow evening coils around the aerial and squeezes the signals into earthly silence.

The old wooden hut squats against the mount to avoid the gaze of the aerial; I too will creep under the island like an animal and approach it from the Northern shore.

"Main Shaft"

When I first looked into the bottomless shaft, I swear - I felt the stones in my stomach shift in recognition. What house of bones lies at the foot of this abyss? How many dead shepherds tried to fill this yawning hole? Is this what Paul saw through in his mirror, moments before? Not his lover, smiling over his shoulder - but a scar in the mountainside of his very existence, falling away to black forever.

"Goat Shed"

When they graze their animals here, Donnelly writes, it is always raining. There's no evidence that the rain has been here recently.. the foliage crackles with dry static - a radio signal returning as if in sympathy from another dead star.

In the hold of the wrecked trawler I've found several hundred cans of paint. I will put it to use, and decorate this island in the icons and symbols of our private disaster.

Croneer in the stinging rain; a trip, a test. We took shelter en-masse under the trees, herded in like cattle, our teachers dull smiling shepherds, the beach sand in my pocket becoming damper by the second.

"Upper Valley"

The wooden hut was constructed early in the civilization of the islanders. By then, shepherding had formalized into a career. The first recorded shepherd was a man called Jacobson, from a migratory lineage of explorers. Despite standing taller than most, and having arms thick with muscle he was not considered a man of breeding by the mainlanders. He came here every summer whilst building this basic communal shelter, hoping that becoming a man of property would eventually secure him a wife and a family.

Donnelly records that it did not work: he caught some unpleasant wasting disease from his malcontented, tick-ridden goats and died two years after completing the hut. There was no one to carve white lines into the cliff for him either.

Hut Inventory: a trestle table we spread a white sheet on in our first home. A folding chair; I laughed at you for bringing such comforts to the lakes. I was uncomfortable later while sitting on the stony ground and you laughed.

This diary; a wooden bed with broken slats - once asleep, you have to remember not to dream. A change of clothes. Donnelly's book, stolen from the library on the way here. I will burn them all on this last, bright morning and make an aerial of my own.

When the oil lamps ran out I didn't pick up a torch but read under the moonlight. Soon I will have pulled the last shreds of sense from it, and will hurl Donnelly's book from the cliffs, and perhaps myself with it.

It will wash back up through the caves and erupt from the spring when the rains return, making its return to the hermit caves. Perhaps it will be back on the table when I wake. I think I may have thrown it into the sea several times before..

Three cormorants seen at dusk; they did not land. This empty house of wood and stone, built by a long-dead shepherd. My camp bed, a stove, a table, chairs. My clothes, my books. My tears on the floor - shards of angry black crystal.

The caves that score out the belly of this island, leaving it famished. My limbs and belly, famished. This parchment skin, these organs, my failing eyesight. As the oil runs out of my life's torch, I will descend like a mist into the caves and follow the phosphorescence home.

"Top Path"

In a footnote, the editor comments that at this point, Donnelly was going insane as the disease tore randomly through his system like a drunk driver. Perhaps he was never to be trusted - many of his claims are unsubstantiated and although he often paints a colorful picture, much of what he says may have been his fever speaking.

But now I've been here I sense, as Donnelly did that this place is always entirely imagined. Even the rocks and caves shimmer and blur with the right eyes, the correct viewpoint had from an island of the imagination.

Donnelly left his dessicated body to the medical school, and twenty-one days after his passing was duly opened out for a crowd of mildly disgusted students. The report is included in my edition of his book.

The disease had ripped through his guts, scrambling his organs like eggs in a pan. But enough remained for a cursory examination and, as I suspected, they also found clear evidence of kidney stones. He is likely to have spent the last years of his life in considerable pain: perhaps this is the root of his opium habit.

Although this also makes him an unreliable witness, I find myself increasingly drawn into his theoretical orbit. What to make of Donnelly - the drug and the disease? It is clearly not how he began, but I have been unable to discover if they were a result of his visiting the island or the force that drove him here.

As for the disease itself, I can only offer my empathy - a drunk driver smashing his insides into a pulp as he stumbles along these ruined paths. We are all victims of the age. My own dis-ease is an internal combustion engine of faded emotions and the cheap fermentation of forever unrequited memory.

"Middle Path"

They found the shepherd Jacobson in early spring. The thaw had only just come. He'd struggled halfway down the cliff path, perhaps looking for some lost goat, perhaps in a delirium and he'd expired, curled into a claw under the unyielding gaze of a winter's moon. Even though he'd been dead nearly seven months, his body had been frozen down to the nerves and he'd not even begun to decompose.

Even the animals shunned his corpse; the mainlanders thought it unlucky to bring it home. Donnelly claims they dragged it to the caves to thaw and rot.

They found Jacobson in early spring; the thaw had only just arrived. Even though he’d been dead nearly seven months, his body had been frozen down to the nerves and he'd not even begun to decompose. His fingernails were bitten to the quick; under them nails they found the delicate phosphorescent moss that grows deep in the caves.

Whatever he'd been doing under the island when his strength began to fail is lost. He'd struggled halfway up the cliffs again, perhaps in a delirium, perhaps trying to reach the warming fires of the hut, before curling into a stone and expiring.

They found Jacobson in early spring; the thaw had only just come. Even though he'd been dead nearly seven months, his body had frozen right down to the nerves and he'd not even begun to decompose. All around him, small flowers were reaching for a weakened sun. The goats had adjusted happily to life without a shepherd and were grazing freely about the valley.

Donnelly reports they hurled the body in fear and disgust down the central shaft. I cannot corroborate this.

"Third Beach"

Esther. I will become a torch for you, an aerial. I will fall from the open sky like ancient radio waves. Through underground springs and freezing subterranean rivers. Through the fermented bacteria of my gut. Through a bottomless boat and forgotten trawlers, where nobody has died but nobody remains. Like the hermit and the memory of my dead wife, I will fossilize and open a hole in the rock to admit myself through.

To explore here is to be passive, to internalize the journey - try as one might, the confines of the mystery cannot be broken. Since I burnt my boats and contracted my sickness, this process has become far easier. It will take a number of expeditions to traverse this micro-continent; it will take the death of a million neurons, a cornucopia of prime numbers, countless remembrances and useless daydreams to arrive at the nodal point of final departure.

This empty, terminal beach is a good place to end a life. Jacobson understood that, as so did Donnelly. Yet Jacobson made it halfway back up the cliff. Donnelly lost faith and went home to die. I have the benefit of history, of progress. Someone has erected an aerial to guide me through these black waves of time, a beacon that shines through the rocks like phosphorescent moss.

"Cave Entrance"

Climbing down to the caves I slipped and fell and have greatly injured my leg. The femur is broken, I think. It is clearly infected: the skin has turned a bright, tight pink and the pain is crashing in on waves - winter tides against my shoreline, almost drowning out the ceaseless ache of my isolation.

I struggle back to the hut to rest, but it has become clear that there is only one way this will end. The medical supplies I looted from the trawler have suddenly found their purpose: they will keep me lucid for my final ascent.


I've finally understood that there's no turning back. My torch is failing along with my resolve. I can hear the singing of the sea creatures from the passages above me and they are promising the return of the gulls.

Did Jacobson crawl this far I wonder. Can I identify the scratches his ruined nails etched into the rocks? Am I following him cell for cell, inch for inch - a bacteria in the gut of this living creature. Did he turn back on himself and not carry through to the ascent?

Donnelly did not pass through the caves. As unreliable as ever, from here on in, even the spirit of his guidance is gone from me. I understand now that it's between the two of us, dear Esther, and whatever emotional correspondence can be drawn from the stone itself.

"Deep Cave"

Someone had taken the car and shaken it like a cocktail. The glove compartment had been opened and emptied out with the ashtrays and the contents of the boot; it made for a crumpled museum, an impromptu exhibition of shattering pain.

I first saw him sitting by the side of the road, his head bloody and bandaged. I was still waiting for you to be cut from the wreckage.

The car looked like a giant had smashed it with a fist of rock, the guts of the engine spilled over the tarmac. Like bloody water deep underground. They'd stopped the traffic back as far as the junction and come up the hard shoulder. Dead radio signals from another star. It took twenty-one minutes for them to arrive. I watched Paul time it on his watch to the second. The single cry of an inland gull.


I'm traversing my own death throes. The infection in my leg dredges black muck up from deep inside my bones. I swallow fistfuls of old pills to stay conscious.

The pain which flows through me is an underground sea. The caves are my guts; this must be the place where the stones first form. Phosphorescent bacteria rise, singing, through the tunnels. Everything here is bound by the waves of my thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the whole island is deep underwater. I am traveling through my own body, following the line of infection from shattered femur towards the hollow heart.

I swallow fistfuls of pills to stay lucid. In my delirium, I see the lights of the moon and the aerial, shining for me through the rocks.


When I was coming round from the operation, I remember the light they shone in my eyes. Like staring up at a moonlit sky from the bottom of a well. People moved at the summit but I could not tell if you were one of them.

This cannot be the shaft they threw the dead into as an appeasement to the spirits. It cannot be the landfill where the parts of your life that would not burn ended up. It isn't the chimney that delivered you to the skies - the place where you rained back down again to fertilize the soil and make small flowers bloom among the barren rocks.

I will hold the hand you now offer to me; from the summit down to this well, into the dark waters where the smaller flowers creep to the waiting sun. Headlights are reflected in your retinas, moonlit hidden in the shadows of the old crematorium chimney.


The moon over the junction, and headlights in your retinas. Donnelly drove a gray sports car without a bottom, and all the mythic creatures of the tarmac rose to sing to him. All manner of symbols are crudely scrawled across the cliff face of my life - memory reduced to a flickering electrical diagram.

All my gulls have taken flight; they will no longer roost on these abandoned outcrops. The lure of the moon over the ariel is too strong. I wish I'd known Donnelly as he was in this place - we could have had so much to debate. To share.

Did he paint these stones, or did I? The pots in the hut by the jetty. The museum under the sea. Falling silently to death in the frozen waters. This forsaken aerial. This whole island - rising and singing to the surface of the mind, forcing the gulls to take flight.

I once sat here and watched two jets carve parallel lines into the sky. They charted their course and I followed them for twenty-one minutes until they veered off and were lost. If I were a gull, I'd abandon my nest and join them. I'd starve my brain of oxygen and suffer holy delusions of my transcendence. I would tear the bottom from my boat and sail across the lost oceanic expanse until I reached this island once again.


Of fire and soil, I chose fire. It seems the more contemporary of the options, the more sanitary. I could not bear the thought of the reassembly of such a ruin. Stitching arm to shoulder and femur to hip, charting a crystallized line of threadlike traffic on some abandoned superhighway. Making it all acceptable for tearful aunts and traumatized uncles flown in especially for the occasion. Acceptable - but not necessarily understandable. Reduce to ash mixed with water, a phosphorescent paint made for homely rocks and unfamiliar ceilings.

We will begin to assemble our own North shore. We shall scrawl in dead languages and electrical diagrams and hide them away for future dead explorers to muse and chatter over. We will send dead letters to Esther Donnelly and demand her answers. We will mix our paint with ashes and and the glow from our own infection. We will paint a hollow moon over the junction where an old way of life died, and blue lights fall like burning stars along the hard shoulder.

[narrative pause]

I returned home with a pocket full of stolen ash. Half of it fell out of my coat and vanished between the wooden slats of the floor. But the rest I carefully stowed away in a box I kept in a drawer by the side of my bed. It was never intended as such but over the following years it became a talisman. I'd sit quite still for hours, just holding the diminishing powder in my palm and noting its granulated smoothness.

In time, we are all worn down into dust, washed back into the sea and remade as coded island symbols of our own forgotten past.

"Lost Beach"

From here I can see my armada. I collected all the letters I'd ever meant to send you. They were supposed to make it to the mainland but have instead collected at the bottom of my rucksack. I spread them out along the morning beach. Taking all but one and I fold them into in boats. I fold you into their creases and then, as the sun sets I set the fleet to sail. Shattered into twenty-one pieces, I consign you to the ocean, and I will sit here until I've watched all of you sink out of sight for good.

"Paul #2"

There are chemical diagrams on the clay mug he's given me tea in; a small crack at the handle where his hands shake badly. He works for a company with an office based on the outskirts of the city. He'd been traveling back from a conference, forming some hollow strategic vision for the European market.

You can trace the connections with your finger now, join the dots and whole new compounds will be summoned into activity. There are electrical diagrams on the posters on the walls on the waiting room. It seems appropriate at this time; still-life abstractions of the very processes which have already begun breaking down your nerves and your muscles in the next room.

I cram pain killers as I once crammed knowledge for student examinations. I'm revising my options for a long and happy life, here outside the boundaries of all that I once knew.

Chemical stains on the dirty tarmac: the leak of air conditioning, brake fluid and petrol. He keeps sniffing his hands as he sits by the roadside, as if he can't quite understand or recognize their smell. He said he'd been traveling back from a sales conference; that he'd stopped for a few farewell drinks earlier, but had kept a careful eye on his intake. You can hear the lonely cry of the sirens above the crystallizing traffic.

"North Path"

When Paul keeled over dead, they resuscitated him by hitting him in the chest with stones gathered by the roadside. He was lifeless for twenty-one minutes, certainly long enough for the oxygen levels in his brain to have decreased and caused hallucinations, delusions of transcendence.

I am running out of pain and the moon has become unbearably bright. The memories in my leg have sent me blind for a few minutes as I struggle up the cliff path: I swallow another handful and now I feel almost lucid.

The island around me has retreated to a hazed distance, whilst the moon appears to have descended into my palm to guide me. I can see a thick black line of infection reaching for my heart from the waistband of my trousers. Through the fugue, it is all the world like the path I have cut from the lowlands towards the final aerial.

I drag my leg behind me; I drag it like a crumpled toy car, tires blown and sparking across the dimming lights of a fading vision.

I am running out of.. reality. I'm following the lonely flicker of the moon back home. When Paul keeled over dead on the road, they restarted his heart with the jump leads from a crumpled letter; it took twenty-one attempts to convince it to wake up.


We've begun our voyage in a paper boat without a bottom; we will fly to the ariel moon in it. We've been folded along a crease in time - a vital weakness in the sheet of life. Our only love has settled on the opposite side of the paper to us; we can only see traces of her existence in the blood leaking through the fiber.

Now we've become waterlogged and the text on the page disintegrates, we will intermingle. When this paper plane leaves the cliff edge and carves clean vapor trails in the yawning dark, we will be together again.. again


If only Donnelly had experienced this, he would have realized he was his own shoreline, as am I. Just as I've become this island, so he became his disease, retreating into the burning synapses, the stones, the infection called life.

"Ascent #1"

Returning to my car afterwards; hands still shaking and a head split by the impact. Goodbye to traumatized aunts and tearful uncles - goodbye to the phenomenal, the tangible. Farewell Croneer, farewell Carnast.

This cliff path is slippery in the dew; it's hard to climb with such an infection. I will carve out the bad flesh with black glass and sling it from the aerial. I shall infuse myself with the very air. There are headlights reflected in these retinas, spent too long in the tunnels of a bottomless island. The sea creatures have risen to the surface but the gulls are not yet here to carry me back to their nests.

It's as I've become fixed in space, open and staring, an eye turned in on itself. An infected leg, tracking blood lines forming a perfect map of the junctions of the dead city. I will take the exit at mid-thigh and plummet into my private Esther space. The stones in my stomach will weigh me down and ensure my descent is true and straight. I will break through the fog of these forsaken pills and achieve total clarity. All my electrical functions are clogged, all my veins choked off, choices suspended.

There are twenty-one-one connections in the coded diagram of the island I've hidden in the book; there are twenty-one-one species of gull inhabiting these island networks. It's twenty-one-one miles between the sudden junction of your death and the turn off for an empty home, with all the windows long since smashed.

"Ascent #2"

He was not drunk, dear Esther. He had not got drunk with Donnelly or spat Jacobson back into the sea; he had not careered blind across the lost shores and beaches of this terminal archipelago. He did not intend his bonnet to be crumpled like an unsent letter by the impact of your delicately perfumed life. But still his windscreen was star-studded like a hidden map of the heavens, his paintwork etched with coded circuit diagrams, strange magic to keep the scavenging gulls away.

The phosphorescence of these psychic markings light the muddy paths and highways, all the way from island heart and back again. Blind with unanchored emotion, deaf with the roar of the wind, life stopped on the road back home, Paul sits at the roadside alone - a bloody gull hunched over your carcass. As useless and as doomed as a diseased cartographer, a dying goatherd, an infected leg, a kidney stone blocking inner island traffic bound for nowhere.
No dear Esther, he was not drunk; all his roads and his tunnels and his paths led inevitably to this moment. This space of endless exploration and abandoned mystery. I spent years dredging these waters for the bones of the hermit, for the traces of Donnelly, for any sign of Jacobson's forsaken flock, for the remnants of passing that would incriminate him.

I have scoured these memories, totemic coded lines, these bloody infected tracks, these letters damp with the sea - attempting to recreate their precise trajectories of impact, the dark carved moments when our hearts stopped dead and all we saw was the moon over a long abandoned island. He was not drunk Esther, and it was not his fault; the forever converging parallel lines of fate drove us here all in madness, memory and in time.


There's nowhere else to climb, and no more excuses for remembrance to explore. I will abandon this body and take to the air. We will leave twin various trails, white lines etched into these coded rocks of our passing. I will signal the news of our ascent to each and every dying star.


Dear Esther. I've burnt my belongings, my books, your coroner's official death certificate. My story be written all across this island. Nobody remembers Jacobson. Donnelly once wrote of him - but who was Donnelly? I have painted, carved, scored into this space all that I could draw from the myths that formed my life.

There will be no another on these shores to remember me. I will rise again from the psychic ocean - an island without bottom, forged like a stone, an aerial beacon sending coded signals to impossibly distant stars so that they will not forget you. We have not only been drawn here - this is the place of our birth, a birth that so far has not quite happened. One day, one day the gulls will return and nest in our time infected bones and peck at the tangled history of our blood.

I look to my left and see Esther Donnelly flying beside me. I look to my right and see Paul Jacobson, smiling. In their endless reach for the mainland they leave bright white lines carved into the air, and help and love will finally be sent from the mainland.. my own ascent however is predetermined and perhaps forever yet to begin.

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