Life of Maggot
Is a strange piece, even by my standards.
A novella in length, I wrote it as a kind of precursor to NIGHTJAR, to put into context hinted at apocalyptic events that led to the strange feudal future that that novel is set in. I set the piece out as a kind of prayer book or hymnal, divided up by Chapter and Verse. Each chapter is inspired by one or more medieval images, and the dark events we seem to be witnessing in our own time - which include war, famine, sickness and a changing world that is increasingly beyond our control. Against such broad brushstrokes, I wove a tale of a young boy and his innocent experience of these events. Here light and dark both dance, there being a magic in the natural world that will always exist, be it with or without man. It simply is and has always been. And so we are introduced to a...
Personification of something else?
The choice is yours;
And the answer eludes me.
Today, as a taster, I'm going to share the first meeting of Maggot, along with the medieval image as inspired him - the child. I hope you will enjoy the strangeness and weird of it all, perhaps enough to add the novella to your reading list.
Chapter II Verse I
A child. Little more than a babe when Death does come a-dancing o’er the green fields of England. A sickness unseen, invisible, silent, unheard it creeps nasty from house to house, street to street. Enters by door o’er threshold, ‘neath sill of window, and spreads from one room to t’ next. In town and city, village, hamlet, the same; there is naught as might stop it. Not sky above nor mountain high, deep sea nor river wide. It travels happy with people and infects the world. There is no country safe, no land immune, no wall as might keep it out, and then, once inside, it does kill discriminate. Weak first, the old and sick, slow they drown in juices, cough up blood. Maggot remembers it vague. An ugly sound. Sickly perfume. Strange stills in a flickering film, the scenes mixed up and muddled. Dark memories of a mind that would heal itself.
Only Maggot don’t want to forget.
Not all of it.
Sits by a bed and holds tight to her hand. Cold, it is. Plays idle with fingers blue and remembers a butterfly pretty in a meadow. Sees it fly funny. Flutters a flame o’er long grass and hears Ma laugh happy; does land her finger. Dances delicate there. She shows him. Hugs him close with her other arm. Warm. Beautiful. Wide wings fan themself slow. Open. Close. Open. Reds and orange, bright black and darkest white, the colours alive, on fire. She might be the most beautiful thing a child has ever seen. The butterfly.
A painted lady…
She calls it.
Remembers her finger.
And dead. Sometimes he thinks he sees her face. A glimpse. A pretty flicker. But he only ever sees the pretty; can’t really remember what she looks like. Not properly. Not anymore. Pretty melts slow, as wax, and Pa cries quiet beside him. Sobs. Maggot kisses soft his cheek. Wet tears taste warm, bitter on whiskers short as bite, and Maggot tries then to see Pa’s face too. Already it fades. Smells him warm, broad shoulders safe, forever strong; Ma’s finger, cold an’ blue, a butterfly bright. A painted lady pretty on the bedsheets bloody. Daisies dance, buttercups swoon, and Maggot feels grass play long ‘bout skin of legs. Hears forever the laughter, loud and happy. Ma and Pa. Man, woman, husband, and wife. Lovers. Hears too a child, little more than a babe, and wonders if it’s true. Listens the closer, and is lifted high by broad shoulders, strong arms. Cannot see their faces.
Sees only a butterfly
LIFE OF MAGGOT is available now, worldwide, through Amazon.
The image of butterfly chasing (electronically manipulated) is taken from a doodle in a medieval manuscript held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.