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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Long Way Home

Hello everyone!

In a few weeks, my other half Lisa and I will be going abroad to travel for nearly seven months.

As you’d expect, posts on this blog will probably be less frequent until we come back in April 2013.  I suspect that the next “Journal RSR” post will be the last one for good.

Until we return there’ll be plenty of updates on our travel blog:

http://overunderpants.wordpress.com

…Where you can read about our adventures in India, Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, Australia, New Zealand and California.

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you get your e-mail notifications when we make a new post.

Until then, see you in another life.

—db

LET ME WRITE YOU A STORY 2012

Give me your idea, I’ll write it for you

_______________________________________________

Continuing my promise to write a story for anyone who requests it—

 Philip J Mason has commissioned “a tale about a psychic horse”.

Well Phil, you asked for it … You got it.

Click here to open Black Thunder, The Psychic Horse (pdf).  You may want to download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader and view at 100% for best reading.  This can also be downloaded to your e-book.

–db

Fallsday, 5 Anthuary

Earned 30 / Spent 8

Savings 21,445

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

A sliver of sunlight peeks out from behind the lingering Disc.  The eclipse has gone on far too long, and with the Disc you never know how long it could last.  It doesn’t move at a constant speed; its distance from Terrene is undeterminable.  Nobody even knows what it is, but some of us feel what it is, and loathe it.

The drakeroot infestation has gotten worse.  The darkness may be what does it, or – and the thought both confuses and frightens me – has the infestation caused the darkness?

I’ve known other people suffering from the ‘root infestation.  We all know that it’s our own fault.  Nobody forced us to take the drakeroot, but couriers like me need it to keep up, to keep going.  A massive hit of calorific energy, better than any of the coffee that Ochre sells in his plantflesh eatery on the thoroughfare. 

Other sufferers are resigned to it and know that whoever times they stick themselves with the doctor’s “golden needle” they’ll always have the core root somewhere inside them, subsisting in their bones until the next resurgence like some super-herpes.  It can’t be killed.  This will live in me forever.

It struggles in me like an animal.  If cauliraptors and xylem have thoughts, why not drakeroot?  Is it consciously trying to take over my body, to then use my empty shell to walk around the township looking for others to infect?  Or will it just feed its wooden tendrils through every vein in my body until I’m all wood, like the man from the Red Republic near the gitten farm?  He sits there all day because he can’t do anything different: his entire body other than his right arm and his head is solid oak, sprouting here and there with drake seedlings.  He’s nothing more than a ward against evil spirits for the farmers.

This connection to the Disc terrifies me.  When the Disc is largest and darkest, the thin fibres of the root push through the skin of my legs and reach out towards it like hair rippling in water.  I’ve woken up more than once, in the night, to the sound of these tendrils scratching at the window to get out, connected to me in the darkness.

I hate this thing living inside me!  Foist is aware of it but not how bad the infestation is.  She puts up with my griping about the itching and the pain, but I don’t trouble her with thoughts about the Disc.  It worries people enough as it is, this giant unknowable shadow in the sky.  Foist sees it better than many.  But I see it clearest of all.

Last night I witnessed the most amazing thing.

The Disc had not yet moved from its position in front of the Sun.  I could see faint corona flickering at its edges.  These luminous vestiges of the near-forgotten star aren’t enough to see by, but the moon still takes its usual route every night to help us along.  Kernel has become a nocturnal town, and the darkest times – during the “day”– are when its citizens sleep.

This was when it came.  I was peering out of the window, wondering whether those courting xylem would ever make a return, when my eyes were drawn to the Disc.  A great pain grew within my chest, which zigzagged rapidly along the length of my arms.  My throat grew thick with an unuttered scream.  I watched my legs split and spurt blood as the root tendrils surged out of my bones and coiled around my body.

This hadn’t ever happened before.  My lower half was cocooned in this woody membrane, the fibres of which wound tightly around each other to form something as solid as any giant fir tree. 

The thinner tendrils, like the roots of a carrot, tickled my face and ears as they stretched towards the window.  My shoulder creaked as I opened the window to get a better view of what was happening to the Disc.

A gargantuan figure was stepping out of it, as though the Disc were a hole.

It was tall, grotesquely thin, and the blackest silhouette I’ve ever seen.  None of its features could be seen other than its immense size: its long limbs stretched down from the Disc to the horizon, and once it had climbed through into our world it shrank until its knees were merely as high as the houses of Kernel.

And, although I couldn’t see its face, I knew in my weak infested bones that when it turned, it was looking right at me.

I think I must have fainted at that point.  The fear was strong but I’ve been terrified before, for other reasons.  I can presume that it was the hyperactive drakeroot that caused me to pass out.  The last thing I saw were those unbelievable tendrils climbing higher around my body, as if to encase me completely in the hollow trunk of a tree.

The peace of unconsciousness was a gift.  I awoke in my bed with sunlight fingering through the window: the first sign of the eclipse breaking.  The dark memories flooded back, but they were only that: memories.  My body felt lighter, my mind a little clearer than it had been for weeks.  Apart from the ever widening scars on my shins, there was no sign of the ‘root.

I knew that I hadn’t dreamed it – that I bother to write it in this journal is a testament to that, as I rarely make note of my dreams – but no-one else I spoke with today saw anything unusual.  Had I imagined it, or were those people too terrified to consider the possibility that it hadn’t just been a nightmare?  I was, perhaps, the only person in Kernel to witness that awe-inspiring sight, although that doesn’t seem likely.

The feeling that lingers in my heart is this: I have always known the black giant from the Disc.

— RSR

Skeinsday, 4 Anthuary

Earned 32 / Spent 9

Savings 21,423

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

The Disc created an eclipse last week, stranding Kernel in darkness. 

Sometimes the Disc appears to disappear behind the Sun, and other times it flits across its surface like a semitransparent lens, between it and Terrene.  How does it work?  Some people claim not to even see the Disc, but this we attribute to the madness that infects the worst of those locked up in The Den, or those we feel should be in there instead of out here in the muddy thoroughfares of Kernel proper.

As the shadows melted into one another, I leant out the window of my small place on Capital Hill, chin in palm.  The town is a strange place at night, a bowl of dirt surrounded by jungle.  The stillness of the empty streets is a stark contrast to the rustling, shifting wall of leaf and vine at the town’s edge.

You see in black and white at night.  It’s all black shadow and faint white reflections of the moon on the thin surfaces of every leaf and rooftop.  The jungle’s edge is like a massive scaled surface, and within are the flornae that thrive in this cool lowlight: the vegesaurs and cauliraptors, and the carnivorous pitchers and traps that wait for wandering mammals to pass into their toxic jaws.

I spent a few days watching the courtship of two xylem on the balcony outside my window.  The little things have wandered up from the houses on either side of mine, meeting in the middle to perform their leafy little dances around each other.

These were small for xylem – I could hold either of them in my hand – but what they lacked in stature they make up for in energy.  They tottered around on their two stems, smoothing back the branches atop their heads like little bouffants.  Some days they chased each other (the one with the darker bark was the male, I think) and they played games, teased one another.  They had very similar branching structure (I’m told that this is a good indicator of mating in the wild, a natural reinforcement of genetic material through breeding) and matched one another’s movements as though they were reflections.

I knew in my heart that nothing would come of it.  Both of these were domesticated xylem, probably since plantation, and they belong to other people.  Their owners soon put a stop to the playful courtship by bordering up their fences to stop them getting out.

It’s probably for the best.  These small things come and go, but for the xylem to inseminate and produce pods would not help anybody; wild xylem are a nuisance to the seed growers on which our economy relies.  Even domesticated ones are a reminder of the ancient pact they have with the maréchaussée.

Still, I feel for the two who are kept apart, knowing that they belong together.  Meanwhile the eclipse goes on.

— RSR

A Strange Saturday

 

A strange thing happened to me on Saturday. 

I had been excommunicated from the house.  The girls were having afternoon tea, fifties style, and I peered over my shoulder at the array of sandwiches, scones, cupcakes and a dozen other delicious things as I left the ladies to it for the afternoon.

Outside was overcast.  My satchel weighed heavily across my back, loaded as it was with a long novel, my netbook, an umbrella and a sandwich.  They were to entertain me for the next six hours or so.

I took a trip to the town centre, hoping to catch a few hours of solitude-amongst-others in the Peace Gardens.  I’d only read five pages before a Sheffield City ambassador in a brightly coloured vest asked me to get up from the bench and leave.

  Image

 

I’d been prepared to unleash maybe 30 or 40 percent of my wrath at this rude and unexplained order, when my eyes met the strangest sight.

Moving slowly along the circumference of the Garden was a group of young men and women, single-filed and expressionless.  A Chinese boy with a short ponytail; a guy who could have been a young Hugh Jackman; two or three ladies with a quiet grace; a young woman with close-cropped blonde hair, looking pale and elegant in a slim sequinned dress and ballet pumps; and strangest of all, a petite character perfectly normal but for the masked face, which bore the sculpted likeness of a ferocious bear.

realising that I’d been swept up in some weirdness, I gathered my things and moved aside.  I perched on a step a few yards away and watched the serene dada-esque performance that began in and amongst the Saturday crowd.

It seemed it waas a sequence of mini set-pieces, strung together with dreamlike fluency.  In one, two girls performed a solemn dance astride a bench.  They entangled themselves with one another, in one moment lovers, in another locked in struggle, the first compelling the second to assume a different position each second. 

Meanwhile, the pale ballerina tip-toed across the low wall behind them, the most elegant of wraiths, almost unnoticed.

The girls leapt aside.  Two young men swooped onto the bench and performed a surreal tango with the legs, supporting themselves with their hands, all the while staring impassively ahead.

The ballerina described a gentle arc around the edge of the Garden, deep into the crowd, almost forgotten.

Occasionally one of these individuals acknowledged a member of the audience.  A number of times the bystanders were required to step aside as the performers mounted the elevated grass platform or followed the line of the narrow streams of chlorinated water that form the spokes of this wheel-shaped Garden.  They would crack a smile at the young mother who was bemused to find herself enmeshed in this faceted performance.  As an elderly gent walked through the performance area, unaware that a troupe of dancers were turning circles behind him, the petite bear-headed form took his arm and led him away, prancing.

The troupe lined up by the stream.  It was only when one of the young men bent at the waist to scoop something out of the water did we observers realise that a huge chunk of ice had been floating in it for some time.  The man lifted it dripping from the illuminated stream and brought it, like a newborn baby, to his chest.

Carefully, oh so carefully, he passed it to his partner, who cradled it in her arms for a moment.  So it went down the line, passed from embrace to embrace, blue-white and dripping.  Then the performers suddenly took their heels and strode through the crowd, out of the Garden and onto the street, leaving the performance area.

But the performance wasn’t over.  Some of the more engaged members of their audience realised this and followed; I emerged from the opposite side to witness clusters of men, women and children trailing after these departing surrealists. 

The ice left dark spots on the paving outside the City Hall.  I ran alongside the fleeing dancers, taking the high road in front of the Hall’s gates, and rejoining them at the corner of a side-street sixty yards away.  The crowd had thinned, perhaps losing sight of this strange troupe.  The ice was still being passed between them, safely as though it were a precious glass sculpture. 

Then they alighted some steps and vanished from sight.  I looked up to find myself outside the Montgomery Theatre, a local community arts space.

As engrossed as I had been in this sudden and surreal show, it hadn’t escaped my notice that a man with a video camera had been recording as much of this as possible.  At least two men with SLRs also looked too serious to be there by happenstance, and captured the other elements of the entertainment that occurred away from whoever held the floor at that point in time: the handsome wandering ballerina, or the bear-headed mascot who mimed silent enjoyment at all the proceedings from the sidelines.

I got the feeling that this hadn’t meant to be recorded, but to merely be experienced: a show that would be put on record, if the crowd made it possible, so that it might last longer than the eight or nine minutes it took to enact.  I have no doubt that the performers will be studying the results for a little while.  Certainly they seemed pleased – and tired – by the time the doors of the Montgomery Theatre swung shut on them.  There were more than a few hugs and grins.  They seemed pleased with the engagement of the audience – at one point an unknown chap in a cap decided to join them for a sombre dance – and to warm themselves after the cool proximity of their frozen prop.

I wasn’t able to catch any photos myself, but if anyone happens to have any, or know who these young entertainers might be or the name of their troupe, please drop me a line so that we can praise them together by name for their guts and imagination.

—db

Hello!

How would you like to suggest a short story and have it written for you?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I don’t have too long before I embark on a 7-month journey across India and the Far East.

Not enough time to write a novel;  I’ve 20-odd books I want to read before I go; and I don’t have any short story ideas developed enough to work on.

This presents an opportunity.

How about you tell me what you’d like to read, and I’ll write it for you?  Your story, for your entertainment to keep and to love.  For example:

  • Hey David, write me a story about a poltergeist!
  • Hey David, write me a story set in ancient Japan!
  • Hey David, write me a story about Christopher Nolan’s Batman!
  • Hey David, write me a story about a brother and sister on Mars!
  • Hey David, write me a story in the style of my favourite author!
  • Hey David, write me a James Bond story!
  • Hey David, write me a new ending to film such-and-such!
  • Hey David, write me a story set in the world of such-and-such book series!

As you can see, I’m not fussy about what it is.  I don’t mind what I’m writing, as this is just to hone my flabby writing skills and to pass the time – in six weeks I’ll be unemployed.  It could be a fanfic or a vignette or a bit of fun.   I’ll write it and dedicate it to you.  Call it a little present from me!

Why not leave a message on this blog, or send me an e-mail at spinninglizard [at] yahoo.co.uk.  If you’re with me on Facebook or Twitter get in touch that way.

I’ll post the finished story on here with a dedication to you and a bit of background on any research I might have done.

Just don’t  get pissy if I say “that’s a dumb idea” or the story comes out different to what you expected, or if I can’t be bothered to sit through 200 episodes of your favourite anime to write your fanfic.  I don’t want to write your story about gay vampires, or anything that I’ve written before – see http://www.spinninglizard.com or search the categories of this blog.

But anything else, I’m game.  This is an open invitation for the next 6-8 weeks and I’ll try to get as many done as I can, generally on a first-come first-served basis unless something really catches my attention.  I’d love to put out a good dozen before I leave for foreign climes.

Thanks in advance!

Your friendly neighbourhood charity-writer,

db

The following is a recovered document, found by maréchaussée in outside waste recepticle near the property of RSR.

————————————————————————————————-

Knot, 6 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 6

Savings 19,576

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

I don’t often see Papa Michelle, and although we arrange to meet every six months or so, for the last ten years I’ve probably only seen him ten times.  He’s changed in that decade though: larger, greyer, a gentler giant.  He draws in his travel-weary visitor and we sit and small-talk and eat a rich meal of braised gitten.  Late in the night, after chatter about not much at all and once the large oak table was stained by vine poteen, I retired to a bed under an array of exposed beams with the foreign stars casting their light across the room.

There is a clearwater lake not far from the chalets and first thing in the morning I hurl myself into it.  The cold depths rush to swallow me, and half a minute goes by as I let the water sting my open eyes.  They take in the mossy rocks, with long tendrils of weed caught between them like food between teeth, and the trout propelling themselves lazily over smooth pebbles.

When I breach the surface I draw warm air into my lungs and wash the hair from my eyes.  I haven’t swum in years.  The lake isn’t all that cold now, and the water soothes my drakeroot infestation.

Papa Michelle and Mama Jeanne-Stempe keep domesticated promicrocera in a hutch around the back of the main building.  We went to feed them, then took an old one that no longer laid its leathery eggs and wrung its neck.  I kept my hands away from its snapping jaws and then broke off its useless forearms and tail, which popped off like a gecko’s, and helped Michelle tie its longer back limbs to its body with twine.  Trussed up, we scraped away the scales and washed the grey underflesh, then left it in the oven for hours as we read and wished that the Disc wasn’t occluding quite so much of the sun outside.

Once the promicrocerus was done I watched him hack it apart with a cleaver on the kitchen table.  The metal tray, running with thin pinkish blood, was drained into the sink as I brought out the mincer.  We fed the pieces into the machine and turned its crank; fine meat exuded in lumpy laces from the nozzle.  We made burgers and sausages, full of herbs and fruit, which we left to ‘cure’ for a day or two before they were ready to eat.

Jeanne-Stempe does at least half the meatwork, talking in a singsong voice and enjoying this mucky business.  We chat and joke, stopping intermittently to wash our hands, until it’s time to open another bottle.

It was interesting watching Michelle work.  The great figure moved around the table unencumbered by his weight.  He tossed the creature’s fibrous bones into a bowl for burning; these and cauliraptors’ and vegesaurs’ make great firewood, especially when left to soak up fatty fuel. Not much went to waste; in his years of rural exile he’s picked up many local customs. 

Their poteen comes from a local vineyard; their eggs come from their promicrocera.  An orchard to the south, which catches most of the day’s sun, bequeaths them apples and pinenuts and valuable walnuts, which they keep for trade.

One night we sat under the ivy-choked gazebo and listened to the crickets bray, eating gitten cheese and bread and promicrocera paté – then with port, for desert, cracked open a few of the walnuts and ate them.  Each one is almost a week’s wage for a courier like me.  Michelle and Jeanne-Stempe are not rich, but they are not wanting.  Unlike most people in Kernel, they own all of their property and only pay for their fuel and heating, and to replenish supplies for the chalets.

On my last morning I went for a long walk between the neighbouring farms, stopping to pet the gittens who bleat in my wake, and stare up at the clumps of mistletoe feeding off the branches of nearby trees.  If I could have climbed up there and get some, I could have returned to Kernel a little wealthier: white mistletoe berries are as good as seeds back home.  But a weariness had taken over me, and I lay on the hot tarmac where traffic seldom comes and imagined Foist lying next to me, beautiful and young, and wondered what it would be like to age slowly in a place like this away from everything.

We ate the burgers that night, not talking much.  There was no point mentioning Kernel, or my mother, Michelle’s first wife.  Those are times long gone that don’t sting anymore, only loiter in the memory as an unseen shape seen from the corner of the eye, there but not quite there, not mindfully there, only a shadow burnt into the lining of the mind a long time ago.

Dawn came.  I awoke under the beams of my room, testing my eyes for reactions against the low morning light.  I showered, ate a quick breakfast of pastries and yoghurt, and then packed for the carriages.  They towed me the zeppelin hangars, and I caught myself looking back toward Farm Jeanne-Stempe just as I’d looked back at the carriage that brought me here.

I pondered this on the airship home, back over the farmland and out of Rureau, to the carpet of luscious green that is the rainforest between the countries, and at last to Kernel, where the shadow of the Disc follows me always.  It was raining as I dashed back into the house on Capital Hill.  The place was silent as I shook the rain off my jacket and hung it on the hook.

— RSR

Fallsday, 5 Photus

Earned 29 / Spent 3

Savings 19,576

~          ~          ~          ~          ~

I’ve all but forgotten the trip I took to Rureau two weeks ago: six days in rural foreignland not two hundred miles north of Gamut, where I spend last summer dodging explosives on a crowded shoreline.

The purpose of the short trip to the Papaux Valley was as a road-test for the hike to Metrodon and beyond: test my capabilities in the real wild outside of Kernel’s borders.  I don’t speak much of the language, although a few people speak broken Context even this far away from Rureau’s capital, which had once been a famous centre of debauchery and the avant-garde and a global hub for those who appreciate that sort of thing.

I packed some simple clothes, dressing for warmer weather (dry as opposed to Kernel’s humid heat) and a stack of novels.  I’ve been to the Papaux Valley before and although the scenery is beautiful, there isn’t much to do.  Then I dragged my baggage onto a zeppelin and crossed my fingers as the envelope was topped up, pushing the leafskin taut around fifty million cubic litres of explosive gas.  The cheap cabins, next to the pumps and motors, began to vibrate as the engine kicked in.  The stink of methane and jungle CO2 filled my nose. 

Within half an hour the massive aircraft was buoyed up into the air, and I saw its shadow diminish on the map of Kernel that shrank below us.  I spotted the landmarks of the town, which were alien when seen from above: the thoroughfare, the maréchaussée fort, the Kernel Saints University building, the Den and the path through the jungle to neighbouring Becken.  It all seemed so small and meaningless, and I was reminded of the route that Foist and I will take across the face of Terrene in just a few months’ time, a map that has been etched into my mind.

I was on my way.  The journey took three and a half hours, and when the zeppelin deposited its passengers in the broad fields on the outskirts of the Valley a few dozen of us wobbled out on jelly-legs, glad to return to solid ground.

A succession of carriages took me the rest of the way to Papaux.  When I disembarked with my case I stood for a moment watching the horses disappear between the crop-rich fields, consciously observing my only form of transport depart, leaving me stranded at the Farm Jeanne-Stempe.

The Farm is a collection of converted stone barns and farmhouses; the latter made into a perfect home of sixteen rooms, the former now impressive little holiday homes for people from Kernel, Torment and anywhere else with people who desperately crave the peace of this green valley beyond the rainforest.

The door of the main structure clacked open, wood banging against wood with the scream of two old springs each longer than my arm, and out burst Papa Michelle.  His stride was confident for such a big man, his bearing reminiscent of a relaxed slab of fat-coated muscle; he could have spread into a pattie if lying on his back, or wrestled a cauliraptor if he put all his strength into it.  Not many people find this dichotomy alarming – only when you see the transformation from soft to hard to they become wary of this grey-topped giant, who now took me in a bear hug and laughed through his bristly moustache.

Behind him, Mama Jeanne-Stempe appeared in the doorway and crossed her arms, watching the reunion with a gentle smile.

I extricated myself from Papa Michelle’s embrace.  He grinned at me through his abundance of facial hair and took me by the shoulders, bellowing, ‘Reks!  Welcome back, my son!’

I have to go – I’ll finish writing this tomorrow.

— RSR

 

End of the world

————————————————————————————————-

It is night.  Roving light in red and green filters through the cracks in my bedroom curtains, making me stir.  The colours play over my eyelids; I turn, semi-conscious, onto my side and feel my sweat-soaked hair cool and wet against my forehead.

I open my eyes.

For a long moment my brain works to interpret the play of prismatic light that pierces the humid darkness.  It can’t work it out: what could be green, shining through my curtains, and what could be red, in the middle of the night…?

First my right leg, then my left swings out from under the duvet.  My hypersensitive feet touch the gnarl of the old carpet; I flex my toes.  Then, walking towards the window with rainbow hues dancing an aurora on my bare chest, I breathe deeply with a twitch of anxiety between my lungs.

I open the curtains.  I feel my eyes strain in their sockets.  On the other side of the grimy glass the back garden is illuminated like a surrealist’s mixing palette: a low forest of herbs, the rough corners of a boundary hedge, and a garden shed with windows reflecting the celestial drama high above:

The sky is full of light and colour.  Where usually I would see only a smattering of pale, twinkling stars, I see now an immense array of pinks and greens, swirling across the heavens in thick gaseous swathes.  A centrepiece is the moon, but it is broken: shattered into a genuine crescent with splinters of pale rock still lingering in the primary orb’s diminished gravity. 

Dominating the sky is a half-risen planet, its diameter spanning the width of the horizon, a purplish-brown bloated monster.  It looms, surrounded by wisps of galactic mist and those meteoroids unfortunate enough to get caught in its massive fields yet lucky enough to survive, locked in endless complicated orbits.  Diaphanous swipes of frozen space-ice form broken rings around this fearsome dome, with stars shining through the thinner ribbons from behind.   This planet seems close enough to reach out and touch.

All around, broken pieces of shattered asteroids and distant moons plummet through the atmosphere.  They burn with low, scraping rumbles, the sound of massive engines.  As the scorched segments break up in the intense crucible of light and heat they flare up suddenly in blinding displays of orange and white.

It is the end of the world.  The universe has slipped into a jumbled chaos, drawn into itself, and the effects of this cataclysm are evident in the unravelling atmosphere of Earth that disappears from the stratosphere into cold space, letting in the biting teeth of frozen vacuum.   

I see all this from my bedroom window, and observe the microscopic fragments of human civilization rushing upward through the sucking tear in the atmosphere. 

The devastation sweeps closer, and the gargantuan planet grows larger as though on a collision course with our barely significant planet, and all is dwarfed by its relentless approach: heat and colour and the bass trembling of objects much larger than I colliding in boundless space.