LOVE took its predestined inexplicable twist just
three days after Christmas, which was itself imbued with enhanced
poignancy in our isolation.
Robina had been morose for several days and though
I tried putting it down to the isolation, I knew deep within
that it was something much more.
I was busy checking the generator when Robina
dropped her bombshell. She’d been standing fidgeting nearby and
although I’d known for some days of her troubled mood and had
tried to open the gates, it was one of those frigid moments between
friends that cut at the soul. I wasn’t prepared for the severity
of the situation.
"Chick, I’m leaving." The finality of her tone
said it all. My fingers continued fiddling with the generator
as if on auto-pilot before the change of course registered. She
continued as if reciting from a well rehearsed speech, which
I suspected it was.
"I’m so sorry. They’re arriving for me first thing
in the morning. I won’t be going home. I don’t want you coming
It’s funny how from the isolation of one of the
loneliest places on the planet you can suddenly see every country,
every city, every village, each field flash by in a blur of emptiness.
They say in the few moments before death your whole life flashes
past your mind’s eye but this was somehow worse. For a moment
I thought it all some huge cosmic plot.
She’d straightened and quit fidgeting as if saying
her words had unlocked a hidden reservoir of determination and
strength. I was trying to find the threads of sensible thought
as I looked at a woman with whom I had shared life for so many
years and saw someone regarding me with a scrutiny I couldn’t
fathom. Was it compassion, pity, indifference?
I was suddenly both a lost abandoned child and
a concerned lover and friend. She had no family and slowly her
words ‘I won’t be going home’ registered. I became aware I had
stopped what I was doing and was standing facing her, both of
us frozen images within the tableaux of life. As if in emphasis,
a gust of cold wind found its way into the generator bunker.
"For God’s sake, Robbie. Where will you go? Where
are you going?" My stupid words sounded hollow and I wanted suddenly
to talk forever and to say nothing at all.
She gazed off into a dim corner of the bunker. "It
doesn’t matter. I’ve asked the Institute to drop me in Palermo.
"I know you won’t understand, Chick. I don’t myself,
but my mind’s made up and please, if you love me, don’t try and
change it. And please, my love, don’t blame yourself, I couldn’t
live with that."
She stared at me for a moment of eternity then
came across and put her arms about me and for a numb age I felt
myself nothing more than empty space before I could respond and
slowly hug her to me, smelling the perfume of her hair and feeling
her lithe body. Then she was gone and I stared at the ladder
leading from the bunker as if it was all a dream.
IT was far from a dream and that night I suffered
the wretched ignominy of foolishly watching Robina pack the few
things she’d decided to take with her.
We’d argued and resolved our quarrels in the past
but this time there’d been no argument and I knew that neither
words nor actions could breach the nameless divide that was suddenly
What conversation we had was trivial to the situation,
like my asking what time she was leaving and her easy reply "about
10am" as if she was just going to the corner shop for a pint
That night as we lay in bed together and I held
her close I was frightened somehow to touch her as if by doing
so she would be gone even before the morning.
— * —
* Diary Extract *
Vulturosophy : the perception
that perspectives are no more than perspectives of perceptions.
Bi.RD Avionary of
WHERE VULTURES DARE
AFTER the hovercraft sped from the archipelago
taking Robina away and leaving me to complete isolation with
the vultures I felt a little like a criminal until I forced myself
to realise I’d done nothing wrong.
It was almost a parting of strangers as
the same crew that brought us here tried to pass genial words
to me in embarrassed uncertainty as Robina boarded.
There seemed an ultimate finality to the
parting as the cluttered hodgepodge of images whirred relentlessly
in my head.
Back at the cabin I moped around picking
at items here and there and trying to make sense of something
that made no sense, caught up in the feeling you get when you
find yourself living in a community that still adheres to dead
belief while the world you left behind has grown to where you
wanted to be.
I woke up. Robina had been gone three months
and the same dream of her departure haunted me each night.
It was on the 247th afternoon of my second
birthday year on Brogovnia when the shit filled the quob.
I had been spending the long months in a
kind of stupor, pretending to be doing something. I’d be sitting
snug indoors when the Brogovnia Run took its toll on the already
harsh world outside and would call in to base perhaps every week
at the most. They thought I’d flipped but were content to leave
me be. They knew they’d find no one else mad enough to stay here.
The radio telephone buzzed one evening when
I was on the toilet and even at the first ring I somehow knew
it was Robina. By the time I got my pants up the message was
long over and all that was left were the two recorded words ‘hi
there’. No number, nothing.
She was like that.
I maintained my sporadic report log to base
but it had become farcical.
“Saw about 700 vultures today.” Or “Not
one vulture passed for three weeks.”
My own log was growing bulky. I’d grown
fed up with it and had burned the first 1,800 pages in a fit
of moroseful pique, then spent the next two months remembering
and rewriting what I’d written and stupidly destroyed, along
with writing the new sections.
So engrossed had I been in my own volatile
and yet completely enjoyable isolation that I’d hardly noticed
how the vultures had taken to gasping every time they saw me.
Of course at the time I didn’t know they
were gasping. It took much more close study before I came to
that realisation, but gasp they did. Perhaps they were imbued
with the knowledge as only vultures of their ilk could be that
I was insane. God knows I had to be to stay in Brogovnia with
nothing more than the company of several thousand Membranous
Pouch. But I digress from what filled the quob.
I was filling the kettle for an afternoon
coffee when someone knocked on the cabin door. The knock took
some time to register—I mean I was in Brogovnia in the middle
of freaking nowhere with no airport, train or bus station let
alone virtual reality pod...
The knock was repeated and incredulous I
opened the door to see a medium sized figure encased in a hooded
muffle suit with piercing blue eyes visible through a narrow
slit in the hood. We stood and gazed at each other in silence
for what seemed like several episodes of Coronation Street before
the soft muffled female words penetrated my scrambled brain:
“Aren’t you going to invite me inside then?”
Once inside she peeled off the hood and long
blond hair spilled out. She was young, probably in her early
twenties I guessed. Showing neat white teeth with a sweet smile
she said: “Hello.” Then: “You don’t recognise me, do you.” It
was a statement, not a question.
I didn’t and was too dumbfounded to say anything,
even hi, so merely shook my head.
She began unfastening her muffle suit. “I
was at an Instutute organised seismology lecture you gave at
The Barbican a few years back. I heard of what you were
doing here through the Institute’s newsletter. Can I get my bags?
“Bags?” I felt like the shop counter monkey
in a Chaplin scene. With a quick laugh she slipped out of the
door and returned with two bulky hold-alls. “Just clothes and
things,” she said.
“Oh...”. I knew I’d have to do better.
“The kettle’s boiling away”, she nodded towards
the stove. “If you’re making coffee, I take milk and one, thanks,”
she said with another flash of smile.
Robotically I started towards the stove then
stopped half way and turned to face her.
“For God’s sake, how did you get here?”
She looked at me for a moment then walked
across and offered her hand, now free of its mitten.
“Daddy’s rich. I’m Felicity and you’re Chick,”
she said as I took her hand. It was warm and soft but her handshake
was firm. “Cozy place you have here. I’ll unpack a little later
if you don’t mind. It’s been a rough trip,” she said, sitting
down to pull off her thermo-boots.
I somehow got started on making coffee. She
spoke from the chair. “When I read what you were doing here and
that you were alone, I wanted to come and help.” She stood up
and walked over to look out of a window.
“I hope you don’t mind? I’m not technically
trained but I am a fast learner and I'm sure you’ll be able to
I took a coffee across to her. “Thank you,”
she said and turned from the window to look at me with a small
laugh. “I can see you’re stunned out of your mind. Shall we sit
down?” Her voice was pleasant, educated.
Seated, I felt a little more sane. Not much,
but enough to gather a question. “What did they say in the newsletter?”
She sipped her coffee. “Not a lot really.
That you were here, alone, and that you’d discovered a strange
bird colony out here while gathering data for the Institute.”
“Bird colony. What did they say about Robina,
er, my wife?”
After a moment she said: “Again, not much.
Nothing, really. That you’d come out together, that she’d returned
and you’d stayed on.”
As I took in her words, she added: “How could
she do that to you.” It was half question, half exclamation.
Seeing the frown that came to my forehead she said: “It’s okay.
Don’t try to answer.”
I was none the wiser. I’d had no explanation
from Robina and the Institute's words said nothing too.
“Where do I bunk?”
Her question drew me from my reverie. “Bunk?”
“Sleep, bed down, you know, put my things?”
“Oh, yes, er, I, well — to be blunt I don’t
know.” I racked my brain. It produced zero.
“There’s only the one double bed through
there.” I nodded towards the room I’d shared with Robina.
“Bit too early for that, don’t you think?”
she matter of factly said and seeing
my expression laughed. “You’re still as much a prude as you were
when I met you in the bar after your lecture.”
Amid the helter skelter of images in my head
I had a vague recollection of speaking with a young woman at
The Barbican bar but I couldn’t put the memory to the person
sitting before me.
“Don’t fret. We’ll work something out,” she
said. “I have an inflatable li-lo in my stuff. Do you still have
the special equipment and clothing that, er, your wife used?”
I nodded slowly. Robina had left all her
specialist stuff behind.
“Good,” said Felicity. “I have none of that
but I did read about it and how it’s all used and everything.”
She pulled out a packet of tobacco and started to roll a cigarette.
“Do you mind?” she asked.
“No - no, go ahead. I hope you have plenty.
There’s no shops here.”
“I’ve enough,” she said.
“I’d better down the shutters,” I said, walking
to the control panel.
“I know. Where’s the shower?” was all she
And that was five days ago. We’d rearranged
stuff in the lab, emptied a few shelves and some drawers for
her things and Felicity had put her inflatable mattress against
a wall. We’d been out a couple of times so she could become familiar
with the surrounds but had an uneventful time. No vultures, no
temperature drops. I was showing Felicity how the monitoring
equipment was operated when the siren and flashing lights above
the door warned us that a freeze was upon us and the steel shutters
slid up as the automatic lock on the cabin’s exit snapped shut.
Felicity looked towards the sound a little alarmed.
“Don’t worry, it’s a safety precaution. Prevents
the door from being opened and letting the cold in. It can be
overidden from inside and out,” I explained.
A few minutes later, as the external temperature
fell to minus 97 degrees, we both heard the sounds from outside
of the cabin.
Felicity looked at me for a moment before
asking: “The birds?”
It was the same screeching I had heard with
Robina and seemed to be coming from all around the cabin. I nodded
to Felicity and crossed to the desk and switched on the outside
cctv. The screens showed that the cabin was in fact completely
surrounded by a thick ring of vultures, going through the ritual
of head and rump raising and lowering and screeching at the overhead
“Weird,” said Felicity after watching the
screens for a while.
A few minutes later the whole throng suddenly
took to flight as if under some central command.
“Weird,” she said again. For a moment I wondered
if she had any greater vocabulary then immediately chided myself
for the thought. What else could anyone say to such a site except
Felicity rekindled my curiosity to further
investigate the colony when she asked me if I had tracked them
to wherever it roosted. I’d slipped into a kind of mental vaccuum
in the weeks after Robina’s departure. That evening I sat with
Felicity and we made plans to venture out on a three day vulture
camp exploratatory trek.
— * —
* Diary Extract *
Vulturemate : the extreme of vulturosity
The Bi.RD Avionary of Quotations.
ENCOUNTERS WITH HIDEOUS VILE
WE reached the pillar of rock I had visited
with Robina without much difficulty and despite its smooth surface
Felicity pulled herself up to examine the top of the odd five
feet high rock. She had only been on the top for a few seconds
when out of seemingly nowhere a dozen or more vultures appeared
and dive-bombed her in a perfect V formation, swooping just inches
above her head and letting out an almighty screeching. She quickly
jumped to the ground. We could see the birds circling overhead,
perhaps at a 1000ft.
Keeping an eye on the
to be continued.....
******* big ones; layman's term for Membranous
Pouch vultures, 12
see footnote 3 on same page re. avionic,
39******* big ones; layman's term for Membranous Pouch vultures,
agovultic- see footnote 3 on same page re. avionic,
The collection of words relating to Membranous Pouch as contained
in the section of the Bi.RD Dictionary known as the Bi.RD Avionary and
which describes words found in The Bi.RD Dictionary, The Bi.RD
Avionary and The Bi.RD Aviosaurus, 42
Brogovnia; the former name of Vulturia, 8
Courtship Canyon; the ritualistic ceremonial courtship
location of the Membranous Pouch vultures, 27
crabs; shelled creatures that have no connection
whatsoever with Membranous Pouch Vultures, 15
fly-by; the term denoting the nightly flight over
the cabin by Membranous Pouch Vultures, 18
footnote gobbler –
the dreaded Screen Gobbler was designed by Gobblers Inc to choke
the greedy software world and give Gobblers Inc what became known
as the Gobbler Monopoly. It failed when the Screen Gobbler, a
eustologeniius virus, learnt how to suck u, 39
the madman inside released after encounters with Membranous Pouch
who is constantly fighting your misbelief of truthful revelation
which you yourself know is real .. The Bi.RD Aviosaurus., 42
Membranous Pouch - so called due to the warty
growth under the tail of the male birds, 8
Membranous Pouch- ibid., sac, protuberance, growth,
carbuncle, sore. The Bi.RD Dictionary appertaining to The Greater
Warted Vulture, 5, 8, 12, 15, 18, 27,
38, 39, 42
mess: a gathering
together in one place of a thousand or so Membranous Pouch vultures,
internally padded hermetically sealed re-inforced cadmium steel
box that affords shelter in the event of an earthquake, available
in single, double or family sizes, Delux models are equiped
with a 365-day supply of food tablets and water, a 12-month
light and warmth supply, one year of recyclable compressed
air, satelite television and radio and internet connection.
Emperess models include a bidet. 44
the collected orchestral wail of Membranous Pouch, 39
US marine, uniform animal native to the north
veinous- ibid. The Bi.RD Dictionary and used to
describe the membranous pouch on Membranous Pouch (colloquial),
ibid. The Bi.RD Aviosaurus- adverb, describing the vulcibel level
of more than one thousand Membranous Pouch vultures screeching
Vulturosophy: the perception that perspectives
are no more than perspectives of perceptions.
mistake for where
[avionic] insnupid, t, eex, vii : see agovultic
.....more to come later .... Back
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