on heroes

i wrote this in december 2016. it’s still my hands-down favourite of my own poems although there’s probably quite a lot wrong with it.

*

Now he’s a myth. A half-seen figure

alive in the heart of a green bonfire.

Spangled in glory, silver thread at his seams

edged from behind in the neon of dreams.

Handing out stars like boiled sweets

and the cosmos that tangle like hair at his feet.

 

He lay down with a spine-bird in a bed of rushes

killed milky-eyed monsters and leather-winged wonders

kissed gods in the snow beneath a bright old lantern

stole a pearl from the devil’s pantry.

Carved faith from seaglass, collected dead flies

and walked on the ocean with flames in his eyes.

 

And beneath all this, this gorgeous skin

this djinn-dream, this envelope of ancient yarns

he’s thin, curly-haired, with gentle-veined wrists

barely more than a child, barely been kissed

a mole like a moth on the pale of his throat

exquisitely threadbare in that awful coat.

 

Rode a sheep into a dusty courtroom

wore his flesh like a dancer’s costume

cracked his knuckles, bit his nails

never learned his piano scales

tied his shoelaces all wrong

quietly humming sad old songs.

 

And his lover explored with whalebone hands

the fantastic clockwork of his lungs.

 

And now there’s no-one left to remember

how his ink-bloomed fingers used to tremble

lighting a cigarette, or wrapped round a razor

or how he bought violets day after day, but

only to scatter the petals to sea

and stare down a pale horse before taking his leave.

 

He’s joined the halls of the old ones now

stories without eyes or noses or mouths

last week they lost Gilgamesh’s deathwatch howl

tomorrow Blodeuwedd won’t be flowers or owls.

Details restlessly real as heartbeats

in the unlivable knowledge that our gods are meat.

 

Perhaps this is how it could end

left with a pit of stripped skeletons

and poking through myth-guts with rowan sticks

and smashing through legends with crumbling bricks.

Perhaps they had mothers. Perhaps they had lovers

and perhaps they had fathers and sisters and brothers

and perhaps sainthood sang in their bones

and perhaps they listened to their sky-ships groan

and gazed into booming and heavenly dark

and shivered with feeling, and shivered with feeling

and peeled down and naked they all look the same

and we’re left with the gorgeously dead and their names

and the cry of the stars and the roar of the moon

and their beautiful faces with their beautiful wounds.

 

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winter, 1892 (ish)

see below: an extract from my novel. it’s my birthday & i’m lazy. this is from chapter #25, provisional title: SWEET CHIMING CHRISTMAS BELLS. unseasonable, i know.

it’s a story of dreamy boys & girls, snow, various sorts of unrequited love, & lots & lots of gothic architecture. oh, & there’s airships. & murder. & catacombs. it’s all terribly metal.

artwork’s mine.

*

A fortnight before the Mawstice ended, Elizabeth caught the train down to Hollowing. It was not like any train she had been on before; it was small and rickety and made mostly of wood; she had to sit on top of a crate of chickens, and kept coughing from the smoke and sawdust. Her hands were red with cold by the time she got off.

The Hollowing station was a single wooden platform, backed by fir-woods; on it Theo waited alone. She registered thin wrists sticking out of a greatcoat- black curls grazing cheekbones- and then he was shaking her hand, getting out of his coat to wrap it round her shoulders. ‘Elizabeth, I’m so glad to see you- but what on earth are you doing dressed like that? You must be frozen- here-‘

He led her out to a snow-rutted road, and she laughed. Waiting for them was a ridiculous outdated pony-trap, at least half a century old; the wheels looked on the verge of crumbling from sheer age. Harnessed to it was a wizened horse that looked no younger than the trap, jaundiced eyes staring out at them, its strawberry coat patchy and faded.

‘I felt absolutely awful harnessing Mary to this thing,’ Theo said, helping Elizabeth in. ‘I felt like a murderer, honestly, but he’s the only horse left. If he starts foaming at the mouth, would you mind us getting out and walking? I’d really rather not have his blood on my hands. Not to feed the rumour-mill, but it’d be tantamount to patricide. Are you comfortable? Do you need a blanket? I can give you my scarf if you like.’

Elizabeth, who was starting to sweat in Theo’s overlarge coat, assured him that she was perfectly fine, and no, she did not need a blanket or his scarf or anything like that.

Theo sat in front, reins in hand, and gradually they jolted off up the hill, into the forest, climbing slowly and painfully. Occasionally he would lean back to shout an explanation on the lay of the land, or enquire after her health; mostly, though, they let the landscape pass by in silence. Elizabeth had visited nearby in the past, and had found it beautiful. They were deep into myth-country. The endless forests housed any number of fey, witches and immortal bears, if the stories held true; the snow fell deep and silent here; and underneath the bright winter air lay the smell of the sea.

She knew from what Theo had told her that the fishing-village of Hollowing lay in a valley, hemmed in by the sea on one side and two hills on the other. The Arkwright house crowned one of these hills, distant enough that the village was invisible from it. The other hill, if scaled, led eventually to the cliffs where stood Hollowing Monastary, childhood home to Melchior Collins.

On this journey they did not pass through Hollowing village, or glimpse the sea; it was several miles uphill until finally, just when Mary’s powers of endurance began to be seriously thrown into question, they reached a pair of iron gates. These Theo dragged open, one by one, putting his entire body behind them to make them move, before driving the pony-trap though and finally pulling up in front of the house.

Staring, Elizabeth got out. The Arkwright house was an ancient block of stone, with a hole in its roof on the far side, revealing struts and the jagged teeth of beams. The windows were grimy, its door a faded and peeling blue. Elizabeth wondered if she was imagining the air of dreamy malevolence that clung to the place.

As Theo wrestled her suitcase away from her with protestations of chivalry, the door burst open and Usher came charging out, heralding them with enthusiastic barks. He danced round Theo first; came to attack Elizabeth with his tongue; went back to Theo.

Amid Usher’s assaults it was a moment before Elizabeth realised that someone else was coming out of the door- a young woman, who leaned back against the doorway, folding her arms, smiling. They went to her, Theo lugging the suitcase. ‘Liorn,’ he said. ‘This is Elizabeth- Elizabeth, my sister, Liorn.’

Liorn looked soft and lovely and invulnerable in a nurse’s white pinafore, tendrils of leaf-gold hair uncoiling round her face. Matching the reasonably tall Theo in height, she towered over Elizabeth, and looked older than Elizabeth would have thought; after a moment she recalled that Liorn was twenty-nine. She offered a hand to Elizabeh, smiling. ‘Theo hasn’t stopped talking about you from the moment he arrived. It’s good to meet you at last.’

‘Oh- you, too,’ said Elizabeth, shaking Liorn’s hand, reddening under a searching look.

They were guided in. Down a narrow corridor; into a dank-smelling room. ‘I doubt that Mother and Grandmother will be appearing today,’ Liorn was saying, ‘but our brother Eamon’s here somewhere. I’ll tell him you’ve arrived-‘ she left the room.

Elizabeth looked around. The room had a certain decayed grandeur to it; an exotic carpet, now threadbare, covering the stone, and delicate, faded paper on the walls, discoloured in places, appearing to bubble in others, peeling a little. There was a strange absence of furniture. One sofa, dark rich velvet, and a couple of mahogany cabinets could not fill up acres of floor, and there were rectangular dark patches on the wallpaper in places, where paintings must once have hung. Cobwebbed candelabras of half-blackened silver stood on the cabinets. A great window of warped old glass let in the winter light; it looked out over blinding snowfields, and the occasional claw of a tree.

Theo, meanwhile, had left Elizabeth’s case in the hallway. Now he stood close to her and smiled, kind and crinkling, in the way she loved best. ‘It’s alright,’ he said. ‘Liorn will like you- and Eamon. I’m so glad you’re here.’

Before she could reply a man shouldered his way into the room. ‘Theo- you’ve brought your friend? Ah- here she is.’ He had to crouch a little to see her properly. ‘Well, you look awfully respectable. I’m sure we’ll do each other fine. Welcome in.’

A huge hand was offered her. She shook it and thought she felt her bones pop.

Presumably this was the infamous Eamon, but he did not look how she had imagined. She’d pictured an elder Theo, slender and rakish; Eamon was a big man, sunburned, crinkle-eyed, his shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbows. Over his arms, creeping up his neck, was an atlas of tattoos in whale-blue ink, delicate as lace. He had Liorn’s blond hair, cut close to the skull. Once he had finished shaking Elizabeth’s hand he moved on Theo, but only ruffled his hair in a way that almost knocked him over.

‘Eamon,’ came Liorn’s voice. She was standing in the doorway. ‘Would you mind taking Elizabeth’s case to her room?’

Eamon left, with a friendly nod.

‘We’re going to put you in old aunt Lettie’s room,’ said Theo. ‘Don’t worry, there’s no Lettie in it now.’

‘He’s trying to scare you,’ said Liorn. ‘It’s been a guest-room for a century and I promise you that no-one has died in it of late.’ She took Elizabeth’s hand. ‘How would you like a tour of the house, Elizabeth?’

‘Oh- yes, please.’

‘You don’t have to, of course,’ came Theo’s voice; he had thrown himself extravagantly over the sofa and was chewing on some sort of root. ‘The only bits you really need to know about are the lavatory and the kitchen.’

‘But it would help,’ said Liorn, ‘if you ever want to find your way to either of those.’

Elizabeth consented; Theo drew his legs up from where they were splayed over the sofa. They set off.

 

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writing hell redux

so naturally as soon as something actually clicks in re: A Certain Project my laptop starts being A GIGANTIC PIECE OF ASS

& okay that is partially my fault for knocking a moses sea of water on the keypad yesterday but you know what isn’t my fault? the fact that last night it spontaneously decided to go into flashing purple lockdown mode to install one hundred & sixty-nine system updates! which have as of this moment taken sixteen! goddamned! hours!

hence why i’m posting this from my mother’s mac (I haven’t actually figured out how to scroll down yet, yes, hello, i am a cretin). i have no access to my project notes (yes, a cretin who forgets to back up) so i can’t even write the damn thing in a notebook unless i take the heathen road & skip ahead to write whatever random scene & that’s not really how i operate

just. technology oh my GOD how am i such a dinosaur i’m supposed to be gen z or something

in other news, it turns out that in first semester i made a spotify account whilst drunk. i’m guessing this is why my username is ‘green olive muncher’.

‘can you tell me whether my name at least shows up or whether i am just green olive muncher,’ i pleaded with jo.

‘you are just green olive muncher,’ jo said.

‘oh dear.’

so, yeah, i’m the last person in the western world to discover spotify. i’ve been listening to a lot of regina spektor & nick cave & the bad seeds. mostly writing to bohren’s midnight radio,which is perfect for the grimy nocturnal world of my current thing. i’m also obsessively in love with this beautiful fucking cover of i follow rivers:

i’m meant to be at ibby & eliza’s for a write-a-thon in, whoops, about seven minutes, so i may use the whole laptop debacle as an excuse to get on with that short (?) story idea. if i do i might excerpt it here. i’d like to get some prose out.

writing hell update

so, for whatever reason, A Certain Project is DOING MY HEAD IN

i am hopelessly behind on my wordcount, i can’t seem to find my way out of a Maze of Plot, & i keep breaking off to mope over southern gothic inspo tags & listen to doom jazz

(on the other hand the sun is shining & ibby & i are having a sci-fi marathon on tuesday & i have a short story idea involving old bookshops/stigmata/scary flat-eyed men that i am ITCHING to write IF A CERTAIN PROJECT WOULD LET ME)

(yes of course i could take a break & write the other thing but honestly i need to listen to my Vague Feelings of Obligation in re: writing things because otherwise i would never get anything writ)

anyway that’s my entire life at the moment i have thrown everything else out of the window for THIS GODDAMN PROJECT

hURGH

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pictured: the evolution of a killer

a future household in sum

a domestic scene. a living-room with a coffee-table, a squashy sofa, & two armchairs. the coffee-table is crowded with books, opened jellybean packets, & half-drunk mugs of tea. it is four p.m.

occupying the sofa are “ANT BOILER” & “LCYRD”. in one of the armchairs sits “BISCUIT MAN”, gazing at his laptop. “RECKLESS FOOL” sits in the other armchair, reading a book (it was emily of new moon, if you want to know).

enter “CURTAIN SNIFFER” through the front door, brandishing a packet of chocolate digestives. he thrusts them into the lap of “BISCUIT MAN”, who squeaks & looks up.

“CURTAIN SNIFFER”: i am a dependable egg. i’ve solved all our problems by bringing you biscuits.

“BISCUIT MAN”: thank you. i don’t need biscuits. but thank you.

“ANT BOILER” watches this scene with the detached interest of an oracle, before passing her verdict.

“ANT BOILER”: you can’t solve problems if you’re choking on biscuits.

“RECKLESS FOOL” has remained in her seat until now, reading quietly. now she becomes enthusiastically confrontational.

“RECKLESS FOOL”: take the biscuits, jamie! i’ll stuff your entire neck with biscuits!

“LYCRD”: & there’s a clincher.

“LYCRD” leaves the room to make more tea. “CURTAIN SNIFFER” immediately steals her vacated seat. “BISCUIT MAN” looks out from his armchair with the helpless eyes of a baby monkey, trapped, lost.

“BISCUIT MAN”: please don’t. please don’t.

 

fire-alarms, writing blues, borrowed gauntlets

-my greatest achievement so far this week: i threw a teabag at the bin in my room & actually got it in! never mind that there’s cocoa & coconut rooibos streaks all down one bit of the wall.

-okay, real talk. i’m busy as hell. trying to juggle my uni’s literature conference, which for some godforsaken reason i’ve decided to actually attend, whilst on a twelve-day writing kick (whenever i need to turn up the heat on whatever project, i set myself to write 31k in twelve days. it is invariably a bloody nightmare). whilst also making my way through shakespeare & mallarmé & everything else i’m currently reading. & trying to eat things that aren’t pasta or nakd bars. & also, you know, having friends.

-i’ve nearly finished reading richard ii. holy shit, the deposition scene. the whole play is spectacular. as he falls from grace, king richard becomes a human being. the transformation is on the page- it happens basically before your eyes- & it’s exhilarating to read. (& to watch. the hollow crown!) he goes from the land of poetic cypher- a land where he doesn’t really have a singular identity, where he is the royal ‘we’- to, you know, the land of being an actual person who questions, who wonders about who went before him & who will come after, who feels hunger, doubt, pain, who perceives the irony & poetry & mythos in his own tale. of course the allegorical territory is rich as hell- never mind the narcissus/christ/mythological figure of your choice parallels- but there is nothing in the play so exciting to me as that slow unravelling.

-except maybe the bizarrely hilarious scene where aumerle gives & receives so many insults to various lords that he runs out of gauntlets to throw down, & has to borrow one. i do like that scene.

-the book i’ve been assigned for the uni literature conference is rosemary tonks’ poetry/prose collection bedouin of the london evening. it’s knocking me OUT. set in a heady nocturnal london where the centuries seem to cross & criss-cross- the yellow fog & opium-dreams of victoriana melting into stark lightbulbs, drowned leaves, desperation.

-i so nearly bought ali smith’s autumn in waterstones earlier. also neil gaiman’s norse mythology book, & a gorgeous paperblank, & a cuddly monkey toy. fortunately jo was there to drag me out once i’d bought bedouin.

-i’m trying to write a certain project but it feels more like horse-wrangling. it doesn’t help that the fire-alarm went off at three a.m today, cue half an hour of me, lucy & the other unfortunates of mcc shivering in the courtyard while i tried to see if i could fit my knees inside my jumper. i could, but that didn’t do much to alleviate the fact that, you know, it was three a.m & i wasn’t even wearing my spectacles & i just wanted to go back to sleep, dammit.

-it also doesn’t help that Mallet Moron is currently playing shitty 2009 pop remixes at tooth-rattling volume. Mallet Moron is the psychopath in the room above mine who hammers his chinese mirror-sculptures at one in the morning, plays horrible music at deeply inconsiderate hours, & once chased one of my flatmates down the stairs before hammering on our door for half an hour while we called the police & i eyed the kitchen-knives just in case. but, hey, i move out in three weeks.

-i have, technically, finished my first year of uni. which is insane. i don’t even know what i’ve been doing all this time. i mean, sure, i’ve been to lectures & written enormous essays on dostoevsky & eaten a horrific amount of peanut butter & stayed awake for days on the trot before passing out in front of my laptop & watched the moon rise from the balcony with a mug of pink lemonade & written thirty-six thousand words of space-opera Dreck & done inappropriate things in nightclubs & read roughly sixty-six books & met a bunch of people who inexplicably seem to like spending time with me. but what have i DONE?

-time to make more tea & crack on with writing, i suppose. sending love to anyone who makes it to the end of this post. you’re a trooper.

 

 

elegy for nebulae

i usually forget this actually has a title. i just call it ‘the lucifer thing’ in my head. best enjoyed with a cup of earl grey.

*

Now believe me, I was beautiful then-

darkness on silver wings; the night crackled when I moved.

Prettiest one of the whole shebang,

if I do say so myself. Of course Daddy approved-

then, at least, before the humans, when we flew.

when polar stars and solar spheres danced the deeps, and black holes woke

to hear our tread, and we burned and sang and spun on our wings

like a bunch of celestial bloody dynamos-

we were so excited, weren’t we, to be feathered things.

 

You aren’t supposed to dream in Heaven.

Bad for the constitutional, you know- though I didn’t know. I was all shiny-new

like one of those glittery sweet little beetles

and Daddy could have squidged me like one, too.

I suppose you all want to know what the Lord Almighty looks like- bit of a disappointment, I’m afraid.

You see, he’s a voice. If you want to hear it, take a large, gestating cow-

Oh, I’m joking. Alright. Alright.

 

Take a cello, baritone.

Take a whale-song, swan-song, sun-song

and the back-of-silence roar

and the rip of flesh and claw

and a pinch of bluest night

and the hum of the Northern Lights

and the whisper of a gold-filled room

and old myrrh-clouds in Cleopatra’s tomb

a love-moan rising with wings unfurled

and the cry of the ocean at the end of the world.

 

A voice to make you weep.

 

Let’s not get maudlin. Cigarette?

I do enjoy my little luxuries, now. Framed lepidoptera. Lime silk dressing-gowns.

Anyway- we’ll skip the sob story. I dreamed of light; lost faith; rebelled.

(Why didn’t they rise with me? I had nebulae for eyes, a star-limned skull to crown-

I was more beautiful than him.

All he had was a voice. A voice to make you weep…)

So I held my breath and fell- my wings a pale following blaze

Oh, I was sublime– a comet slipping through the fingers of God-

 

(And now fast-forward, past the landing, the flayed wings, the first dazed days. No need.)

 

It wasn’t my fault. I tried to make Hell beautiful. Grew strange lilies,

hung St Elmo’s fire in the violet air.

They made it ugly, the thousand-eyed creatures with their bloody fingernails, their many-mouths,

their sulphur-sweat. And the humans swam the river to get here, breathing nightmares-

iron-toothed birds and spiny black things.

The humans counted off their wounds like rubies on a string. They thought I understood. That was why

they just kept coming. I stood in my palace of satin and bone

and inhaled the music of a billion stupid souls

as they tore their tendons and hair. As they broke their spectacles.

I’m sure they enjoyed this little orgy of theirs. I remained whole, and I alone.

 

Sometimes when I stood at my balcony and gazed

The smoke fell like rain, and I watched it, and dreamed.

I dreamed that the sky looked at me, and spread its wings

and that quiet fell over this land, and a silver gleam

of rain; and the humans

upturned their faces to the water, and we breathed.

 

And I dreamed that the quiet never went away. The quiet-

The pale quiet of grief that I had only now achieved. But. Oh, shit. I. I didn’t mean to-

 

You know what?

 

I dream of this. Of putting on a grey raincoat, and going outside

And into a train-station that stinks of piss and sin-grime

and finding things with old clothes and nebulae-eyes

and they’ve been waiting for me for the longest time

and we all are so terribly tired- of pride-

and in our secret selves we want- to beg-

and all of our voices rise in song

and pale blossoms and thorns grow up from our lungs

to spill into our throats, and onto our tongues

and a sound rises from us, and coils, and curls

and it’s a love-moan rising with wings unfurled

and it’s the cry of the ocean. It’s the end of the world.

 

I would say that’s quite enough, wouldn’t you? Can’t go giving away all my secrets at once, you know.

 

Terribly bad for business, that would be.

 

Cigarette?

‘It can- cause pain, though.’

should be writing an essay on ‘notes from the underground’ right now, but whatever. was looking through old diary entries- found a reference to this scene, which i wrote about a year ago. maybe it’s the rain falling just beyond the window right now. or the weird mood i’ve been in all night, one of those moods of semi-spiritual questioning where sometimes you feel like you’ve got a black hole in you. but anyway. here it is.

‘What were you reading?’ Elinor asked, softly, into the dark.

There was a moment of silence. Elinor strained her eyes, but all she could make out of Augusta was her dark shape in the bed.

‘Mansfield Park,’ came the reply.

‘Any good?’

A hesitation. ‘I’m not sure how much I like it yet. I sort of want to hug the heroine, but I also sort of want to throttle her. There is a very nice fellow in it, though. And a horrendous old cow called Mrs Norris.’

‘Well, maybe you’ll make up your mind about the heroine when you finish,’ Elinor said. She thought of her copy of Underworld, sitting unfinished on her bedside table at home.

‘Perhaps. Maybe I won’t, though.’ She paused. ‘Sometimes I’m like that. I feel two ways about something. Or more than two ways. And neither one’s less true than the other- even if I feel one of them more often, or more strongly. You know? And I can’t pin it down like that. I can’t reconcile them. I simply have to hold all the ways I feel there in my head, and listen to them all at the same time, and try not to make myself pin either one down and set a seal on it.’

‘It’s not a crime to feel two ways at once about something.’

‘No.’

A minute ticked by. It seemed like such a long time that Elinor thought Augusta had gone to sleep. But Augusta had not gone to sleep. She spoke again.

‘It can- cause pain, though. It can make you feel less- solid. The ways we see ourselves- we build those up on what we know of ourselves- the solid things about us. For example, I know that I’m very clever, and I know that I’m shockingly awful at tennis, and I know that I have a passionate hatred of Tristam Shandy, and a passionate love of clementines, and that sort of thing. And when things aren’t solid- when they’re un-pin-down-able- I feel less solid. I feel un-pin-down-able. I feel like- there isn’t a real me. Only lots of facets of something.’

‘Alright,’ said Elinor. ‘So how about this: maybe what you call the real you is the result of all those facets converging, and making a picture. And I don’t want you to be pin-down-able.’

Outside, the roar of a car engine. ‘I love you,’ said Augusta.

Elinor turned over in bed. She stared at the pale shadow of the lampshade.

 

big gay novel things #1

-i’ve been working on this beast since november 2015; it is now 160k, with assorted trimmings.

-actual current working title is ‘the false martyrdom of theodore arkwright’

-BASO

-it’s set in this snowy alternate version of 19th century britain. all the cities are named after angels & culture is deeply divided between extreme decadence & extreme asceticism. also there are tunnels under the country stretching waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down deep into the daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaark

-it’s focused on a bunch of ridiculous bohemian students at a university in a city called samandriel.

-it’s also super fucken gay.

-there’s old gods. there’s fae. there’s random creatures i’ve just made the fuck up (like spine-birds). there’s some creepy shit with an empty suit sitting in a chair.

-it’s turned into a giant, sprawling monster about sanctity & corruption & shit like that.

my cast:

theodore arkwright-

my baby. he’s basically a hot mess. nineteen, dreamy, silly. a total sweetheart. v. threadbare. the youngest child of a practically mythical ancient family of aristocrats- he was brought up in a village called hollowing, in unhealthy isolation with his creepy family. he’s obsessed with mythology, he wants to get out of the city. he’s a romantic, just a little bit naïve. he’s also a total slut. he attracts, he repulses, he is desperately beautiful. he is incredibly provocative. he is androgynous. he carries History, he carries Aristocracy w/ him like a dim glowing cloak. he is la belle dame sans merci. he is Other. he is every straight guy’s nightmare. he is sexual fluidity, personified. he loves beasts & monsters & big shaggy dogs & can drink just about anyone under the table & has nerves of goddamn steel & under his bed is a large, ancient, elaborate book full of pornographic drawings. he is kind & funny & gentle. he is moody. he is wanderlusty. he has dreams. he is quietly achingly sarcastically in love w/ melchior. he is a myth, a scandal, a cautionary tale, & a terribly vulnerable human being w/ curls & delicate wrists.

melchior collins-

huge intimidating cynical dude. twenty-five. strong moral convictions that he can put aside in a heartbeat for someone he loves. quiet, confident, mild-mannered; also, sarcastic as fuck. reserved, dislikes being the centre of a crowd, finds people vulgar. has a protective streak. v. scary when he’s angry. loves music & colour. a monastic foundling; raised by monks just above the village where theo was born. his real mother is an old god who lives deep in the tunnels.

melchior is essentially a very interesting slab of granite. he is immoveable. he walks within his own inner silence. he’s built like a brick shithouse. when he loves, he loves deeply. he is prudent & cautious but never cowardly. he is slow & deliberate w/ a sort of meticulous, instinctive intelligence. he would make an excellent surgeon; he is an exquisite painter; he is a marvellous pianist. he understands that Listening is a verb. inevitably the smartest person in the room. he’s incredibly well-read, he wears the most beautiful suits, he has an intimate understanding of colours, he is conservative w/ words, he has his own rhythms of speech, a ritual formality. he knows what people need. his religious convictions are profound in a different way to theo’s. he is difficult to anger, fearsome when angered & if you hurt someone he loves, well, god probably ain’t gonna help you. & he has freckles on the backs of his hands.

(i love melchior. he’s so dead inside.)

he’s forced very conventional desires upon himself- he’s determined to marry his girlfriend, be affluent & respectable & normal, so he’s mildly dismayed to find himself getting mixed up with theo.

elizabeth hester dark-

my main narrator. she’s v. small & sweet & the youngest of the dudes. she’s shy as hell, that never changes, but she starts out as her cousin’s cowed, passive sidekick, & eventually is revealed as the strongest character in the whole thing. for her it’s kind of a coming of age. she’s vastly in unrequited love with theo & eventually gets conspiring with melchior; the alliances shift, they all have secrets.

swallow-

theo’s best friend, flatmate, & unofficial lover. exquisitely ugly. lovely selfless passionate dude. has a jealous streak & very much dislikes melchior. more than perhaps any of the others, he’s driven by love; he’s practical, he likes taking care of people & he values things that he can hold in his hands, but he’s also a big damn romantic. he didn’t have the soft-edged upbringing of the others; he was born into poverty, on a bare floor with his brothers, & now he’s careful & patient & reliable- except, sometimes, when it comes to theo, wherein he is volatile.

jezebel phaxday-

melchior’s (official) lover; frequently gets off with theo; she & elizabeth eventually develop a vague unspoken romantic attachment. angry, pragmatic, occasionally vicious; sarcastic; protective. she’s probably the least romantic & most sensible of all of them. red-haired, self-possessed, rather queenly. constantly exasperated by theo’s silliness & melchior’s silence. there’s a sort of core weakness to jezebel, like there is to theo; she can be sarcastic & reactionary with the best of ’em, but she’d rather pretend a danger doesn’t exist for as long as she possibly can than turn round & face it, the way elizabeth & melchior would.

so, yup, they’re my kids & i love them all.