Friday, 19 August 2011

The secret city

Imagine a city rooted in its own inversions. Or imagine negatives where there ought to be a city. An old girl walks in a dream world. Over the curve of the hill, the sea. A shimmer of light, an intensity, a frequency: the ghost of a possibility. The city stands above its scribbled reflection. Through the maze of streets there are discoveries to be made, friends to be met, stories to be shared, as the spectral city spirals in your imagination. There is the smell of ripe peaches or appletini, like a child's breath through dreaming.

Scaggy Mishkin walks these streets, jubilant in her petticoats and silver. She moves like a chandelier, brazen, blazing and impossibly delicate. Joy hammers in her veins. Tread softly, for although the city is yours, conjured from the white flags of your own imagination, she is about to take up residence.

The house she chooses is built like a secret in the forgotten heart of the city. A spiral of cobbled streets leads to it, so that its discovery is a dizzying surprise. The sun huddles, a  surly convict in his old cave. Curtains and door close as you pass. Do not imagine you can come prepared. Who could prepare themselves for the blaze of yellow when you finally open the door and enter a house whose very breath is sweet and chill, like iced honey? Who could prepare themselves for this hostess in her crinolines, glittery with ash? who could imagine the mended room beneath her outstretched arms? Do you begin to turn, hoping to flee as though in a dream?

Come in, she says, I'll give you shelter from the storm. Just when you thought you could resist, the song catches in your throat and the sound you make is ruinously lovely.

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