IN THE OPENING SCENE WE ARE THROWN into the dark and vaguely familiar world of our protagonist Hurbalin Wolf — he is teetering on the edges of life and death (BY MATRIX) when a profound encounter with a mystery fish from the future sends him on a journey of destruction and self–discovery. A funny and stupid story of political posters, plant medicine, talking cats, fancy dress parties, performance art and trying to remember — Forgetting McKenna Terrace is a strange and familiar dystopian fantasy set in the recent past where a spate of scarcity panics have taken hold and enslaved society in a vicious pattern of spectatorship and self–absorption.
FORGETTING MCKENNA TERRACE
Bit By Byte Into Oblivion
IT WAS A COLD SUNNY AFTERNOON AND time ceased to exist in any meaningful way since it had begun.
The wind hustled and hassled a tumbling spiral of leaves. Hurbalin Wolf stepped into the twisting chaos eager to learn from the vortex of ogham debris. For the briefest moment, he was frozen by the elemental forces visualising decay into oblivion when she dissolved before his eyes.
The wind’s cry blew to indigo.
After a day spent indoors his being yearned for oneness with nature’s rhythmic cycle. The office, where he spent ten hours of precious time, five days a week was starved of all–natural light. The air controlled atmosphere sanitized the environment and its inhabitants into robotic numbness.
Severed from lights gift.
Hurbalin continued his walk home with the colour of death everywhere he looked. A row of scarlet oak burned from the top down with vivid red to green. He loved the sound and smell of Autumn and despite its regularity enjoyed every Samhain like it was for the very first time. As soon as the earliest yellow hit the ground, Hurbalin wandered without purpose everywhere he went; he was deep in thought and on a deadline to shed his own dying pattern. He often cleansed his thoughts with the changing of the season and today he silently lingered by the weir pool watching, willing, waiting for the returning Atlantic salmon; arrows of Sagittarius shot from beneath the white water. He admired the salmons quantum memory to return to their origin and their drive to defy obstacles; obstacles placed in their way that were designed by humans to control nature.
Akin to the salmon, obstacles had been placed in Hurbalin’s way by low–vibrating bosses and other fascists who set up hoops for him to jump through, or goal–posts which moved and other banal metaphors for what can be simply seen as control; control of another human’s life endeavour. The words of Bernard Black came to him in the unexpected form of nose twitching and cottontail semaphore. The troupe of theatrical rabbits orchestrated their message from the opposing riverbank: This is life! We suffer and slave and expire. That’s it.
Despair tinged the corner of his thoughts.
Maybe it applied to all living things, even animals. After all, salmon spend most of their early life avoiding predators, finally taking to the sea, where more predators hunt them, only to return home, spawn and die from the exhaustion.
Blue Beard lurked on every street corner.
Hurbalin was tired from a career (if you can call it that) of moving swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction. The burning fatigue was making him sick, and he had become increasingly lost to an aggressively patented, highly profitable pharmaceutical haze. He was in desperate need of a clue from his surroundings when a fish broke the surface. Time slowed in rhythm to his drugged arteries, stoned to the corporate beat, beat, beat of beta–blocking ace inhibitors. At that moment, Hurbalin could feel the ‘boem boem’ of a familiar heartbeat, and he focused his intention upon nature overcoming her man–made confines. The salmon rocketed skywards. He sang the beat aloud ‘boem boem–boem boem’ and with all his mind Hurbalin willed, waited, watched the silvery fish gracefully defy the downstream weir pool prison, performing an athletic leap into the unknown like a bandy high jumper at the Olympics. Its flank glinted with the blue–yellow warmth of the sunset and the fish gaze demanded in no uncertain terms he needed to stop taking his medicine. It was the opposite of what his Doctor wanted, he wanted Hurbalin to up his dose.
Nature was clearly acquainted with her own trial and without complaint deftly avoided the nape, landing above the crest of the ferocious oncoming wall of water. Without hesitating the salmon thrashed her powerful tail to freedom. A deep feeling of optimism crept over Hurbalin. The salmon’s act of liberty imbued him with a lightness of being and feeling of relief from the desultory worries the world imprinted upon him. The feeling cast aside any lasting blackness in his energy field.
‘Death is the beginning.’
He searched his pockets and produced a handful of battered Rizla. Hurbalin wrote a promise to himself and cast the words into the river. The slip of paper containing his spell washed out into the main flow and vanished binding his will to nature. Satisfied Hurbalin turned his back on the biting northerly bluster and headed home.
In the warmth of McKenna Terrace, a wren darted into the brambles sounding the alarm with a loud ‘teck–teck, teck–teck–teck’. The tiny bird fluttered back onto the fence outside his newly painted green and purple stripy front door and broke into song like it was announcing Hurbalin’s arrival home.
NO.7 was at the dead–end of a row of Victorian houses, sitting snugly on the north–western edge of a feral bowling green; now a patch of semi–cultivated scrub. The rectangle of faded green was surrounded by a protective vigil of horse chestnuts and sycamore trees. He’d been searching for a home that knew him and was drawn to the river’s eternal babbling. On the first night, the sound of the nearby weir pounded with heavy rain like a charver’s base–bin. It reminded him of the sea he was born from; waves falling onto the mountains that loomed off in the distance. He looked at the horizon and contemplated the water’s journey past his home and eventually into the sea in its continuous ritual of renewal.
Taking him bit by byte into oblivion.
Hurbalin had successfully taken ownership of all five derelict and unoccupied houses in McKenna Terrace. His seclusion offered privacy that the failed modernist image of living did not. Most people didn’t care or notice they were living in a crisis of cut and paste flat–pack properties, crammed together like carpark spaces at the supermarket. He had no clue why they were favoured by almost everybody else, and Hurbalin had no desire to be seen by the pigeons which roamed communal and public areas. The façades of the houses in McKenna Terrace were painted in a jumble of bright colours like a Photoshop fairy tale: fruit salads, all sorts, flying saucers, drumsticks, violets, blackjacks and chocolate limes. Hurbalin’s house looked just like a giant rhubarb and custard, the walls custard and the windows were vivid Bengal rose. He lived with his wife and partner Amelia Boom and their two cats Jack and Manali. The second–floor bay window poked out precariously and was topped with a gold tiled roof. It looked more like something you might find on a Buddhist temple than a two up two down in the north of England. Above the top window, a small mosaic–rainbow warned of possible showers and sunshine. Mr Fabulous lived next door at NO.5b, his house was a minimal Mediterranean whitewash, sprinkled with multi–coloured climbing grips.
Hundreds and thousands on top a snowie.
To outside observers McKenna Terrace probably seemed more like a fairground ride, in comparison to the clinical blandness which was found almost everywhere else. Not that many people gained access to the path in front or behind the houses. Barb made signs with a pictogram of a pizza delivery boy being attacked by a pack of dogs. Its international system of typographic picture education owner joined in the fun with his walking stick. Underneath the drawing, she had scrawled. Boy I just felt the world get lighter – we lost a moron. Put on the Hammer album, I’m ready to dance! Barb lived with Puff (her addiction) at NO.1 (inevitably), she made Puff paint their house like a Blackjack wrapper, with bright red windows and inching from the roof in their familiar formation were mosaic glow–in–the–dark space invaders. Malt and Lorelei were sandwiched in the middle of the row. Malt’s house was striped in horizontal slabs of colour: green, ochre and orange, and Lorelei’s, who lived next door had acrid yellow walls with black windows upstairs, and on the ground level rich viridian double doors, surrounded by Cornish sea turquoise frames. A mutual love of excessive colour had brought them together, but it was green that lay indelibly at the heart of their rainbow.
McKenna Terrace stank of Durban Poison. It was taking ages to dry because of the dense buds, and it left a pungent smell in the air which rivalled the nearby biscuit factory. Lorelei was an excellent gardener, and it was in this way that everyone contributed. By working together Barb, Lorelei, Malt, Amelia, Hurbalin, Mr Fabulous and Puff had almost dropped off the grid altogether. Self–imposed enslavement had led many towards debt and insecurity as an individual in a society of empty promises and alienated communities. This bunch of oddities had taken control of their existence through the revolutionary pleasure of thinking for yourself and had begun to elevate themselves from the scrutiny of the Systm and its corporate harbingers. Hurbalin threw down his keys and switched on the television. It was an instinctual act, and for some unknown reason, he automatically reached for the remote whenever he entered the room. The broadcast was flashing red on the screen, detailing the latest economic despair. Needles filled with money symbols were being injected into the arms of the poor. The metaphor of class–A drug–taking created a surreal yet appropriate visual for the final phase of a social mind–control experiment. Money was the preferred drug of the masses and had become highly addictive with rehab clinics and pharmaceutical treatment for those who had uncontrollable determination to spend, spend, spend and brand themselves with a guru.
He chuckled to himself, ‘Money that didn’t exist anyway’.
Technology and instant media exchanges were extracting the innermost desires of everyone and the control of its side effects had been turned into a complex business monopoly. Everyone knew they were being manipulated by the invisible hand and yet most citizens chose a brand and became their plaything. The plutocracy knew exactly how to harvest civilization and in return they provided a matrix of products, celebrity, medicine, news, war, publications, education and even advertising. The walls of the church were adorned with images of children spouting scripture: ‘Mum look 3for2 and Mum, Mum Bogoff.’ Our lives had been cultivated, liquidised and tamed and we became the instruments by which new products were launched and marketed. They replaced need with want and most people didn’t even notice the difference.
Leaving the pressure–laden work–til–you–drop south, in favour of the extreme north was a decision made against all advice; advice given by people who were locked into the Systm. Hurbalin realised quite quickly that they were right about it being a lost city, and chavers did make up the majority of the population, but their ideology of not cowing dominion to authority was a provocative inspiration and from its conviction, McKenna Terrace was born.
Minus the tracksuits.
Not yet anyway.
The impending choc–apocalypse the country faced was the same–old disastrous headlines of crisis, cuts, bailouts, rising debt, food poverty, infections, austerity measures, the exorbitant cost of living and incumbent lowering of standards (since records began). It was a recurring bad dream that every generation witnessed only to be woken the next morning with their memory wiped clean with a collective amnesia haze.
The precession was spinning out of control.
Entropy beckoned west.
TheParty had maintained they could never have known allowing such unrestricted freedom to the financial market, medical services, education (basically everything) would create a new more virulent strain of viral–flu. Projecting their own guilt onto the paper wealth Systm seemed to be working until the Nws opened a filing cabinet of high ranking ministers expenses claim forms, and TheParty was over. Gone with a little pop, like a half–deflated balloon being nudged by a kitten’s paw. The debacle was only the decoy for the shadows to presume control over democracy by offering a solution and the solution was MYparty. The rebranding project had replaced the italicised ‘the’ with an uppercase ‘MY’ and removed the space between the words. The design had been created by the same agency which worked on the previous ‘opposition’ party brand. Conceptually it represented the act of change, symbolising the myparty manifesto to work harder for the common good and to empower the people. The ‘MY’ suggested the end of change, the favoured illusory policy which democracy upheld.
Nws scrolled along the television screen.
The rescue plan was already looking uncertain, and a repeated cascade of abusive sound–bites about the previous ministers filled the airwaves. Hurbalin muted the television and switched on subtitles; subtitles that were typed live as the programme was broadcast. The chancellor (or was it the typist) had put the decimal point inadvertently in the wrong place, triggering the sale of all the countries gold and property to sure up the economy of zero growth and within days the paper wealth Systm was worthless. MYparty response was simple: rally the country by asking it to spend its way out of a doomsday depression. The result was another generation overcome by the cycle of an ever–expanding empire strategy.
Nws provided the delusion that citizens had some kind of control over TheParty slash MYparty. Convincing everyone they were forever fighting their corner for democracy and freedom, while at the same time creating the Systm by which the plutocracy maintained control. Most of the people Hurbalin knew believed the Nws were guarding the sovereignty of the people during TheParty downfall and brief flirtation with the freedom which followed. Building and then breaking TheParty in the public’s eye was wholesome family entertainment. The movie played out continuously through the television and finally gave birth to the New World Order. The problem seemed to be politicians could no longer be the trusted custodian of democracy. The public’s reaction (according to the Nws) was democracy must be rescued from corruption.
Absolute power to the shadows.
FULL NOVEL COMING SOON
A FUNNY AND STUPID STORY OF POLITICAL posters, plant medicine, talking cats, fancy dress parties, performance art and trying to remember — Forgetting McKenna Terrace is a strange and familiar dystopian fantasy set in the recent past where a spate of scarcity panics have taken hold and enslaved society in a vicious pattern of spectatorship and self–absorption.
G.R. Seago started this debut novel in 2005 and it was completed during the (LAST) end of the world in 2013. His writing has a tendency to play with authorship, ownership and appropriation, some might say the story revels in a hyper–connectivity with mass media and western culture, with folklore and ancestral memories, with drugs and technology, with ourselves and our imagination, with music and nature ‘This is planet earth you’re looking at planet earth. Bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop this is planet earth.’ Many of the reference points are skewed in favour of an overtly nostalgic generation on the cusp of a burgeoning digitopolism; a digitopolism that would run amok. Others reach back into the Holocene memory, way—way back before the tipping point — ‘Just before we lost our innocence irrevocably when the TV EYE brought the horror of our lives into our homes for all to see.’
The first story created By GRRR.
Written by G.R. Seago
Copyright © 2020
Glen Robinson & Rebecca Robinson.
All rights reserved.
(Concept Edition) 2020 — Published by GRRR.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors imagination or are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, fictional or real, business establishments, events or locations is entirely coincidental.