An ancestral ember awakens Hurbalin Wolf to a life forgotten

Forgetting McKenna Terrace

G.R. SEAGO BEGAN WRITING THIS STORY IN 2004 and it was completed during the well publicised end of the world in 2012. The writing has a tendency to play with authorship, ownership, appropriation and revels in hyper–connectivity with mass media and western culture. With folklore and ancestral memory. With drugs and technology. With ourselves and our imagination. With music and nature. With virtual and terrestrial forms of life. Many of the reference points are skewed in favour of an overtly nostalgic generation on the cusp of a burgeoning digitopolism; a digitopolism that is now running 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.’ 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.

CHAPTER 1 — Forgetting McKenna Terrace

Bit By Byte Into Oblivion

IT WAS A COLD, SUNNY AFTERNOON AND time had ceased to exist in any meaningful way since it began.

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 their 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 natural light. The air controlled atmosphere sanitised the environment and its inhabitants into robotic numbness.

Severed from light’s gift.

Hurbalin continued his walk home with the colour of death filling his mind, 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 seasons. 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 which 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. They set up hoops for him to jump through, or goal–posts that 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 semaphorė. 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; 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 of beta–blocking ACE inhibitors. 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’s gaze demanded in no uncertain terms that he needed to stop taking his medicine. It was the opposite of what his Doctor wanted, who was encouraging Hurbalin to up his dose and fall deeper into the abyss.

The salmon 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 fish 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, casting 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 floated 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 Hurbalin’s newly painted green and orange 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 chestnut 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 bass–bin. It reminded him of the waves he was born from; now 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. The seclusion offered privacy that the failed modernist image of living did not. Most people didn’t care or notice they were living in a beige 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 indexed by the pigeons that roamed communal and public spaces. The façades of the houses in McKenna Terrace were painted in a jumble of bright colours like a sweet shop 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 were custard and the windows were a 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 painted in a minimal Mediterranean whitewash and was 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 found almost everywhere else. Not many people gained access to the path in front of or behind the houses. Barb made signs with a pictogram of a pizza delivery boy being attacked by a pack of dogs, and their owner joining 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 had made Puff paint their house black 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; Lorelei’s which was next door had acrid yellow walls with black windows upstairs, and rich viridian double doors on the ground level, 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, Puff, Malt, Lorelei, Hurbalin, Mr. Fabulous, and Amelia 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; elevating themselves from the scrutiny of the Systm and its corporate harbingers.

System Bomb

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 (as a vaccine) created a surreal yet appropriate visual for the final phase of the 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 their side effects had been turned into a complex business monopoly. Everyone knew they were being manipulated by the invisible hand, yet most citizens chose an owner and became their plaything. The plutocracy knew exactly how to harvest civilization and in return, they provided a matrix of products, celebrities, 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.” Hurbalin was still shocked by how the lives of the people had been cultivated, liquidised and tamed, to become the instruments by which new products were launched and marketed. The plutocracy had replaced need with want and most people didn’t even notice there was a difference.

Severed from light’s gift.

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. Chavers made up the majority of the population, but their ideology of not cowing dominion to authority was a provocative inspiration and so from its conviction, McKenna Terrace was born.

Minus the tracksuits.

Not yet anyway.

The impending choc–apocalypse the planet faced continuously created 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 up 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 that 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 minister’s expense claim forms, and just like that TheParty was over. Gone with a little pop, like a half–deflated balloon being nudged by a kitten’s paw. The debacle was only a decoy for the shadows to presume control over democracy by offering a solution: MYparty. The rebranding project had replaced the italicised ‘the’ with an uppercase ‘my’ and ‘party’ was now lowercase. 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. For Hurbalin the switch to ‘my’ suggested the end of change, the favoured illusory policy which democracy upheld.

Nws scrolled along the television screen.

The rescue plan was 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 country’s gold and property to sure-up the economy of zero growth. Within days the paper wealth Systm was worthless. MYparty’s 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. Nws repeated they were forever fighting the peoples’ corner for democracy and freedom, while at the same time creating the Systm by which control was maintained over them. Most of the people Hurbalin knew believed the Nws was 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 eye was wholesome family entertainment. The movie played out continuously through the television and finally gave birth to the New World Order. The problem: politicians could no longer be the trusted custodian of democracy. The public’s reaction (according to the Nws) was that: democracy must be rescued from corruption.

The solution?

Absolute power to the shadows.

End of Chapter 1.

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Forgetting McKenna Terrace


With deepest appreciation and gratitude for the mighty Bill Hicks, George Orwell, David Icke, Alan Watts, Bob Marley, George Michael, Black Jash, the beautiful voice and mind of Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Lynn McTaggert, Peter Joseph, Buffy Summers and the Scoobies, Alan Dale, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the Freedom Bookshop, Watkins Bookshop, students everywhere and the ever present, all concurring alchemical word magician Terrence McKenna. Thank you for your open hearts, wisdom, striking thoughts and outlandish wordship. Also, thank you Bob, you are simply the best.