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hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-135 Image by Christine Renney

I have money now, just a few coins, and gripping them tightly, I delve deep into the lining of my coat as I walk. I work a coin between my thumb and forefinger. I take them out and move them from hand to hand. I thrust the coins deep into the pocket of my jeans only to take them out again and again. I can’t stop doing this, looking at them, checking.
I drop one of the coins and it rolls out into the road. I run after it, suddenly worried that someone will take it. I stamp down on it with my boot and, crouching down at the kerbside, I quickly snatch it back. I have wandered away from the centre and there is no-one around.
Rising I place the coin with the others in my pocket. I have an odd feeling inside. It is…

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GHOST LETTER 49

Chris R-1-134 Image by Christine Renney

I have stumbled away from the periphery, from the path I have forged by sheer persistence, by relentlessly walking. I look down at my feet and scan the ground in front of me. I am moving into the open and I have ventured out here before, onto these tracts of wasteland where something once stood. Houses, perhaps, or factories now demolished and all of the traces removed. Cement and brick dust have leached into the earth and the short and scruffy grass has a reddish tint.
I look up and in the bright sunlight I can barely see. I stumble again and, struggling to regain my composure, to get my bearings, I realise I am not invisible, at least not yet.

NOT WRITING

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-163 Image by Christine Renney

He rises early, keeping to his routine. It is still dark and in the lamp light he reads and he drinks copious mugs of scalding hot coffee. He makes his way back and forth, from the comfy sofa in the sitting room to the kitchen counter.
He re-fills his mug and he reads a little bit more but mostly he sits and he wrestles with his newest idea, with his latest piece of prose. He keeps a pen and pad close at hand and he works hard at stringing a few sentences together, at getting it down.
At least he did until a few months ago and yet here he is again, just before dawn not writing but struggling, still wrestling with something.

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THE EXHIBITION

Chris R-1-162 Image by Christine Renney

People were talking about the exhibition and not just on the Net. Everyone, it seemed, knew someone who knew someone who had visited and who had a story to tell. Someone who enthused excitedly about their experience and how the images that they had seen held a particular significance. Insisting, in fact, that the entire exhibition had been tailored specifically for them.
How could they know? This the question all the visitors asked. They had to wear a headset, of course, but even so ‘how could they know?’ This is what they shouted into the faces of the unbelievers, those who hadn’t yet visited, hadn’t yet made the pilgrimage. ‘How could they know?’
There wasn’t anything necessarily special about the images the visitors described. Nothing original or unique, they were a catalogue of the boring and the mundane; a turgid litany of still life’s, seascapes and sunsets, of cornfields and meadows with frolicking horses. And all of the images were well known, well, no actually that wasn’t strictly true. Many had been all but forgotten but all were recognised by the Art Establishment, were part of the canon as it were. It would have been impressive if just one of the visitors had described something that their Aunt Edith had painted herself, rather than a print of The Haywain that had hung above the fireplace in her sitting room, but this hadn’t happened, not yet.
For each visitor there was always one image that had extra special significance. Many claimed to have forgotten it and only when they saw it again did they remember. And it all came flooding back – the memories re-kindled were always positive as they were transported back to a particular time and place. A place where they had been happy and where they felt safe.

The Country was divided. There were the visitors and the unbelievers and the visitors had begun to dominate. Not surprising given that the exhibition was now almost everywhere. It was no longer necessary to travel to the capital as the blank canvasses now hung in all of the cities and in all of the towns. ‘Nowhere Too Small’ – this is what the organisers proclaimed. ‘Everywhere Matters.’
The visitors didn’t listen to the criticism and wouldn’t talk to the dissenters. Many had begun to re-visit, not because they experienced something new nor because they were able to resurrect other memories. No, it was always the same, a repetition and so still they continued to visit.

GHOST LETTER 48

Chris R-1-161 Image by Christine Renney

I have tried for so long to go unnoticed, to be unseen but I realise now that I haven’t wandered so very far from where people congregate.
I maintain a distance, yes, looking in from the outer edges as it were. But I haven’t turned my back and run away, although I could so easily do this and yet I remain here on the periphery. And there it is again, that word: PERIPHERY. It plays in my head, dominating my thoughts, a mantra – periphery, periphery – as I walk. But of course, a periphery, even one I have conjured myself must have a place, a somewhere that I can circle.

ANTI-BAD

Chris R-1-160 Image by Christine Renney

I once had the chip, the Anti-Bad. I was a petty criminal and a repeat offender and so was deemed suitable. Someone who couldn’t help but help himself. They made me an offer and I didn’t refuse. What choice did I have? The prospect of a prison sentence, of yet another chunk of my life, diced and cubed behind bars, was unbearable and so I chose the chip.
I didn’t read the small print but simply signed all of the documents and allowed them to insert the chip into the back of my head, low down and just above the neck, in a place where even now I still have a little hair left, and no-one can see the scar or would ever know that it had once been there.
I didn’t really believe the chip would work. If it did I was convinced that I could beat it or would be able to cope with the pain and discomfort, to manage it. The worst case scenario was that I would have to toe the line for a couple of years, go straight as it were. I was arrogant, cocky, they were the suckers and I was the one in control. How bad could it be? A few headaches and a little nausea but at least I would be out in the world and not locked up in a prison cell.
It was minor operation and relatively painless, performed at a private clinic. I was in and out in a matter of hours. I had to report in once a week but other than that I was set free, allowed to go wherever and do whatever I wanted. They informed me that I wouldn’t feel any effects from the chip, that it wouldn’t start working for at least twenty four hours.

As I walked away from the clinic my head was spinning. I was in a state of confused elation. I hadn’t expected this free time. It was a gift, a whole twenty four hours in which I really could do just as I pleased. My first thought was that I would go out that night and do a little breaking and entering. No, I would do a lot of breaking and entering, as many properties as I could manage, for as long as I was able. But of course I would have to wait until it was dark, until the early hours and this would mean wasting most of the time or at least half of it. All of the day light hours squandered. No, what I needed to do was to purchase a gun. I had a little cash hidden away in my room. I would steal a car and set off on a spree, robbing convenience stores and twenty four hour service stations, moving quickly and helping myself from the cash registers. I would build up the kitty, my nest egg. And whilst chipped, I would make use of these spoils and live in the lap of luxury.
But what if the chip did work and I wasn’t able to spend the money I hadn’t acquired honestly? I needed to settle and to clear my head.
I wandered into town and eventually I found myself sitting in the corner of a quiet café. I was annoyed with myself. I should have read all of those documents and if I had I would have been aware of this and I could have made preparations and planned something, something big, something swift and lucrative, a bank job perhaps.
And then suddenly I felt the pain in my head. It was searing, excruciating and although it had arrived suddenly no matter how hard I tried it didn’t dissipate, it didn’t lessen. And through the pain I became aware that the counter girls were staring across at me and, holding my head, I continued to howl

MY ANIMATION

hijacked amygdala

Chris R-1-157 Image by Christine Renney

If I could
I would recreate
a day from my life
for the Big Screen

My ideal film
would be an animation
in carefully selected shades
in carefully chosen tones
all of the colours
muted and dull

It would have to be
an average day
an ordinary day
a non-descript day
a routine day
an almost any day day
a grey day

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