Nacimiente Boulevard

A short story to celebrate World Book Day




The mob is coming. They will break down her doors and walls and carry her to Nacimiente Boulevard to hang from the white oak. To rot, crisp and husk in the sun.

            Limbs constricting skin pulled tight like grey gloves lips drawing back exposing black gums and loose teeth. They’ll come and pluck those teeth and grind them up in a meal-tin and sell them down the valley to traders who pass through in furs with wild beards and long knives.

            She’ll know little but the rap on her door and a tap with the hammer dim jerk on the neck snapping tight so tight.

            But this be Gitty.

            A woman who lies awake with mad thoughts being possessed and assailed by a hundred demons and as many angels, who stalks outside of her body and hunts through the fieldgrass in the forbidden north and sees The Landlords and their slaves riding stags, hunting men red-mouthed across the flat terraces of the destroyed highlands and she becomes the men and the stags and the swaying clumps, the individual blades of grass themselves as she rises and falls, calling out sometimes on her voyage and passage of greater and wilder insight.

            With strange dreams reflected in the orange suns of her tranced eyes she climbs like a bird beyond the house in its rocky upland defile, beyond the wrecked and wretched earth with its rivers of sand and pathetic tribes, into a void packed full of spirits teeth straining like a mad horse in a boiling, gritted hell, wet sweat white against the tight-clamped muscles of her thighs.

            The mob gathers before dawn.

            Dull scrape of steel in the weary dark. 

            A cluster of huts encased in a dead cupola at the brow of a small mound located south of where Birmingham once stood; a village called Round Barrow for its circle of stripped bare oaks. The pincushion sky spits the first drops of a second monsoon among the furious throb of cicadas, the lazy flicking of cat tails in the little-stirred dustbowl of the valley. The desert is creeping up from the South, from the Shineland.  

            Upward climb the mob towards the threat of rain. Above the village and close to the summit where the sun hangs close to a lonely plateau bereft of anything but snakes and a single dwelling flush against the upward slope. 

            This is the house where Gitty lives.

            Outside the lines, beyond the boundaries of the Barrow, visited often in secret by women, taunted by children and despised by men. For a long time the village and she had existed in uneasy alliance for she had the ways to deliver a child. And any community calls for new blood, in the fresh faces to see their own survival.

            The mob carries hammers and axes and a rope.

            They bay in a soft chant for blood, food for Monech the unslakeable goddess of death, the death of an outsider, the rightful slaying of an oddball nondescript interloper banned from the castes and safety of the village. They come to maim and subdue, to drag a carcass back, to sacrifice another to the hot sun imploring a respite, to let their crops grow and their children be born strong and healthy with all four limbs.

            Not like the one she pulled out.

            Not like Tiger’s child with his weeping little eyes and misshapen legs and lung fused to his chin who could never even breathe at all, who Gitty never even gave a chance to cry out and crawl across the floor mewling every note. The midwife has murdered her, came the call. Gitty has killed Tiger’s child.

            See Tiger Generator wasn’t any old village maid. She was the wife of the fat demagogue who ruled the barrow by force. The son of the chief is dead. Gitty has murdered the son of the Snow Yang.

            Snow Yang said:

            “The blood needs to run in rivers new before the second monsoon. Time has come to pay. Take the steel and the bone-knives and the razors and the last guns, take the scald-pan and the bleach and the noose. Pull her down from her upside lair and rid the barrow of this whore once and for all. Do this for me my folks and we will have a righteous time of harvest and bull-blood and orgies into the dying night. Do this and the sun will ease back and the rain will fall soft and slight, the green will grow and the oaks will have new leaves again. On a roll now. We’ll feed the roots of the white oak with her blood and, brethren all, she will grow again.”

            So they yomp single-file through the narrow defiles of the malformed terraces, the rice paddies put up before the strength of the sun, past burned-out and deserted hovels flush with the scent of rape and murder. Upward still, witnessed by a wire-boned fox with three legs. Up the hill to the very zenith of the summit under a dawn screaming for blood itself.

            Tiger tossed and turned, far below on her lissome bed, as the mob split and pincered, separating into a lissajous figure, dual harbingers of the hunt, mad about the sparse scrub straying wildly with their improvised weapons. There were children too with wild eyes like forgotten suns and sharp little teeth bared in anticipation of the spilling of blood. They came at her hut like a pack. Running madly on the still-grey dust, kicking up silent rivulets - rose to settle, hacking at the air.

            For in each of their hearts was fear.

            Snow Yang was as unseen as Tiger Generator. Morbidly obese he could do little but feed on the spoils on his tribe, ruling them with intellectual savagery and the iron fist of his family. Yet his spirit rushed through the veins of each of them, driving them onward and upward, to the place where Gitty was.

            The first thing that quailed them for a flush was the hawk. Riding an invisible thermal from a wind no human could see she screamed out her warning. “That be Gitty’s eyes,” said one. “Come for us, she will, in our beds. Whether we noose her or not,” said another.

            It was the westward column that was stopped before they even reached Gitty's house. The interruption to their giddy march was the possession of an illegitimate child. From high marching wooden sword waving splendour to the confines of the ditch growling. She came up spitting redmouthed raging tongues, torn by briars, taken suddenly by some esoteric malevolent spirit marching subterranean through the stricken land with ill, ill intention. This is what she said:

            Go back

            Go back you wastrel fools

            She will turn each of your hearts to poisoned waste.

            Black will burn your corpses

            A burly widearmed man, a survivor of the battle for London, stepped to her with his chipped axe raised against the screams of the father who knew she was not his.

            “She has taken the soul of the child.” Someone screamed. And sure enough the little girl’s cheeks seemed to burst with venom as she howled in vitriolic rage at her assailant. Taking up a stick she stabbed him in the stomach as her father reached her and swept her up and away and the man with the axe was restrained, clutching at the spreading patch of blood at his midriff.

            “She can take each of us at any time.”

            “We should go back right now and pretend we never wanted to kill her.”

            “Hush you fool! Her ears are everywhere.”

            The hawk screamed from somewhere overhead as the first rays of sun broke over the land. The monsoonal clouds hovered overhead, threatening to break at any moment. One of the vanguard of the eastern column fell to his knees, clutching at his eyes howling pain. So close now they could see the hut shrouded in its little defile they stepped by the man, gaining momentum, hefting and raising their weapons for the siege.

            From nowhere came the song of a wolf. A black cloud swept across the sun and as the two columns met there was a peel of thunder that made the earth twitch with its incessant anger, changing the patterns of the dust. Inside the hut, Gitty clutched her face in her hands, felt the urgent calling of the landscape. It could not now bear to give her up.

            She who had called the moon in the daytime to dance about the high plane with eyes glowing orange like a madrigal cat. Gitty with her magic hand who could pluck a child like a blackberry from the broken body of a mother in a land with no anaesthetic. She did not weep for herself but for them, for their forsaken spirits, for the hell that would rain upon them. The first axe splintered the tarred timber boards of her door, busting out the hinges in a rain of rotten wood. Shadows of the cave and the mob drew back at the violent stroke, waiting to see what came from within, drawing now with a single breath.

            The possessed child in the arms of her father began to gabble in tongues. Help me, help me, do not blame me, save us, save us. She implored the naked ground in a stream of invective. Then darkness swept upon them and it seemed to the mob that faces lunged at them from the black earth with violent rows of teeth and ruby eyes. The rain fell in a tropical mass and from the back of the crowd some ran onto the plateau and were swallowed by the sudden night. The sky boiled, the tempo of the thunder increased.

            The hawk dropped and clutched at the eyeballs of the man on his knees and his screams reached out and lashed each of them in turn. Tiger Generator moaned and turned in her bed below.

            Those children that Gitty had touched sprung red sores everywhere her hands had been, clapping at themselves like they had been stung by a hundred wasps. A tall figure seemed to stalk among the mob, standing close up against them, whispering foul and cold thoughts into their ears, plucking at them and harrying them until none could remember their task or why they found themselves in this fragile hell of night. It became quickly clear that no dawn was coming for their salvation. 

            A pack of starving plain dogs poured through, biting lowered hands to rob fingers and carrying away stray figures from the side of the crowd, howling as they went, led by a single white wolf immaculate and pure until he came close enough to see his collar of bones and his plaited mane of bound and broken skulls. Sometimes he walked on two legs and became a brother to the tall man, wearing a great white coat streaked with blood. It is the chaos wolf and brother madness, went the screams.  

            Gitty came through her broken doorway.

            Long afterwards the few survivors, those the grim figures did not take or who were not driven mad by the light that burst from her, who the black earth did not simply absorb in a cannibalistic frenzy, would tell the story of her appearance to the frightened remnants of the The Barrow as the rain beat hard about them for the months that followed and they prayed for the sun to show her face for a single second.

But she did not. 

El Desheredado (Pigeon 33)


Tesla, you don't understand our American humor”. Thomas Edison


On rare days the sun would reach into the suite on the 33rd floor, beating city dirt and the protective shroud of many curtains to cast around inside the room. The windows were a risk, but he had to keep them open for the bird. The danger of open access to his interior world was obvious. On this particular day a diffuse patch of light had cheated the curtains, dived through the makeshift lattice of drapes and shawls and lit up the face of the man. Before him on a smoked glass table sat 33 matchsticks, arranged into peace symbols, 3 per shape. The man gazed at the matchsticks and ruminated, waiting for the flutter that would herald her arrival. 

Each day the pigeon arrived at the same hour, 3.33 pm. In the 33 minutes running up to the momentous hour, the man would halt the entire complex labyrinth of his work and take one matchstick away from the group per minute. This was his daily release as he awaited instructions from the pigeon, and with the furore and complications surrounding his most recent invention, it was a much needed distraction. The pigeon had her own routine. Unlike the grey multitude (who he loved also, though not to the same degree) that waddled on his windowsills and shat copiously, his pigeon simply hovered at eye level, the beautiful white form gently entering his room and alighting on his desk. Recently, however, the pigeon seemed tired.

The man would cross the spotless living room of his two-room suite, and throw back the drapes before she arrived. The curtains were essential, he reassured himself, despite the elevation of the hotel room. Without them, who knows what devious methods they would employ to steal his ideas? The man would then converse with the pigeon for three minutes. Once the conversation was over, he would produce some of his special seeds, count out 33, and drop them for the bird to eat. The pigeon would then take to the wing and dive away from the ledge, sailing out into the New York afternoon. She arrived whatever the weather, invisible against the windowsill snow, lit up by the early death of the winter sun. Without the pigeon, the man knew, he was nothing.  

For some time, the pigeon had been coming inside his room, to truly share the ideas he was seething with. The charged particle beam had consumed him. He knew that there was a limited amount of time remaining in which he could complete his plans, and without the support he needed he must do it alone. Even despite his treatment at the many gloved hands of the world, the man was surprised by how difficult the negotiations for his most recent invention really were. Theoretically, the concept was valid. The directed-energy weapon was, in his mind at least, capable of firing ultra-concentrated energy through the air. He smiled as he shuffled the matchsticks.

In his mind, the superweapon could bring world peace. Of course, the experimental laboratory could not be housed within the suite, but was nearby, 33 blocks away to be precise. There, the open-ended vacuum tube sealed by a gas jet could charge particles with innumerable volts. Using electrostatic repulsion, his weapon would be the prize of any defence department. He was considering the current negotiations with MI5 when the telephone suddenly sounded. He frowned, hating the interruption to his routine.

He reached the telephone within two rings, but he let it ring a third time before picking up. He was silent, holding the receiver away from his ear and mouth. He had wiped it just that morning, yet he wasn’t entirely sure whether it still looked clean.  

“Nikola, it’s me.”

Her, again, when would she understand? He wished that the ‘Do Not Disturb’ that he had placed on his door and never removed could extend to the telephone.

“Are you alright?”

He maintained his silence.

“What are you doing?”

Eventually he responded, very quietly.  

“Waiting for my friend to arrive.”

She sighed, was silent herself for several seconds.

“How is the work?”

He thought he heard some kind of interference on the line, looked at the receiver quizzically.

“I must go, the bird will be here soon.”


He hung up and went back to his matchsticks, moving three at a time to make up the lost minutes. He thought of all he had accomplished and all that had been torn from him. His precious ideas, the inheritance he would leave to the world, and he wondered what it had all been for? Had he really changed the world as he intended? Had he used his unique understanding and creative brilliance wisely? It certainly didn’t feel like it. He was sinking, and without the pigeon the strength that had propelled him through the maelstrom of life would evaporate, diving away from the ledge like the bird herself.  

3.33 pm came, and the man went to the window and opened the curtains. The room, three desks adjoined and heaped with paper, suddenly opened up to the sun. The bird was late, which had not happened since the start of the routine around three years before. The man made a note to check the exact calendar date, a bit over three years, he expected. The bird arrived around three minutes later, three minutes and thirty-three seconds, according to his stopwatch. It flew uncertainly into the room and weekly circled three times before alighting on his desk.

It was not any old white pigeon. The bird was absolutely beautiful. Taking the 33 seeds from his pocket, the man counted them onto his desk – 3,6,9 etc. The bird would not eat and so the man went to the stove, where he kept a large pot of boiled water. It was freshly cooked and could not be contaminated, it was good enough for the bird, the man thought. He reached out and touched the light grey wingtips and thought about what a particle beam would do to those feathers. Of the thousands of pigeons he had nourished and cared for over the years, this was different. He crooned to the bird: “Magnificent girl. What can I do for you? How can I help you?” and the bird stared up at him through impenetrable eyes and it barely moved. Despite her sickness, however, the man had never seen a whiter pigeon. She was so white that there was no chance of impurity, so white he could stroke her and know she was clean.

For several days the man stayed beside the bird as she became weaker and weaker. Her illness was obvious and permanent and although the man did not know how much longer it would be he maintained a constant vigil. Over time, it became clear that she would die, and the man watched her intently, waiting for some signal that it was near. He watched very closely, as if waiting for a message. All of a sudden the room was lit with an intense ray of light. Was it the particle beam of his imagination sprung to incinerate his workings? It was so bright and pure, the man had to shield his eyes and turn his head away. He had never seen or created anything so piercing. When he turned back, the white pigeon was dead. He took the tiny body and placed it upon the window ledge. He started to say a few words about returning to the air, but he could muster nothing. From that moment forth his curtains were open. The fight was gone from him. Beaten ragged by a world without credence, the pigeon was the final breaking point. The man sat slumped and dejected in his chair. Sometimes he would turn to the window in hope, but the bird was gone.


Red is the cold dawn

(From The Dictionary of 26 Nothings)


Irving Goya had been holed up in the tiny room above the Boulangerie on Place de Liberation all day. He had chosen the situation badly. Despite the village being virtually inaccessible, the Quartorze Juillet Festival was impending and the place was crawling with tourists. He came in on the Col de Babou, a treacherous pass away from which fell great swathes of wild France. He took the corners at speed, trusting more and more in fate. It was no place to escape. Goya had heard American accents on the boulevard that morning and upon fleeing in terror had spent the rest of the day inside attempting to write. Therein lay the problem. After Blind Heart, his fingers had taken on the properties of badly melted lead, heavily refusing to type. He had expected this French village deep in the Var to unblock him. It had not. 

He had invented and fallen in love with a character, Methtrash, and her cat, Ogilvy. Somewhere in the shadows lurked her father, an itinerant surfer living from an RV called The Wreck. Goya spent hours each day thinking about Methtrash. How alone she was, how hopeless her life seemed, what she was afraid of. Yet when he attempted to recreate this on paper, he found that he could not. Therefore he spoke to her in long, meandering sentences in which he spoke both their parts. When played out like this the dialogue was pithy, sexually charged, breathless in its intensity and pace. He simply could not find the story. So it sat stillborn, waiting.

His vanishing act had worked. He had disappeared the author of just two pieces of published writing: Vulture (a short story printed by Antediluvian Press as a limited-edition chapbook), and Blind Heart, widely hailed as one of the most powerful books in the English language. When he left, it had been translated into eighteen languages and spent twelve weeks capping the best-seller list with no sign of budging. Everybody was delighted, apart from Irving Goya. Leaving his newly recruited publicist, who was the best in that nebulous realm, to spread wild and unsubstantiated rumours of his demise, he had spent a week at the Centre of Universal Truth and then slipped out of the country, travelling under a false passport and an assumed name, rolling in disguise across borders, staying in small hotels and renting a variety of different cars with one shared feature – the ability to run fast.

He stayed up through the long nights of a European Spring, visited a Fiesta in the Picos De Europa which lasted a week and culminated in a day lost in the forest under the thrall of DMT. He was at the School of Rearranged Senses in Berlin when the bust happened, but he slipped out. He slept some nights in his car on the open road, pulling over and falling asleep from exhaustion. Other nights he checked in as Heathcliff, Obadiah Grave, various identities arriving late with no reservation. He spent euros fast without calculating the exchange rate and ate in anonymous restaurants seeking only the company of other people to observe. Never to communicate with, only to watch and watch and try to understand. And when some event transpired to inspire him, he would reach for his pen and scrawl notes on whatever was to hand: napkins, beermats, even the tablecloth of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. He actively avoided his European friends and family, all labouring under the belief that he had been taken by a shark, died in a freak lacrosse accident, was missing presumed dead in San Francisco.

Once he thought he saw his first wife, Florence, across a crowded Auberge. She was sweeping the floor with her hair in scarf and looking melancholy. He left at once and drove hard out of town. He had wound up in the Var whilst heading up the coast, attempting to divert around St Tropez. Everywhere, Blind Heart pursued him, copies appearing on tables, in cafes, one even deserted in a Berlin penthouse with the inscription on the first page: To Julietta, this will change your life. In a fit of pride he signed it and started to read the first chapter. It became increasingly painful.

The village appealed to him because it made little attempt to attract a tourist. It was quintessentially and effortlessly French. He spent his days in the Tabac, smoking strong Gitanes and drinking murky Pastis which an Arab waiter brought to him without any signal between them. It was here that Methtrash had manifested herself, perhaps in the sway of some short skirt or the bat of naïve eyelashes. Goya hallucinated her, a technique he had learned during the writing of Blind Heart. From his tiny room he stared down at the square, saw her coming and going between the Chestnut trees and the Town Hall that crowned the place. He spoke to her in fitful starts.


Everywhere I go my dreams are dying. Each new person I meet convinces me that this is it – we are beyond redemption. Are we?”

“My daddy always said dreaming was a waste of a good night’s sleep.”

But dreaming isn’t a choice, Methtrash. All I wish is for the world to be right. To make the right choices.”

“If you got the freedom to make choices, well you’re the lucky one, honey. Where I live there are no choices and no way out.”


And so on. In these discussions she revealed tantalising glimpses of her character; what she could become given time. Some oracle voice for the world. A crier for the downtrodden and the oppressed, a channel for the grief and sadness and slapdash horror that harries the secure and besieges the damned. And all for what? Goya asked aloud, his voice flat and muffled in his cube. For what this inequality, this striving necessity to rise? Methtrash, looking up from the very bottom through huge, unblinking eyes like river pools.

Somewhere in those eyes was salvation. What he had started with Blind Heart he could finish with this. The thought gripped him in sudden ecstasy and he stood and gave a twirl and bow, like a conductor before a rapturous audience, taking credit for his instruments. My stories are sticking plasters for the world. With words I have the infinite capacity to heal.

Periodically these fits of overwhelming self-confidence were replaced by spirals. Every word of Blind Heart committed to memory through tireless re-writing. How he had soldiered, nursing the story through one, two, three permutations. Alternative endings, dead-ends, characters instantly disliked and abandoned. But in that process there had been some crucial expulsion – the evaporation of his energy, sweated out into keyboards, through pens, any channel possible to lay it down with some rich groove in incandescent bursts. This is the closest I will ever get to truly living, Goya had realised with shock one morning. I am nothing without this. But Methtrash was promising something still more, some extra layer of involvement, hideous in its power. Goya wrestled with it night beyond night, angrily trying to control the flames. Whilst Blind Heart was written in euphoria whatever came next had greater significance and some unquenchable evil at its heart – not simple mischief but blind, cold evil. Gradually the destructive core of it ate at him and he had to take to the streets and wonder into the Moor quarter, through those impossibly narrow alleyways that are dark in the midday sun. Head down, the collar of his jacket pulled up high and tight around his neck like a noose. Methtrash again:


“Out there beyond my dreams there is nothing. Big, giant empty nothing. No sound, no shapes, no sky.”


Then the unexpected:


“But there are other people there. Nobody you can see and identify, nothing on which to build a friendship. Eyeless shadows.”


“So this is where we are going.”


“This is the necessary future of the world.”


The thought caused him to lie poorly in his bunk for days considering this life with fevered terror. When he regained lucidity the festival was upon him. Le Quartorze Juillet, the town bursting with energy, the fountain flowing red with wine and the promise of a long night of chaos and beautiful decadence, handled in that uniquely contemplative way that the French adopt to celebrate. How things change in a year, he remembered that girl from Antediluvain Press just a year before, when the world was stuffed full of hope and nothing more.   

Later that night with Methtrash at his side he took the sleek, black rental whose marque he had not even checked and drove into Marseille, sleeping in a graffiti-scarred street whose only salvation was silence. Was he Irving Goya, provider of dreams through which any soul could slip through their own net? Was he Irving Goya, hermit and fugitive bound by Blind Heart to wonder forever seeking opportunity for another story of parallel consequence? Was he Irving Goya of the mind, due to court and chase this fugitive character until her final, glorious manifestation in flesh? Goya fluctuated between his many roles, like us all. Searching, like us all, for a sudden burst of meaning upon which to sail clear, however temporarily, from the awful pursuance of time, this his 21st Century nightmare.

In the end he broke down, literally and figuratively, drove the car out of gas on some remote stretch of Italian road. He wrote 666 words in ten minutes, Beak 666. Got down on his knees in the aromatic dust, the midday sun beating merciless upon him, and he wept and pleaded with her. Show yourself to me, let me understand you. But she simply turned her face to the side, looked out over a Tuscan valley, harboured her dreams and encapsulated his desires. How can you understand me, when you do not understand yourself? And it seemed in her speech that the message was intended not just for him, but for humans conglomerate and universal and the message, though it was spoken by her, came from the world itself. Goya continued on foot, the indents of his tears quickly seared dry in the heat. He walked without knowing whether she would follow.