A(n Untitled )Dream
It was late summer, when everything that was colourful is fading, when the smell of sunshine being pushed underground becomes heavier, and when it is still warm enough for the during the day for the old and cool enough in the evening for the young. Where had she come from? We were in a basin in the hills and there was a lake at the bottom of it, and trees around all around, up to the rim. Beyond the top of the hills, it was a wilderness that ran on forever like caribou. The lake spread up the sides of the basin, not uniformly, but wobbling, slipping, sliding, it crept up and into the trees. The sounds within the basin were caught by the trees that moved in the breeze but did not whisper. The leaves had not yet begun to fall. Pale green leaves and perfect bark. The banks of the lake were young; not muddy but grass, as if the lake were new, or had swollen recently. It was quite something to see a lake that climbed up the hills. The light off a concave lake is a real cacophony of glitter and spark. We lived nearby the lake and we spent all day there. In the evenings we returned to wherever we had come from, to a diet of pasta and tomato sauce. The sky brooded grey and fast-moving cloudy; they rushed, bundling each other, the vapour rolling & tumbling. Through the lake ran a jetty. From the top of the basin down to the centre of the lake at the bottom, the jetty zigzagged. It was wooden and it creaked. The wood was worn from many feet but no one ever leaped off the end.
Throughout the day, different animals visited the lake. In the morning, insects arrived in their billions. They swarmed to and from the surface of the water, born from within and coming from without. They were noiseless. They were a piss-coloured mist above the wash. Their odour was overwhelming. Among them were tiny midges, pond-skaters, horse-flies, bluebottles, thunderbugs, hoverflies, wasps and dragonflies. They took everything out on each other; entire food chains rippling on & on. The insects attracted birds and by noon there were so many birds that not a patch of water was free from their feathers and paddling feet. All kinds of birds came down from the warm grey skies to feasts on the insects. They devoured and squawked. They became fat for migration. Wings fluttered aggressively against neighbour and the scene was chaos. Very quickly, every invertebrate was swallowed up and not a head, thorax or abdomen remained, but for translucent wings floating. The birds lazed after their meal. That is when, around four in the afternoon, things became nasty. In a flash, one bird was pulled struggling under. The others looked around, confused and startled. Then another, on the other side of the lake, disappeared in a rush. A third was engulfed by the water amongst the trees. Their eyes looked around but they did not know what was going on. One bird – a fledgling seagull – was taking off when it too was caught from something, its foot hooked and then that, too, was pulled underneath. Catfish! Catfish had waited, then risen from the depths to patiently claim their feast. Bird after bird disappeared in a flash. They flocks became terrified and tried to fly away, but there was barely enough room for it. They fought against each other with wing and primary; lifting themselves up, pulling the other down, unable to clamber up & away. The catfish who looked up could not wait any longer and rushed upwards, caught them and brough the straining winged beast below to drown or be eaten alive.
She and I watched the scene. A few of the birds made it away but not many. The clear sky was testament to the predators’ prowess, patience and their view from below. She and I sat on the jetty and observed. The fish were fed now and could hardly move. From exhaustion their enormous mouths gulped and plucked at the outside. They were huge animals and slithered all over one another. Their fins were like baleen. Movement and sloshes. They would have to wait for the next lot of birds, but until then they just wanted to get a bit of space in the crowded lake that spilled up the sides of the basin. She wore a shawl and she wrapped it around us. I cowered within it. I held her hands and kissed them. Our fingers were entwined. I kissed her hands and smelled them. I was weeping, she was not, and in her hands was some solace that I could not explain. It was not romance but a melancholy and encompassing comfort. I buried my head into her chest and stared at the bloated catfish in the lake. How pained my hands were! so dry that they cracked and bled. She kissed the top of my head—‘Come on,’ she said, ‘let’s go get you some moisturiser.’ We walked back up the jetty to the top of the basin. And then it was eleven-forty-five on a Sunday morning.