By JL Bogenschneider
<em> children in dog sledge [Yukon Territory 1899]</em>
Gone mad on Beare Island, wot cheor!
In the middle of nowhere everything is middle They’d been ferrying across dark//chop waters for hours and longer than expected :: rough=weather :: craft unsteady Passage was cheap for a reason and the longer they were «all at sea» the less light was left Augerous clouds dark=scudded overhead Behrens kept using ‹squally› to describe the conditions whereas Boon didn’t care to describe anything :: all=anxious to arrive he leaned against the rail :: pointed prowlike to sight land Ensler sat below :: miserable [sailed less well than thought] Then there was the Mirabelle’s pilot :: impassive
The island emerged after time :: really they more arrived :: prophets to the mountain [Behrens called cliché] Boon announced what the pilot had anticipated a long time awhile :: Ensler remained below and oblivious :: the hail impenetrative of the cabin It was still a good ½ hour away :: they navigated to the shore all=caution :: Behrens and Boon taut autodidacts On the final approach the cloud aerovaporated and a piktcha'sun appeared Ensler vomited on & over deck then joined the others standing :: hands o/eyes :: not one of them had sunglasses [Ensler’s prescription was tinted]
The pilot sent them below to dock Each had a different idea of his name Ensler was closest with «Parkiss» The jetty was a solid timber :: ½ cut They were still unloading as Purkiss prepared to leave Boon threw the last rucksack to Behrens who caught it with elegance :: jumped pro=like from the boat Boon was navigator :: led the way
Behrens firstfoots the bay :: Boon reaches the hide Ensler comes up behind + breathless :: prays to Boniface Nonespoke during the hike :: nonespeak now Skyblack and tide'croaching :: they can't do much tonight Ensler sets up a stove :: burns the bacon but stomachsettled :: still eats By midnight they sleep :: by dawn they wake
o night! not silent but noiseful :: deafeningly=so and abounding with unfamiliars and strangeties :: each wakes then unwakes :: each feels in the interstices of sleep an uncanny dread :: the articulation of isolation
By dawn they wake and with the dark thoughts of the night :: dispelled :: the bedstuff putaway Telescopes + Binox are brought out Lunches prepared Coffee boiled. The hut is all steam :: the inside hottensup Behrens wipes the windows :: Ensler tests the equipment :: Boon prepares the log By the fullmorn they’re ready with a pair of field glasses each The silence in the wait :: the void + nothingness +
still becalmity infinite=zero blank vapid lull lacuna limbo-
is what [they don't realise] has brought them to the island The first five hours of the watch is made up of
fabric shuffles material shifting sighs sniffs snorts coughing + humming + passesusthat tuts coffeesips biscuitbreaks bone=easing backcracking false calls wind'stractions weather=notes ups+downs scratchings and gentle actions of consideration and grace until
Ensler has the first spot :: a victory :: and all three track the path of the single Skua from the middledist to the bay=edge
«Maybe it got lost Part of a convoy
«Not this far out Expect more.
«Not this time of year
«Both deluded Parasitic for sure
[Derisory hoots General camaraderie]
Ensler confirms it :: 2nd victory :: chalkitup :: and logs it Others before them have recorded their findings thusly
Scoter :: Ful' Blk :: Scoter :: 'mot :: Gt Black Back :: Glaucii :: Auk :: Lsr B.B. :: Herring :: R/T Diver :: R/Plover :: Snow Bunt' :: R/bill
and everything and so on and they have all this to look forward to
After the Arc. L/T there are more They take it in turns to log with no surprises [but of course :: the hope that The One will come] Communal activity Engagement Ideas like Brotherhood and Meaning and Shared Bonding Experiential Thing bob about like so much driftwood Types are called out :: recorded :: totted Fresh coffee is made & drank Lunch breaks out Oldbones are eased and they take it in turns to walkabout One always stays on standby because never=you=know except that Ensler thinks it unlikely :: Boon hopes against hope Only Behrens is a true believer
Ensler walks out first The air bites hard :: footfreeze kicks in Everything cracks brittle On the island is being like worlds apart from everything He thinks of explorers :: adventurers :: Ernst & the Shack Not even a fraction of men like these :: daytrippers & amateurs Still more than most do He takes from a pocket a phone Not meant to bring them [isolation :: the being of awayness] but each of them has :: unknown to the others Doesn't call but :: sends a message «modernday telegram» To one back home Niceties really :: journeysafe :: weathercold Nommuchelse to say Considers not sending then sends Communication for the sake of it but still :: important The need to reach out :: to exply existence Direct + overhead a caw More than A flight :: a flock He runs back to the hide :: shapedout and breathless :: neverreads the Message not sent
The other two are in place It's not his turn at the log He mantras names already named then [no-one else does] docks them with duty. Also begrudges Few things change The day ends early :: has to :: no light Still time to kill and they play cards for the sake of play Sparse conversation
«Let's bunker down
«The phrase is to "hunker down"
Things recur in the extreme of the a.m. except that Boon and Behrens both slept better whilst Ensler was wholly aware of the night The unsilence of silence The sightings start soon and they take off in earnest [but "Ernest” :: Ensler thinks] More of the same :: but many more :: with a few treats thrown in each so often and Ensler would take pride in his entering of Lapland Longspur into the log but that Behrens does it instead This time he’s the last to walk out :: further and for longer :: down to the bay :: always aware of being in sight of the /scope + Binox [but :: unlikely :: given why they are here Still :: the feeling] until he reaches the edge :: rounds the corner :: behind the bluff and then :: with his back to the rock :: feet almost in water :: looks out upon void + nothingness but also uncalm ocean and horizon / divided
The birds arrive :: they land :: and he takes a longer route to avoid disturbing them [He also checks his message :: but there are none :: refails to spot the Message failed] Behrens and Boon are tense=taut :: what if something had been missed ? Ensler returns :: says little :: takes up his spot More and more of the same :: which deadens and dullens things In the evening only Behrens and Boon play cards :: Ensler stares out the hide
Things re-recur in the a.m. although Ensler sleeps better than before The birds arrive noticeably earlier and moreover there are moreof Each biding and patient behind their lenses :: now noting for themselves to transfer to the log later Sounds heard during this period include mainly murmurings of Plover :: Guille :: Ringed :Red -throat :: Long-tail!- No=no False call Confirm Verify
All said :: a better day :: Ensler at ease In the evening they forget the cards but sit around passing a flask :: refilled throughout In the morning all sawheads and groans Nothing the essentials can't fix :: Behrens goes out for air :: Boon fixates overstove :: Ensler examines the log Disrecognises the contents
Larkspur : Gottentail : whaddya do with this ? :: Day 44 : extreme emotion : Gatterwikes flying low [20 ?? 30??] heavy cloud : sky seeden : Ensler forgone : all else be lost : Tallywhackentern 3 : expedition 0
«What’s an all this ?
«Naught to do with me
«Ditto my tweet
«Come on and have away Some idea of a joke
«Not my style
«Not even funny
Flips back :: older entries :: pen&pencil=faded ::
Who[so]ever runs aground and wishes to stay :: must tell the story of his life as if it were
the story of a stranger Schalansky oh’-10
On Bird Island it is mainly rocks, hard assiduous things that impede access and act in stubborn ways. The best way to traverse its breadth is to navigate its small-but-dense– forest is too strong a word. Through this thick foliage a short spring runs, from the remains of what might have been a mountain, once, to the corner of its most accessible bay, frequented by desperate isolation-seekers and keen [what other word would inoffensively describe such a breed?] ornithologists – twitchers; birders –
«Look=look though Your handwriting Boon :: no ?
«My god but yes
«But what ? And how ?
«Your work Behrens ?
«Then who – who – who ?
«It’s this island Didn’t Parkiss say before we left :: before we even hired him ? What was that thing :: whadditty he say?
«Forgone lad on Beare Island ?
«No :: four gone mad Thought it was some kind of children’s book Five Gone Dogging on Botany Bay
«Only three of us
«Still don’t remember though so forgone it is You’ve been having trouble sleeping
«Say what now ?
«True :: it’s true Waking dreams inta nightmares
«Of what ?
«Flocks and flocks
«Of what :: sheep ?
«Birds you turd The thing we’re here for
«Well and what of ‘em ?
«Birds and birds :: infinitely flocking :: here :: on us :: now
«The argumentum ornithologicum ? Not one not two but not clear and so infinitum
«Never quite saw it tbh
«And what’ve [we] said about abb.-ing yr speech ?
«More pressing Qs I think :: like what of this log ?
«Can we all agree that the work is not ours then ?
«Bar the evidence :: yes
«Not your style I think
A NATURAL PAUSE
«Meaning what then ?
«Meaning something afoot :: or aclaw :: or atalon
«Whatever :: something is up
«Whatta plan then ?
«Call for help ?
«And say what ?
«Call for Parkiss ?
«And say what ? And when did we all bring our phones with us anyway ?
«Well you said,
«Well you said,,
«Well you said,,,
«And so say all of us But what’s it gonna take for someone to act ?
ATTEMPTS ARE MADE
«Rocks all around
«Hey : I gotta message !
BUT WAIT, WHAT’S THIS ?
«Hereandtho’ lookitsee ! A Plumer
«Gaspish ! A Crested Sloughtail
«Fetch the log ! The Binox ! My sketchpad and pen
Berens, Boon and Ensler skedaddle Reform Recollect Times like this come along rare=o=rare And the birds they keep on coming :: Daddleswifts :: Torbers :: a clutch of Burndeckers :: a brace of Hemvervets More und more und more Ensler askew :: Boon in a fix :: Berens the only one with a «straight=head» wearing hardhat and weaving hereandthere The landing platform is scoured with shit :: the outcrop :: the sheenwall :: every surface that could be convinced to be horizontal is so Birds :: oh! :: there are burds man everywhere !
«Try hard=do hard !
«‘s no use
«Farewell fairfeathered friends
The low flutter of reversing wings :: foul fiends fill the bight :: landing all=a=landing Is this what the diaries spoke of ? Berens recalls a glint in the pilot’s eye :: not once did Parkiss look back as he motorsailed away What had they done and anyway to incur such a wrath ? But perhaps being :: not locals :: tourists :: with weekends clothes and welterweathers and abundance of time + disposables all=ing Happened a lot it did :: the old wickermen myths :: keep ‘em away :: keepaway
Ensler is laid out on the rock :: peckerish and guano’d Boon is fighting a losing battle with a flurried flock of Seagulls «sand ending» Nothing Berens or anyone can do He rushes a harry of longtailed Skarls and barely has time to appreciate their infamous marbled eyes Makes it to the cabin :: pulladoor & pushadoor :: stray wings strewn :: catch a young Paffer in the <bracket=hinge> squawkage=major complaint Nowhere but to run Tries the shortrange but who’s there to answer ? [no-one] Runs a-hither and a-thither in a very small space :: panic setting in :: never lost his head ‘til now
A Burnished Schooner shatters a pane :: followed by some sistren urging all=on :: pane break pane break pane break Berens grabs what he can :: rolls over :: rolls under :: ensconced beneath the bed and with the peckering edging closer he «diligently» completes the log for the next arrivals :: gotttenhelpem
why do we live like this ? Where do they come from? When do they leave? Gone mad on Beare Island What cheor ! Phenomenon :: phenomenon
rips out the incomprehension & hides it away The final entry recorded :: found later
For whom the nightmares have gently ceased
And his last words ::
unheard «My god
what has this island
done to us ?
JL Bogenschneider is a writer of short fiction, with work published in a number of print and online journals, including Ellipsis Zine, Burning House Press, 404 Ink, minor literature[s], PANK and Ambit.