RAW RAIN AND USED WICKS by DF Lewis
Known as the Wick Man because, being a purveyor of items which threaded, almost a Patron Saint of things-that-go-through-other-things, it was the most suitable name for him – or so thought the inhabitants of a City winding along the banks of the River Tiddle, a City called Abrundy.
Dressed as a Red Indian from the Old Wild West (but, of course, it was not Old nor, for that matter, even forthcoming), a twin tail of coloured feathers hanging from his headband and tossing brightly down his back, the Wick Man knew that festooned poultry legs extruded from the collective dreams of all his his Abrundy Tiddle customers.
Despite the gaiety of his demeanour to catch the unsuspecting eye, his was a humourless mind. He feared retribution if he should joke because, surely, life was circumscribed (like a wagon train) by the warmongering of Birth and Death, an dry dock of Time-Between so short it could only be taken seriously – or else what would life have been but a ridiculous scarecrow suit of flesh strung on a wooden cross of bones?
Philosophical implications never worried him, for everything seemed as logical as tomorrow immediately following yesterday: the use of others’ dreams merely a business practice, no more nor less than the survival of the spiritually fittest.
“New wicks for old! New wicks for old!”
Whatever his salescry, it was not a jest. He had stolen the idea from a dream captured one night, when only one of Abrundy Tiddle’s inhabitants was bothering to dream at all – something that often happened after long hours irrigating fields, sleep turning out to be too heavy for anything else but dreamlessness to sit easy upon their minds. This particular dream, then, of one who had not laboured sufficiently hard to ban dreams from watering his skull was a fairy tale about caliphs and rocs and lamps and High Muslimic … and treasure. Yes, treasure, somewhere deep down, further than the well of dreams seemed able to reach.
On morrow morning’s following, the Wick Man saw that unseasonable drought was flashing from the grey bandages of the sun-scorched sky – rippling, shimmering upon the brown walls of the valley, upon the marble onions of Abrundy Tiddle.
Likely not to do much business in such unlikely weather it would be the Weirdmonger’s own job to keep the wicks drier than the air around them. He decided he needed a new salescry for the other merchandise into which he often diversified on days like this. He was not frivolous enough to vend goods or bads so different from wicks, as to stretch the credulity of his pitch. He determined that “threadings” were sufficiently embracing as a genre to cover almost anything Tiddlefolk needed – such as twiney cotton to lace the buckskins, dolls’ clay fingers for little girls to glove, smoke to penetrate the old men’s pipes of inner peace, carefully moulded turks’ heads as overnight head-dress stands, even chains of endless indigestible provender to wind the labyrinthine intestines but, now most important of all, varied nurtured fluids to fill the flagons.
To young women of the attractive persuasion, the Wick Man sold himself.
The Wick Man, that night, dreamed for the first time on his own. He hoped to plumb the depths, seeking the treasure at the end of night’s rainbow. In the past, he had eschewed such trivial fantasising for fear of destroying his own steadfast self-image. He was a man of means: a man who decided that sleep, like Death, should be nothing but sleep. But, tonight, either by volition (or by some subconscious impulse – he wasn’t sure – to tap unknown sources for their merchandisable potential) he delved into his own heart deeper than he ever dared delve before.
He saw wicks burnt to a cinder, old women desperately trying to relight them so that they could eke out just a little more life before bed.
THE TREASURE MUST BE BEYOND THIS, SO DOWN HE WENT FURTHER.
He saw dead flesh woven with bones, poultry bones masquerading as a human baby’s.
THE TREASURE MUST BE NEAR NOW, SO DOWN HE WENT EVEN FURTHER.
He saw a line of decapitated heads which reared upon the feet growing directly from their necks and then did waddle and begin to eat other with dry-tongued relish, with the fastest eaters lasting the longest and, without bellies, only sicking-up was possible and, before long, tatterdemalion skulls with half-digested cheeks fought for each others’ neck muscles, becoming serried clottings of living gristle and, tail in mouth, the Long Worm waggled.
THE TREASURE MUST BE CLOSE, SO CLOSE HE COULD EVEN SMELL IT, LIKE OLD GOLD, SO DOWN HE WENT YET FURTHER.
He saw a plain peppered with wigwams and rain that swept it like acid, piercing then riddling the red skins with cores of pus.
THE TREASURE WAS FURTHER THAN HE THOUGHT, SO DEEPER HE WENT.
He saw screeching young women desperately trying to squeeze out yowking creatures from their innards … pointing to the Wick Man dreamer as the one who’d put such creatures there. “We told you that we’d no treasure inside our bodies,” they sobbed. So, they told him that he was no nearer his goal than before.
SO DOWN HE SIMPLY WENT.
Until, finally, he reached his own well of self: a man with a salesman’s soul, smiling and charming his clients, bobbing his head-dress in a world of machine and glass which he’d only recognised from the dreams of millions squared, across Time as well as Space as well as Spirit. He was a celebrity, a trivial human heart by-pass, a man with a trillion photographs and even more countless self-images. The man smiled as he rubbed himself vigorously, merely for a wet-squirt of a Genie to appear from his lamp.
As the Wick Man backthreaded at speed through the funnels of past and future dream, he was scorched to a cinder on re-entry. It was a pity: he had found a new more meaningful salescry somewhere upon his rite of passage, but he was destined never to use it. His deserted mind yearned for irrigable rain; Abrundy was indeed waterless, riverless, dampless, Tiddleless, throat-clogged with unripe riparian runes.
He must have realised he had been screwing against the thread, against the grain. Rain and brain. Scorched Earth policy. Piss-riddled airs and graces. Ouroboros.
His feathersprained head fell upon the pillow of down, dry smoke peacefully toying with his lips. He had known in his dream, if not in the soft wax of his soul, that Time was unworth the candlelamp.
The Long Baby slept easy for once, sufficient unto itself, ignoring the distant pitch…
“New deaths for old, new deaths for old:
Lamps for Hell have been too cheaply sold.”
(Published ‘Implosion’ 1996)