Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Homunculus

The homunculus is crawling on the floor of the study, crawling toward the bookshelves perhaps, for books to chew on, crawling over well-waxed (albeit warped) boards. The homunculus has no particular purpose, and presently turns its attention to the desk, where the Father is working. The homunculus pulls itself up with webbed fingers, hooked over the desk’s handles, handles that clatter clangily; the homunculus, head awobble; the homunculus, lips all drooly. The homunculus is raised, one-handed, to sit on the Father’s lap, and utters neither squeak nor mewl, but flaps uncomprehending, veiny eyelids – as if to scoop up the words on paper, unless those tremors are external signs of inner cogitations: pondering the words trickling from pen, the pen’s mining of colour from the page. Meaning will be arrived at, in time. The homunculus reaches, web-fingered, for the page, and is gently raised from the Father’s lap, and then lowered to the floor, where it finds its feet, literally (plucking at toes), and then figuratively (waddling off). The homunculus has been walking some months now, but has yet to manage a sound that cannot be attributed to gastric processes. This homunculus isn’t the first attempt, and may not be the last; the materials were crude. It is capable of spindly-limbed locomotion, but the mouth is only a narrow slot, no teeth or tongue evident. The sound it makes, attempting to swallow, is gruesome. The homunculus is one year old.


The latest homunculus has been more successful; the ingredients were refined, transplanted swiftly, the utterances delivered with more confidence and fluency, having reconstructed the ancient accent, to reflect its musicality – its likely cadence and tonal glide. The homunculus has a clipped fringe, clipped too short, to correct mis-clippings when it wriggled beneath the sheers. The homunculus huffs when forming words; its hands twist-about, like birds adjusting their wings before settling in the nest. This only happens when no-one is watching, no-one who might slap it, to keep still. The homunculus is practising its name; its name the name of a general who subdued the lands of the East, and ceased the bloodfeuds of a dozen nations, their star now fallen. The homunculus understands more than it can express back, but not yet why it should or might do so. Does it, then, understand?

The whore behind glass twists expanses of pink flesh in a lazy parody of pre-orgasmic nerve-tingles. Her success with customers is largely dependent on a mathematical function of sobriety offset by remaining cash; expertise vis-à-vis seduction is comparatively insignificant. Her wink at potential customers is too fast when she does wink; it seems, instead, more of a spasm. The homunculus is the recipient of the wink; or at least, the present homunculus. The homunculus is surrounded by a group of male humans, who can be presumed to be indifferent to the presence of a homunculus in their midst, unless any of them happen to be homunculi, which cannot be ruled out. Does it feel special, for having been winked at? Chosen? The homunculus bloodless. The homunculus static. The homunculus, reflected, framed by the same frame that is the view of the whore. The homunculus superimposed on the whore. The homunculus shuddering.

The resemblance to a Rorschach test is striking; the symmetry of the involutions within the oval outline, for a start. Almost as if this image is a Rorschach test (or a maze – mazes are a familiar test, too), the shapes of words triggered by the symmetrical pattern, animate the lips of the face regarding the jar. The cross-section through the cerebrum reveals all the major structures are intact. Previous jars do not contain quite so elegant – or symmetrical – specimens. The homunculus is being shown its predecessors. There is an unoccupied container at the end of the row; “…you were more successful than anticipated…”


The girl has been waiting 25 years, a quarter-century, a generation, a mediaeval lifetime… and all for this? The girl is cold, her hair slightly curled from the damp; not details that factored in her imaginings. The girl has been shuffled between tutors, and elocution-specialists, and teachers, and has performed what is expected of her, and has watched the ways of others (others with girl-shapes, at least); watched how they pair off, and has come at last to her own moment of purpose: on a bridge, nightbreeze in hair & dress. Opposite her is the homunculus – the 8th or 10th in line (she lost track of his rambling biographical account & witticisms & anecdotes, and wasn’t exactly listening, though she nodded politely; just remarked that she’d never met someone with predecessors – a number after his name), and while it seems antiquated, pretentious even, she gives his pedigree the benefit of the doubt, and says Yes with lips, and Yes with hands, and Yes to herself inwardly; Yes, this is the end of her own waiting, for better or for worse; Yes.

[Scribbled wild-eyed & frantic on a stack of beer-mats, cross-legged & cackling on the floor of a pub in Amsterdam, during the Holland vs. Russia match, Summer 2008.]

1 comment:

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