Hugo Docking

The land of Deep Shadow

(An excerpt from Dustbeard – A radio play I started writing about a lone presenter stuck in an old radio tower on a post-apocalyptic island, with only old archived tapes from the past to keep him company. He uses the tower to broadcast a weekly radio show to the unfortunate inhabitants of the island.)

In a land far away from here, yet somehow, all so close. Small shadows mill and meander. They sit, and work, and dance and dream. They dream in shadows. Somewhere, in one unimportant corner of this shadowy world, a small shadow sits. Shadowy head in shadowy hands it weeps shadowy tears. They fall down it’s shadowy cheek like tiny ink droplets flicked from a shadowy quill onto blank, white paper. If you were to look for this figure, you would not see it for it sits, in a shadowy room, in a shadowy house on a shadowy street. Without this information you would be forgiven for seeing simply a blank black space, and you would think nothing of the oh so faint snivels, and the slow drips of muffled tears.

This figure knows nothing of our world, nothing of colour and of light. Yet we too know nothing of it’s world. We cannot see the intricacies and complexities of the darkness. We cannot see the shadowy roads in this shadowy world, with the shadowy houses and the shadowy streetlights which illuminate the town with deeper darker darkness. We cannot know why this figure is crying. We cannot ask it, as it’s language is so different to ours. It speaks in echoes, and silence.

The figure is deformed and twisted, as deformed as a shadow can be. If it could talk to you, which it can’t, if it could explain with animated gestures, which it can’t, it would say:

“Love. Love took them both away from me. Love equates only to un-love, from which only evil and madness can thrive. The origin of every tragedy is love, and love always ends in tragedy. We were always doomed. And now, I know only shadows.”

Then it would wipe it’s shadowy tear’s with it’s shadowy hand and continue to sit, alone in one unimportant corner of it’s dark, shadowy world.

And darkness was upon the face of the deep

(An excerpt from Dustbeard – A radio play I started writing about a lone presenter stuck in an old radio tower on a post-apocalyptic island, with only old archived tapes from the past to keep him company. He uses the tower to broadcast a weekly radio show to the unfortunate inhabitants of the island.)

It started with the agony of nothing, then the frosty terror, of SOMETHING. Experiencing something, when all you know is nothing, will shatter a sound mind into shrapnel. Everything, everyone we encountered on that first day of something was utterly terrifying. All we knew was fear and pain. Our senses were working but we didn’t understand enough to process the signals that our bodies were trying to send us…

Then for just a split second, our heads snapped up in synchronised horror,  mouths crooked and twisted and aghast as if struck by a sudden brutal divine force, it appeared we remembered everything. And we knew everything. Everything there was to know. Absolute knowledge. And then it was gone, leaving only a vague residue. A floating, half submerged feeling that there was something other than something. That we were someone, or at least used to be. All we had and all we were was a painful, raw, unbaked concept of a concept of memory and life. We stumbled around the island that day, unable to communicate or control the muscles that made our unfamiliar bodies do things. We just stumbled, and roared and moaned and rolled and shrieked.

Eventually we learnt to control our muscles and rise from the dirt and we learnt we had jaws and we started to speak and finally we could use the words that were singing round our minds but we had no idea what they were or where they came from and they were just terrifying sounds but we learnt how to recreate them, and after a while we realised that they were useful and we realised what they meant and that really we always knew. We took the shovels to our minds and tried to dig up anything from our past but we could not dig deep enough. The knowledge we craved remained buried and dormant.

People started to shrivel and die and then we ate them and learnt of the concept of hunger and of food. With full bellies we learnt that there were different types of pain, and some could be relieved, that the pain of starvation could be cured. And then with human flesh in our teeth and caught in our bloody nails we learnt of remorse, for which more flesh could not cure…

 

To have delighted in wickedness

(An excerpt from Dustbeard – A radio play I started writing about a lone presenter stuck in an old radio tower on a post-apocalyptic island, with only old archived tapes from the past to keep him company. He uses the tower to broadcast a weekly radio show to the unfortunate inhabitants of the island. This piece is one of the tapes he plays from our world, or as he calls it, “the land before”.)

If the devil is in the detail ladies and gentlemen, then the food here in Southern Vietnam is positively SATANIC. For the equivalent of one of your finest English pounds, you have access to a cornucopia of delicious offerings. I’ve escaped the tantalising chaos of HồChí Mihn city for a brief respite in the smaller city of Cần Thơ , located amongst the sprawling web of distributors at the end of the Mekong Delta. If you are lucky enough to find yourself here, ignore the tourist-trap ‘floating market’ – (which just consists of a couple of boats selling pineapples) and head straight for the bustling night market in the centre. What awaits is a sensory bombardment of LIFE and FOOD. A sizzling plethora of regional delicacies lye ahead, daring you to taste them all. The scents from all the different stalls almost overpower the fumes of the idling motorbikes, queuing in drones for their favourite snacks. Bodies and bikes, primitive gas grills and coal-fire BBQ’s turn the area to a burning, bubbling cauldron of untamed HEAT on this already muggy summer’s evening. Noise and sweat and colour rule divine. I dive straight into the rabid action like a fiend to hell.

The first stall I come to features rack upon rack of multi-coloured meat and other mysterious food-stuff, neatly arranged on long skewers. I point at five. The obliging seller nods and thrusts all five into a billowing grill before presenting them to me with the occult flare of a practised sorceress. I play Russian roulette with these uniform-looking balls and cubes, not knowing what taste explosion will befall me next. The strangely fishy-tasting, pale cream spheres, turn out to be the bullet in the loaded gun. The rest are delicious. I figure four out of five isn’t bad going,and release myself into the baking throng once more.

The next stand features a crooked temptress hunched over a hissing circular slab. She wields a strange device as a cooking utensil,which looks like it would be more at home in the hands of a warmongering general; moving military units around a map in a tent on a war-torn battlefield. She spins thin dough, infused with prawns and spices and vegetables, onto her scolding slab and, using this device, she spawns what looks like savoury crepes with unholy precision. Within no time at all I have one of these beauties nestled in my hands, and it does not disappoint. Crispy, yet moist, and packed full of intense flavours. I close my eyes as I slip into a state of bliss and hear, somewhere far away, the temptress muttering ‘Bánh Xèo’, which I will later find out to be the name of this gorgeous dish.

I leave that burning furnace full of food, spiritually drained and totally awe-struck. No more wasting away in a padded box playing mindless music and empty sound effects with “The Jam Man”. I have found life, here in hell, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.