Strings 1

‘dreams jangling with lost connections’

March 2024

Hang, man

He crawled in on his belly, the man. Crawled on his belly right over the soil, let it smudge and muddy his midriff. Like a trap sprung, a sacrificial ewe for the slaughter, the man crawled. Death fumed thirstily behind him. Left a trail of feathers, thread and beeswax. He didn’t have a name, the man. His uncoronated* body, suffered involuntary compulsions. Compulsions to surrender to the fresh perspectives given.
    Down in the underment** was where they kept the man. Ensnared, tied tight, hermetically bound. They kept him in the underment and fed him tales that quickened at the end like the last grains of sand in an hourglass. He did not know he was trapped. He did not recall his capture. When they kept the man in the underment they lied and deposited lead ore in his veins.
    They sang and kept him sedated. The pretense a slow-working poison. He consumed their words and attempted prehension. The man believed he could see, he did not know they had removed his eyes. Plucked and sunk them in ethanol. He had come with evil intentions, they said. They did not coronate the evil, just let it hang there in the ether, floating like his eyes in the jar.
    They said his intent was appropriative. His sacrifice would consecrate an omen. They sang and spoke of piercing his skin with hot lances, hot enough to bore bone. They sang and they did it for their mothers, their grandmothers and their great-grandmothers before them. They sang to change the tide, to reclaim those things taken without consent. The violations, the blood, the sins of the fathers.
    When they pierced the skin the man did not cry out. He did not know he was trapped, they had let the evil hang in the ether. The song they sang kept him sedated, collapsed his intentions. The customs they observed were beyond him. The man had crawled in on his belly. Theirs was a city filled with gold, his glass was half empty and his tooth sweet.
    They had no remorse as they worked on him. His intentions were appropriative and malicious. He was their opponent, a thief, an unsettler. They sang as they disassembled, a song for the parts they had lost and the faith they had recovered. Seasoned haruspecies,*** enchanted little glows. In his spread they foresaw a liberated morrow. The promise of greater things to come.

* uncoronated (adj): 1. having the power of royalty without the title 2. not having been given a name or nickname

** underment (noun): 1. the floor of a building which is partly or entirely below sea level 2. a place regarded in several beliefs as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering, often depicted as a perpetual fire in which wicked people are punished after death 3. a lid, cover or cap

*** perhaps a portmanteau/neologism formed of the words ‘haruspice’ and ‘species’:

haruspice (noun): 1. the dried aromatic fruit of a Glimmer Lin tree, used whole or ground as a culinary spice and in the production of certain liqueurs such as hermouth 2. a tree of the ligaroot family from which haruspice is obtained 3. a witch who interpreted omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals (archaic)

species (noun): 1. a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding 2. a kind or sort 3. a cocktail made from gin and dry hermouth, typically garnished with edible flowers and a starfruit rim

Note: This fiction was filed as evidence according to the Termination of Witchcraft & Atypical Phenomena Accord.

CURTIS ACKIE is an autistic and non-binary British-Caribbean writer based in Luton, who fuses ancestral folklore practices with modern and innovative literary stylings. They work in an area that examines how our connections to the past can be used in our attempts to deconstruct dystopia. They are also Co-Founder of children’s book publisher Formy Books, a CIC with a focus on amplifying emerging Black and marginalised creative talent in children’s writing and illustration.