After The Returned Recluse’s Interruption of Dalton’s Lecture (itself, I’m sure, soon to be canonized as a town holiday, commemorated by a pageant of some sort, if it hasn’t been already, indeed, if tonight wasn’t itself the pageant, with the original event either purely hypothetical or centuries or millennia old), occupied by the question of “What is Island Noir?”, Big Pharmakos and I end up in a midnite movie screening that must have been arranged precisely to answer our question:

 

So what is Island Noir? Well, The Wicker Man is a good answer, that’s for sure.

 

For the first hour+ of the film, Big Pharmakos and I are bored out of our minds. And then something changes, abruptly, and we’re something else out of our minds — not scared out of our minds, per se, or maybe we are, or something close to that. Whatever we are, we’re not in our minds by any stretch.

 

In the period following the ending of the film, we and the other visitors in the theater (there are only a few, clumped among the seats, which are laid out like pews or are pews) stand speechless.

 

 

We’ve all just collectively witnessed the awful spectacle of a guy “Keeping his Appointment with The Wicker Man.”

 

After the others have gone but before the lights come up, that Scottish sun setting malevolently over the sea and the end credits, we rummage up the makings of a plan.

 

“What is it?” I ask Big Pharmakos.

 

“Well,” he begins, “I think we need to go there.”

 

I know where he means but, sensing some need for it to be asked, I ask, “Where?”

 

“To the island,” he responds, “To Summerisle. To Keep our Appointments with The Wicker Man.”

 

I shiver at the thought of the cold sea journey, and the cold of arrival.

 

“I sense,” he continues, as the theater lights come up, “a kinship between us and that place. I believe that Summerisle may be The Pagan Dodge City. Every city has its Pagan Analogue,” he explains. “Every Christian city, at any rate, just like every Christian book. Dalton once, for example, spent many years attempting to write The Pagan Ulysses, until it was convincingly demonstrated to him that Ulysses is its own Pagan Analogue. At least that’s how he justified quitting the project. Perhaps he simply didn’t have what it took. In any case … ”

 

“Summerisle won’t,” he picks up, a moment later, “look any different from Dodge City, but it will be. It will do us good to go there. It will help us gain perspective on the coming of the Night Crusher, not to mention the Fingerprint Man, who’s also … ” here he trails off again, and I get the feeling he’s afraid he may have said too much.

 

We find the theater proprietor and explain that we’d like to book ship passage to the island depicted in the film, and he sighs, muttering something to the effect of, “I was just locking up … ” but then he reopens the cash register and we talk rates.

 

********

 

… in our bunks, a cold salt wind lacing itself through our skin, etc etc, and we’re pulling blankets tight around ourselves and trying to cushion our heads on our inner upper arms, while a storm rocks us into and our of sleep and Talk Talk’s “Ascension Day” plays dimly on repeat in the background, to set the mood or just because the captain or whomever has left it playing dimly on repeat, in the background.

 

Finally asleep, I hear an awful crack, the sound of something tearing itself into being, and, though I can see nothing, I know that the Fingerprint Man is here, watching me sleep, watching me dream of him watching me.

 

My spine seizes up and my skin goes tight and dries into bad suede and my tongue swells to fill my whole mouth and throat, and stomach too, feels like, and then I jolt awake, and see nothing at all.

 

I lie in a space whose features I can’t make out, trying to wipe my face and forehead but finding my arms unresponsive, hiding in some impregnable nerve bunker.

 

All the meat of my sides and gut is shot through with this queasy dream terror, the kind you can taste in wrong-slaughtered beef. I’ll have to excrete it slowly, I think, up from my pores a drop at a time, with each breath, until I deflate enough to breathe actual air again.

 

I picture myself like a squid swollen with black ink, trying to seethe it out onto a white mattress until the whole thing is stained through and I’m drained to a pale jelly, and then the rest of this passage will pass, and I’ll either alight eventually in Summerisle, The Pagan Dodge City, or I won’t, and, either way, in a few weeks’ time, I’ll rally and make my next report.

Advertisements