A selection of images including the cover to Titanic Terastructures, A Quiet Afternoon 2, Thirty Years of Rain, New Maps, Shoreline of Infinity, K-Zine, Flotation Device and Magical Crime Scene Investigation.
In the centre are two painted images, one of a frazzled ginger haired woman drinking tea and one of a Sikh gentleman holding a bucket and sword and facing pink tentacles

Maukit

 Maukit

Brian M. Milton

      The muddy water closes over his head. Thick, dense, cloying water rushes up and over, covering him. Just as the snorkel looks in danger of being completely overwhelmed Dave McGinn’s head bobs back upwards, dirty mulch streaming from the crown, and he attempts to swim.

      The bog water is so thick that he can not see his hands in front of him as he pulls them backwards, trying to power himself through the water. The muddy ooze sucks and pulls at his every movement, slowing him, making him feel badly unfit. 

      He pushes on, blood roaring in his ears, his breath rasping in and out of the snorkel tube with each stroke. Unidentified things flick at the exposed skin around his wet suit. Tickling or scratching at his feet, his hands and his ears.  Rotting matter squidges through his fingers. 

      Just before his eyes, on the other side of the thin plastic mask, goo moves. It is dark, thick and constantly changing in density. Small objects move past. A piece of moss or weed adheres to the top left corner, obscuring his vision. Occasionally his head lifts out of the water enough for blurry images of the air to peak in. His friends standing along the side of the bog, the grey murky sky of an August day in the Highlands above them. But in the water things are harder to identify. Mud, dirt, swirls of brown and black in a constantly shifting galaxy of muck. 

      But also glints of light. Greens and lighter brown motes dance at the edge of Dave’s vision. Almost resolving into something he recognises before disappearing behind a large clot of earth or swirling into the depths as his body moves the matter into new and different patterns. It was like when he stared too long at the sun and had after images dancing across everything else he saw.

      It felt to Dave like he had been here for hours. Pushing his way through a dark universe of filth for ever more, only the sound of his heart beat to regulate the eons and the ever wheeling beauty of mud, water and light to keep him occupied.

      Then, abruptly, his hand touches something metal and, grabbing hold and pulling himself towards it, Dave sees it to be a ladder. He takes hold with his other hand and drags himself up into the light. Water cascades from him, leaving mud, moss and matter clarting his every surface. Dave flops out on to the heather, pulling the mask and snorkel from his face and grins at his friends.

      “That was awesome.” He blinks in the sudden brightness. 

      His two friends, Jack Fodden and Bill Calcluth, point and laugh. “You, mate, are utterly maukit.” Bill takes a picture using his mobile phone of his friend flat out on the green, brown and purple of the heather. “You look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon on a bad day.”

      Dave stands up and looks down at himself. He is six feet one inch tall and every inch of that height is covered in mud. Little rivulets trickling from his hair, down his face and into the wet suit, leaving thin brown lines everywhere. He holds up his hands. Mud covers them, with goo squished into the folds in the skin, and every nail full of dirt. “Ach, it’s good, clean dirt. So whose next?” Dave points down at the ditch cut into the peat bog, the thick, syrupy water still swishing around from his journey along it. It is ten yards long with wooden pallets running all around it. At the far end is a limp piece of rope, tied between two posts, marking the start and at the near end the aluminium ladder that Dave has just used to haul himself out.

      Jack holds up his hands. “You’re aw right there mate. I just wanted to see you do it. Besides, we only have a couple of towels and you’ll need to sit on them all the way back or my dad’ll kill me for the mess you leave on the seats.”

      “Ah but you’ll do it Bill?”

      Bill shakes his head and lifts his mobile phone. “I have the pictures, that’s all I came for. Your backside breaking out of the water like a stranded whale is going straight up on the internets as soon as I get anywhere near a signal.”

      Dave shakes his head and blinks mud out of his eye. “Neither of you? We spent three hours fighting our way along twisty wee roads just so you could laugh at me?”

      Jack nods. “Pretty much.”

      “I take it this means you ain’t going to be taking part in the proper Bog Snorkeling competition next month then?”

      “We would have to be here much earlier and, as that new road they’re building is no where near finished, it would mean getting up before eight. Which is against Bill’s religion.”

      Bill nods with a serious look on his face. “Damn straight. I’d never be able go back to the Union bar again for such blasphemy.”

      Dave runs his hand through his hair, dislodging several large clods of mud. “Well thanks for that guys. I really enjoyed it and I will be coming back. You’ll just have to lend me the car.”

#

      By the time the three students have returned to the car, parked haphazardly in front of a gate, Dave has dried. The sun is now peaking through the clouds and is warm enough to make it a not unpleasant day. If you are dry. For Dave it means that his wet suit is starting to chafe and the mud, as it dries, is contracting, pinching his skin. Occasionally a piece of mud cracks and break off, leaving a cold patch.

      At the car Jack lays towels carefully along the back seat, trying to cover every inch of it. “You can’t get in looking like that. At least get changed.” Jack looks up at where Dave should be, then over the fence at where he actually is. “What the hell are you doing over there?”

      Dave turns back to his friends and then points at the ground. “It’s a dead sheep. You can see how it’s becoming part of the peat bog. Sinking in to the ground as it rots, the maggots, insects, moss and water all working together to recycle it. Breaking it down, getting right inside and remaking it as part of the whole moor.”

      Bill leans on a fence post. “That is the strangest thing I have ever heard you say. Come away from there and let’s go before you start hugging trees or dancing naked round stones.”

      Dave shakes his head and smiles back at the other two. “OK, I was just saying it was interesting. Nothing wrong with taking an interest in the environment.”

      Dave goes to the boot of the car and gets out his bag. He peels off the wet suit, shivering as the slight breeze catches his exposed back and, after spending five minutes trying to rub mud from his hands, feet and head, he pulls on a pair of grubby jeans and a faded T-Shirt. “Better?”

      Jack looks him up and down, considering. “Aye, you’ll do, just don’t go dropping bits in the car or you’ll have to hoover it.”

      “You’ve never hoovered that car in your life Jack so don’t get all high and mighty with me.”

      “All right, who knew mud could make you so grumpy. Just get in and we’ll go.”

      Dave slams shut the boot of the car and pauses, looking around him. They are parked by a gate on a small rise, giving a clear view over miles of open moorland. The landscape undulates away, mostly covered in heather that is just starting to show a hint of the purple it will soon blaze with, with the occasional glint of sun on brackish water or a small gorse bush. In the distance ancient granite mountains heave their way out of the earth and slump, round-shouldered, into the sky. It is bleak but Dave feels a happiness and pride stir in him as he looks around. Then he shakes his head and mutters to himself. “Careful now, you’re getting twee.”

      The three boys climb into the car and Jack starts it. After a six point turn and a close encounter with a ditch, Jack finally gets the car pointing the correct way on the single track road and they set off. Two miles on they pass four heavy earth moving machines parked by the side of a deep ditch that had been scraped across the moor and a sign saying “Your council, keeping Scotland moving with a new Auchbungle Moor road.” Just beyond they turn onto the current Auchbungle Moor road, a two lane line of black that snakes across the heather, twisting its way round ancient objects, Stone Age Chieftan’s burial cairns or trees that came down in a storm in 1472, that are no longer visible and zig zagging its way towards the A9.

#

      Darkness. A green point of light appears below and swirls its way upwards, dancing back and forth. It darts behind darker blobs, disappearing for moments and then reappearing, suddenly bright. Where it lights, the dark becomes brown and green, briefly resolving into rotating nodules of grit or wafting rotting weed. Despite the lack of anything to signify it there is a feeling of motion. A slow dive into thicker, darker, heavier, more ancient dark. The little green dot darts forward then turns and dives down, down, down until, just before it is too far away to be seen at all, there is a burst of light. Rushing upwards comes a wash of browns and greens and thick, cloying density and a wave of anger. Cold, terrible and ancient.

#

      Dave awakes with a jolt. His duvet has fallen away from him as he sat bolt upright, sweat prickling his brow. He is in his room in the flat he shares with Jack and Bill. A traditional Glasgow tenement flat just off Byres Road. His is the original front room of the flat and so has an old stone fireplace on one wall and a large bay window on another. 

      Dave sucks in air and waits for a moment for his racing heart to subside. He has been having strange dreams for the last few nights but this is the first time he had been scared awake. Feeling disconcerted and fuzzy Dave gets out of bed and heads for the kitchen to get some water. It is only when he walks in to see the sun streaming through the window and Bill sitting at the table eating a bacon sandwich that he realises it is not the middle of the night.

      “Afternoon, sleepyhead.” Bill grins. “This has to be the first time you have ever slept longer than me. Something tiring you out?”

      Dave pours some water from the tap into a glass and takes a drink. He ruffles his hair with his free hand. “I don’t know. Had some funny dreams but that’s all.” Dave finishes his water and yawns. “I’m so tired. Maybe a shower will help.”

      “Well mind and wash everywhere this time. You’ve still got mud on you from that bog.”

      “Where?”

      “In your ears. As my mum would say, looks like you’re trying to grow potatoes in there. Your feet don’t look much better.”

      Dave looks down to see that his feet do indeed have dirt on them, mud filling the creases between his toes. “Could have sworn I cleaned that off yesterday.”

      Bill laughs. “You better be careful, looks like my laziness might be contagious.”

#

      Back in the greeney darkness. Blobs of darker matter swirl round and round, cascading up and down, blacks, browns, the occasional yellow. Colours overlapping, pass through each other, the mingling of water and earth and heather.

      Under it all a dull thumping noise. Almost rhythmic. Each beat sends shudders through the darkness. Waves of energy rippling through the murk, shifting, dislodging. Mud and grit moving, being compressed and then released. Rotting animal matter squidging through ancient vegetable growth. Once separate, now all moving and reacting together as one. 

      The thumping chases the green pin pricks of light, the nearest to cheerfulness and vitality this universe of dullness can muster, downwards into the depths. Where they are met by the anger. 

      Once again it rolls out in a wave of primeval power. Washing through the ooze, reflecting the noise backwards, it drives upwards towards the enemy. The anger roars out in its pain and its desperation. Terrible, horrible, tragic events are happening but now the power welling up does not scare in the way it first had.

      There is a sympathy now. Possibly an understanding. The dark brown muck of the galaxy spins on and Dave sleeps through it.

#

      Jack bursts into the flat with Dave following sheepishly behind. “Bill, you in?”

      Bill shouts back from the kitchen. “In here, Cash In the Attic is on.”

      “Sod that, you’ll never believe what happened in Economics today?”

      Jack hurries into the kitchen to see Bill slouched on the sofa, a plate, with some crumbs and a smear of tomato sauce on it, on his stomach. Bill looks lazily up at his flatmate. “Do surprise me. Did they suddenly start chasing tax exiles or something?”

      “No, in the Economics lecture. Dave went off on one.”

      Bill sits up, only just catching the plate as it slides towards the floor. “Dave? Went off on one? What, Mister ‘Never Say Boo to A Goose’?”

      “Yeh, totally ranted at Doctor Williams.”

      Dave shuffles in the door, dumping his bag and yawning. “I didn’t rant. Just disagreed with him.”

      “Loudly and pointedly. I thought you were going to lamp him.”

      Dave yawns again and then colours slightly with embarrassment. “I’d dozed off and just woke up angry. But he shouldn’t have said that stuff about roads.”

      Bill leans forward, puzzled. “Roads?”

      Jack nods. “The lecture was on the economics of road building. Cost versus benefit and how you spread that out over the years. Dull as ditch water until suddenly ‘Shouty’ here jumps up and starts ranting that roads destroy the ancient bog. He even said they were evil.”

      “Well they do destroy ancient bog. Just look at that Auchbungle road we saw.”

      Jack holds up his hands. “I’m not going to argue with you and your new found hippy love of Mother Earth, Nature Boy. Not when you might turn violent. Besides, I’ve heard enough from you these last few weeks on how moors are repositories of history that should be cared for and not destroyed.”

      Bill gets up from the couch and fills the kettle. “I think it was ‘Repositories of Ancient History Greater than Humanity’, when you were in full flow. Are you trying to impress some girl? Is it that Janette you were talking to last month? Is that why you’re suddenly all enviro-nut?”

      Dave shakes his head. “I don’t know. But it is important.” Dave yawns once again, his mouth wide open. “Do you fancy the pub quiz tonight? I got a bit carried away there, could do with a pint.”

      Bill grins widely. “That is more like it. Enough of this nonsense, lets see if we can’t win a few quid.” 

#

      “Oi, sleepy! It’s your round.” Bill leans forward and claps his hands in front of Dave’s face. Dave jerks back, his eyes springing back into focus.

      “Huh, what?”

      “I said, it’s your round. You’re nae use in this quiz so the least you can do is get us a pint.”

      “Quiz?” Dave looks quizzically at his two friends and then the pub he was in. It is a small pub on Byres Road, normally a bit of an old man’s pub but, on pub quiz night, packed to the gunwales with students, all with their eye on the fifty pound first prize.

       Jack rolls his eyes. “Yes, the pub quiz. Which you have slept your way through like it was a lecture. Seeing as it was your idea you could at least have looked interested.”

      Dave yawns. “Sorry. I thought getting out might have helped shift what ever this is that is making me so tired. I must have caught a cold from somewhere.”

      “Somewhere?” Jack extravagantly drains the dregs of his pint by way of a hint. “You probably got it from the same place you got that mud under your fingernails. Its been two weeks since your Bog Snorkeling, mate, you really need to shake yourself up a bit, have a decent wash and get back to it. I’m getting tired of making up exotic excuses for you not being in labs. I’m thinking of telling people you have Ebola.”

      Dave yawns again and stands up. “All right, calm down. I’ll be right as rain in a couple of days and soon enough back to beating you two with ease at pub quizes. So, the porter? I’m told it’s good?” Both students nod and Dave goes to order beer.

#

      The anger is more focused now. Directed. The browns and blacks still swirl back and forth, up and down, round and through. Weed and decaying moss bob up as much as sink down. Water borne insects dart around. But now there is a definite feeling of direction. One way is deeper, darker, thicker. Larger lumps of mud for the occasional green speck to hide behind. Older, more compressed and more coherent 

      In the other direction it is lighter. Less thick, more watery, a greater feeling of movement. More space between the old vegetation, a feeling of being newer and less connected. But also a greater feeling of wrongness. 

      The anger, the justified anger, the righteous anger, has dwelt in the heavy, compressed dark for ages past. Now it is forcing its way up to the the more diffuse other. The direction from which the thumping noise comes from. A noise that rolls through the universe, displacing all it touches in waves, moving and upsetting ancient arrangements. 

      This noise is wrong, it is disruptive, it is upsetting the careful balance of time immemorial. It must be stopped.

#

      “Mr. McGinn! What are you doing?”

      Dave’s mind flutters back to consciousness and a bright light stabs into his left eye. He lifts his left arm to ward away the light and cold runs up his side. He twists, reaching for a duvet and then opens his eyes as his location finally sinks in.

      Dave is lying, naked, on a patch of bare earth. To one side are two rows of carrots and to the other a small area of grass that the tenement uses as a communal drying green. On the far side of the grass, standing in the doorway to the tenement close is Mrs. Urquhart, the pensioner from the top floor who is always asking after the boy’s mothers even though she knows none of them. She is five feet four inches tall with a loose white perm and wears an apron over her wool jumper and skirt that has the faded motif of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on the front. She is holding a large plastic basket full of damp sheets and her face is a picture of horrified embarrassment.

      Dave shuffles around, trying to get in a better position to see the old lady while not exposing himself any further. The dirt grinds under his body as he moves, caressing his skin and leaving it tingling in a pleasant way. A slight shudder runs over Dave’s body and he shifts slightly again, rubbing himself into the earth once more.

      “Mrs. Urquhart. Hello. I, er,” Dave’s mind races, pushing aside thoughts of mud, dirt and water as he tries to find something to say. He opens his right hand to find the keys to Jack’s car nestled tightly there. He holds them up, letting them dangle in the air and tinkle together. “I was getting Jack’s keys. Yes, that’s it, getting Jack’s keys.”

      Mrs. Urquhart tuts loudly. “Is this one of your student pranks. Have you been drinking that cheap cider again? What would your mother think?”

      Dave grins weakly. “She would be mortified Mrs. Urquhart. I’m sorry you had to see this, I was supposed to be out and straight back in again. That idiot Bill threw them out the window you see.”

      “I shall have words with him when I see him. You could catch your death if you stay out here too long. Well get along now.”

      Dave looks at Mrs. Urquhart who looks back at him, apparently happy to watch. “Err, if you could just turn away a minute?”

      “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before you know. But if you insist.” 

      Mrs. Urquhart turns to face away and Dave stands up. For a second he hesitates and then, without thinking, his face now a blank mask, he reaches down, scoops up a handful of earth and rubs it over his face. As his hand falls away from his face the look of embarrassment returns and he hurries into the close.

#

      The anger rises up, it boils with pain and horror and darkness but as it rises it slows. It loses strength. It is now so far from its realm, so unused to this level of change. It lives and thinks on a much slower, longer level than this. Now it pumps ichor from deep in its ancient heart, thousands of years of compressed, rotten matter, animal, vegetable, even ground down mineral from the mountains, shifting, gathering, exerting their combined sense. Then, with a burst of green, brown, muddy yellow and bright black it forces its way up to meet the other. 

      The other is red and blue. Diffuse and wet. Yet with hard edges and straight lines. Jagged blue shot across acrid silvery metal. Heavy waves of noise both low and high. It is also a mix of diffuse elements but so much more new. So much more existing in separate parts. The ancient thinks of it as one, single, enemy, but it does not respond as such. Metal, wood, petrol, human. So similar in its base makeup to the anger but held apart in discrete items. Metal here. Animal there, Vegetable over here. Working together but not as one.

      Blue and red meet brown and green. Arcing, violent, hot, raw energy and warm, liquid, fresh running blood. Moss and heather and rot and decay, old, slow, eternal. They splash together, spinning and swirling into ever more complex shapes. Dancing past and through each other, entwining, twisting, slithering. Sometimes punching through each other, sometimes oozing past.

      Brown charges at red. Blue impales green. Anger dashes against hard, implacable solidity. Shape and form try to escape from twisting, dark, ooze. The ancient versus the new. 

      The wave of green and brown and black washes constantly up against the red and blue and slowly the harsh lines break, metal snaps, bends, straight wood becomes jagged, the raw burn of energy diminishes and the fresh red blood spills and flows and the noises stop.

      Finally, all energy and anger spent, the dark subsides and the twisting, shifting colours, the individual motes of ancient tree or long dead creature, no longer pushed from above or below, begin to settle.

#

      Dave awakes. For the first time in almost a month, Dave truly awakes. No longer is his mind clouded with the haunting, dancing after images of his swim in the bog. No longer is his every thought a struggle to interpret the world in terms of rot, decay, recycling and the eon long seasons of slow transformation. Slowly he opens his eyes to see a blue sky, the odd cloud lazily floating in it. Then he tries to move and pain shoots through his body.

      Every muscle seems to be on fire. Pain erupts from everywhere and he lets out a muffled grunt. Slowly Dave rolls his head to the side. As he does he feels it roll over heather and course grass which, despite the pain everywhere, still manages to tickle his ear. All this is abruptly forgotten when he sees his arm.

      It is badly burned, the flesh twisted and blackened under a ripped shirt sleeve. Dave whimpers and tears prick his eyes as he slowly sits up and looks around him.

      Dave is sitting, back to a cut side of peat, in a large, man made ditch. In front of him is the remains of a small generator. A large branch three inches in diameter had been shoved into it, where it had caught fire. To the side lies the body of a man in his twenties, his head beaten until the skull has collapsed. Beyond are two diggers on their sides, great boulders lying on them and multiple huge dents in their sides. A third digger looms over them like an ancient dinosaur, a rock hanging precariously from its jaws, ready to finish off its prey.

      Dave hauls himself up and looks down at his body. He is covered in mud and blood. The brown and the red mixing into a black ooze. Dave hobbles forward several steps and, as he passes the smoldering branch in the generator, sees a second fire. A portakabin sits to the side of the ditch and is burning ferociously. A second body hangs out of the door, now too blackened to see what has killed it.

      Horror and revulsion wash over Dave and then, out of nowhere, comes a wave of ancient, slow, satisfaction. A satisfaction tinged with a feeling of futility and helplessness. A knowledge that this is only a temporary victory. But, for this moment, content. Then an offer.

      Dave nods to himself. It is the obvious thing to do now. He turns and hobbles over to a gate onto a single track lane. Dave pushes the gate open, stumbles past Jack’s car, abandoned in the middle of the lane, and staggers along the road. Twice he nearly collapses as pain assails him. 

      Finally he makes it to the next gate and walks up the rough path to the ditch cut in the bog. Dave sinks to his knees, the pain easing wherever the muddy ooze soaks into his legs. Dave turns his head painfully and looks out across the ancient peat bog, heather waving back and forth in the breeze. Thousands of years of history in a brown, green and purple landscape.

      This is right. 

      He turns back to look at the ditch. Dave reaches out a burnt, twisted hand and topples forward into the welcoming water.

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