Sunday, 26 April 2015

Vanishing Point

Inspiration: Picture sent by Bandy Huijgers, one of my students Communication and Multimedia Design Breda.


Most people don’t mean it literally when they say their world turned upside down, I do, mine did. I’ve always been curious and was convinced that was a good thing, not anymore.

It all started with a little message on Facebook, sent to me by a friend. He was so excited! He found a new way of making ends meet. As students we were always broke and ways of making money was one of the favorite subjects of our more or less beer intoxicated talks on Friday nights, when the beer is promising and the bills are not.

At that moment I paid little attention to his message, he was nearly as impulsive as I am. Yes sadly I think I have to say ‘was’. My friend Owen has vanished, is gone. I really have no idea where he might be now, so sad, I miss him. He is or was the only one who could understand my fucked up world right now. We were in it together.

As design students we were very much into new technology, Owen even more than me. He found a little add from an agency, looking for testers, it had something to do with the Oculus Rift and mental illusion. To us it seemed like a job from heaven, all we had to do was to live in a virtual scrambled world for some weeks and cash a large sum of money. We even checked out the agency on the internet, testimonies and that sort of thing. It all looked very licit, official and trustworthy.

Some doubt crept in when we met the ‘professor’, in a place that resembled a crossover between a junkyard and a warehouse. It was all very hush-hush. We were asked to call a number on arrival and let in through a little door at the side of the building. Inside some containers were stacked together, being our homes for the next weeks, although the professor told us we were not confined to them.

He told us very proud that he had the next thing to an Oculus Rift, contact lenses based on some very secret technology, developed by army researchers. It would basically do the same thing as the Rift, project an image replacing the real vision. We would have to wear those lenses and yes there was this other thing. A tiny little camera had to be implanted in our foreheads. Just a minor operation, nothing to worry about. It hurt like hell.

The effect was amazing, it turned our vision upside down. You have no idea what that does to you. Even the most normal actions become weird and difficult to perform. The professor told us it would take our brains a couple of days to correct this vision and that despite the equipment we would start to see everything normal again. And he was right, that is exactly what happened.

So he took us to the next level, the lenses turned everything upside down again, or maybe just put it right. The next level however was to distort our surroundings even more. Not just upside down, but multiplying the closest object, repeating and minifying it. So my world is subdued to endless vanishing points, endless chairs, endless doors, endless trees. 

I live in a world without real dimensions now. I can’t even see what is behind the closest object, while it feels like I live in huge spaces. I can’t find Owen anymore, although I sometimes think I hear his voice. Maybe he is just a little bit behind the endless trees. I can’t find my cellphone either. I need to call the professor. I want this thing removed, now! I don’t even care about the money anymore.



Monday, 20 April 2015

Belfast

Inspiration: Picture sent by Cai Vosbeek, telling me it was taken in a public phone box in Belfast in 1978.
On request in Dutch (Sorry English readers)


18 februari 1978

Pappa, al sinds gisteravond probeer ik je te bellen, waarom neem je de telefoon niet op? Het is doodeng om over straat te lopen en ik durf niet te bellen in het huis van Mrs. Burns. Ze is vreselijk overstuur en ik durf niet eens de woonkamer in. Ik snap best dat ze helemaal vergeten is dat ik er ook nog ben. Maar pappa, ik heb de hele nacht niet geslapen. Ik weet niet waar ik heen moet, de familie Prior is er ook niet meer. De straten zijn vol mannen met grimmige gezichten en geweren, vooral die geweren maken me bang. Ik weet niet eens van welke kant ze zijn, die mannen.

Ik probeer zo min mogelijk op te vallen als ik over straat moet, het is erg onrustig en de herrie doet nog steeds pijn aan mijn oren, ze zijn sinds gister niet gestopt met piepen, ik hoor het de hele tijd. En ik hoor het gillen en schreeuwen, ik voel het stof overal kriebelen, ik heb nog niet gedoucht, volgens mij heb ik zelfs mijn kleren van gister nog aan.

Het was zo feestelijk, kleine Deirdre had ik in haar mooiste jurk geholpen, haar schoentjes extra glimmend gepoetst. Zelfs Chiaran liet me voor deze ene keer zijn haren kammen. Het was fijn om Colum en Orlagh Prior weer te zien, ze waren alweer gegroeid en dat in die paar maanden.
Pappa, ik probeer het nog een keer, neem alsjeblieft de telefoon op! Ik wil dat je me komt halen, ik wil naar huis!

Voor mij was de geur nog het ergste. De stank van benzine, rook en bloed ruik ik nog steeds, het zal wel in mijn kleren zitten. Maar de geur van brandend vlees was nog vreselijker, die raak ik nooit meer kwijt. Ik hield Deirdres handje vast terwijl ze hartverscheurend huilde. Ik beloofde haar niet alleen te laten. Ik weet niet hoe lang ik daar zo heb gezeten, wachtend, tot het te laat was. Ik moet het Mrs. Burns nog vertellen, hoe Deirdre om haar moeder vroeg, maar ik durf het niet, omdat ik dan de rest ook moet vertellen.

Weet je pappa, ik was zo blij dat je me aan dit baantje had geholpen, eerst bij de Priors en toen bij de familie Burns. Het voelde zo bijzonder om voor een minister te werken, ook al was het maar als au-pair voor zijn kinderen. En ik mag het eigenlijk niet zeggen, maar ik hield van Deirdre het meest, ze was ook zo makkelijk blij te maken, ze had zich zo op het dansfeest verheugd.

Ze kunnen niets vertellen over Chiaran, niets over Mr. Burns en ook de Priors zijn nog niet gevonden. Ze weten niet eens precies wie er allemaal waren in dat restaurant.

Pappa ik probeer het nog één keer, de mannen met de grimmige gezichten zijn nu aan het eind van de straat. Ik wil je stem horen voor ze omkeren, terugkomen. Pappa, ik zie je! Ik zie je lopen, vlak bij mij, je houdt Deirdres handje vast terwijl ze opkijkt naar haar vaders beste vriend. Je was bij me pappa, gisteravond. Waar ben je nu? 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Prey or pray

Inpiration: Painting Old Growth 48" x 72" Oil on canvas
by my friend Marleen Vermeulen


‘If it’s smaller, it’s prey. If it’s bigger, run!’ The eagle didn’t seem that huge from the distance, but it was definitely gigantic when it almost landed on top of the small cat, it’s talons stretched out for the catch, just missing the cat by an inch because it ran at the last split of a second.

The little cat was totally lost, she knew she shouldn’t wander too far from the house. The Canadian forest is no place for a cat. But on this lovely spring morning the sunlight was inviting. She was challenged by a field mouse, definitely prey, and just wanted to get out. The mouse was mocking her, washing it’s tiny whiskers in full sight of the cat. It had been doing that for some mornings, taunting the cat for being locked in the house. It hadn’t counted on the kitchen door being a little bit ajar this morning. The mouse had to run for its life with the cat chasing it all the way down to the brim of the lawn.

The smell of the forest on that early spring morning was inviting. The cat had wandered off, enjoying the sunbeams falling through the canopy of the trees, not very thick this time of year. She was totally enchanted by the richness of life she found beneath the ferns. Lots of small creepers. She reminded herself, if it’s smaller, it’s prey. If it’s bigger, run! If it’s slithery, be careful. She sniffed some of the creepers, they did not smell very tasteful.

Soon she decided not to waste more time on the crawling little animals. The early morning forest was full of more promising life. It was vibrating with whistling, twittering and other bird sounds. She looked up at the trees, they were like endless pillars reaching to the sky. What a view she would have up there! And then she saw the bird, it was looking down on her, like it was mocking her. It reminded her of the mouse this morning, so confident it was out of her reach. She would teach that bird a lesson, she would go after it, just like she went after the mouse.

The next moment the cat was running as fast as she had never ran before, seeking cover in some bushes. She was glad they were thicker than the fern she had been exploring, making her almost invisible. Almost, the eagle was watching her with its piercing eyes, like it was contemplating what to do with her. She was definitely smaller, she was prey.

All of a sudden the eagle took off, flying up to the high branches again, like something disturbed it. The small cat peeked out of the bushes. There it was, another cat approaching her. For a moment she felt relief, than as the other cat came closer she started praying, it was huge.

The mountain lion glanced in her direction. This time the little cat didn’t run, she just froze in her hiding, hoping not to get noticed. She was absolutely much smaller.  

Monday, 13 April 2015

Habitat

Inspiration: Picture sent by Nienke Huitenga.
The picture is an add for Savora Hotels made by McCann Marketing Services


Hunger is a horrible feeling, it’s the sense of having an emptiness inside, a hollowness that makes you weak. I had not yet experienced it on that specific morning, when I overheard two villagers discussing their craving for food. After a successful hunt I was resting in my usual tree, accompanied by the hind legs of a gazelle, just a few yards away from the villagers. I don’t think the people noticed my presence, but maybe they were just too hungry and weak to care.

Really, I can understand lots of human talk, but some concepts are strange to me, such as jobs and money. I have a vague feeling it has something to do with food and survival. This morning, while I was enjoying a full belly on the shadowy branch of my tree, I overheard them talking about leaving the savanna and heading for the city, traveling towards the sunset, in order to escape the hunger.

I forgot all about it for some time, living my own life in my daily routine of sleeping my days away and hunting at night. One morning, I was brutally waked by loud and roaring noises and a horrible smell. Provoked like that I jumped from my tree, roaring back at the big loud monsters approaching. All of a sudden people were shouting at me, trying to drive me away. Irritated, I snarled and hissed, defending my territory. But it was just me against lots of them, so I took my leave and wandered off, determined to come back later.

And so I did, sneaking my way back, sensing from far something terrible had happened. The grass was gone, the pool had changed into a puddle of debris and my tree, my lovely tree, had disappeared. There was nothing, a wasteland of nothing, a vast landscape of stench and mud. I was devastated, not sure what to do. Smelling their food, I circled around the camp of the people, but they kept chasing me away. Knowing I had to find a new place to live I tried to follow the herds of prey, only to be met by hostile predators, hunting the same game. I became an outcast, stealing whatever I could get my paws on.

It was the start of my acquaintance with hunger and not to my pleasure. One night I remembered the talk of the villagers and decided to follow their lead. I started my journey towards the sunset, the promised land, the city. 

The landscape has changed. It smells a lot like the foul smell of the destruction of my habitat. My pawns have blisters from the hot and hard surface. My ears are ringing with the constant noises. There are people everywhere, screaming at me, trying to scare me, smelling of fear themselves. It is awful, all of it, but I have to endure. Most of all I hate the trees, they are sleek and slippery, hard to climb, almost impossible. I miss the branches and even more the shade in these leafless trees. I rest here, in one of those strange trees. I sleep in broad daylight, exposed to the sun, waiting for the night to fall.  

I’d like to know how much further I have to travel to reach the city and wonder what it will be like. It cannot be worse than this. I am yearning to end my travels and reach that promised land. I can almost picture myself in my beautiful green tree, standing in the outstretched grassland of the city. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Krijtjes

Inspiration: drawings by Wendela Wendelart
On request in Dutch (Sorry English readers)



Eindelijk zit ze rustig aan tafel, haar tong tussen haar tanden. Geconcentreerd haalt ze haar krijtjes uit de grote hoop die ze eerder in haar driftbui op tafel heeft gegooid. Haar voeten zijn verdwenen tussen de proppen papier op de vloer.
Als je nu eens rustig opnieuw begint,’ had ik tegen haar gezegd, dat had ik beter niet kunnen doen. Ze houdt er niet van gecorrigeerd te worden, zeker niet als ze ‘bezig is’, zoals ze het zelf zegt.

Enkele dagen is ze al aan het tekenen, vanaf het begin van de zomervakantie. Geen tijd voor iets anders, behalve eten en slapen. Inmiddels ken ik deze buien van haar, de aan obsessie grenzende vastberadenheid, als ze eenmaal iets in haar hoofd heeft. Ditmaal is het tekenen. Ze krast enkele lijnen op het papier, bekijkt de tekening met haar grote ogen. Ik zie haar fronsen en kan bijna het vuur uit haar ogen zien schieten als ze weer niet tevreden is. Ze verfrommelt het vel en gooit het op de grond. Ze heeft nog nooit iets anders getekend dan krassen op papier.


De eerste dag heb ik de proppen opgeruimd, ook dat had ik beter niet kunnen doen. Een aan hysterie grenzende driftbui was het resultaat. Ze heeft een half uur lopen krijsen, mijn oren deden pijn. Pas toen ik plechtig beloofde dat ik niets, maar dan ook niets van haar werk zou weggooien, tot zij zou zeggen dat het klaar was, werd ze kalmer.


Ze lijkt alleen te kunnen scheppen in chaos, zelfs haar geboorte was een chaos omdat ze zichzelf klem had gezet in het geboortekanaal, ruim vijf jaar geleden. Ze kwam ter wereld als een boos klein meisje met vurige ogen, toen al. Er wordt me vaak gevraagd of ze op haar vader lijkt, maar ik kan me haar vader eerlijk gezegd niet zo goed herinneren.


Mijn kleine meisje heeft haar krijtjes ondertussen op kleur gesorteerd. Alle blauwe, zwarte, grijze en bruine krijtjes liggen keurig op een rij. Daarnaast, een klein beetje apart, zijn één roze en één geel krijtje gelegd. Alle groenen, roden en andere kleuren, de kleuren die mij vrolijk maken, zijn terzijde geschoven. Afgekeurd. Ze heft haar arm op om ze in één zwaai van tafel te vegen.

‘Nee,’ roep ik, de krijtjes zullen breken.
‘Mamma!’ Die akelige strenge toon. ‘Mamma ga de kamer uit, nu. Niet kijken!’

Ik loop de tuin in. Ik snap niets van dit kind, die obsessie, dat fanatieke, dat heeft ze zeker niet van mij. In mijn kleurige bloementuin, op het bankje in de schaduw, vind ik tijdelijk rust. Dan hoor ik haar stemmetje, nu lief en vrolijk. Ze komt de tuin in huppelen met twee tekeningen in haar handen. Ze laat me de vellen zien, haar grote ogen kijken verwachtingsvol naar mij op.


‘Ik heb pappa getekend,’ zegt ze trots, ‘en dit ben ik, voor ik geboren werd. Hier ben ik in de grot, bij het water, weet je nog wel?’

Op het papier zie ik een lijkbleke pappa met drie vingers aan elke hand, grote holle ogen en geen neus. Zijzelf is een kleinere roze versie van hem, drie vingers aan elke hand en nog grotere donkere ogen. Snel kijk ik naar haar handen die de vellen papier omhoog houden, tien vingers, tien perfecte vingers, vijf aan elke hand.
‘Heel mooi,’ zeg ik tegen haar, ‘dat heb je knap gedaan.’

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Confession

Inspiration: Picture by Sue Harris


Burying the child was the worst part. The boy was not yet dead, but we had to hide him. I buried him next to his mother. I didn’t want to kill her, really. It was an accident. She just shouldn’t have come. She was not supposed to know. Ignorance is so much better. Why didn’t she stay at home? She knew my friend didn’t want her here. This was our place and ours alone. She had everything she wished for, on one condition, she should never come here. She shouldn’t ask questions, she shouldn’t look. And she certainly shouldn’t drag the boy along. She might have blamed it on the boy. His dog went missing, they were just looking for the dog. They had no clue about the dangers of this place.

It is that time of year again, for months everything is quiet and we have nothing to fear. Than the cold  sets in, it is that time that worries me. They always come with the cold. I guess it is hunger that drives them. Sometimes they come in the dark, sometimes they come at dawn, at that moment when the night is at its coldest, just before sunrise. They never come alone. It is the barking of their hounds that gets me on the edge of my nerves.

So we were on watch last night as nights are getting colder again. All of a sudden I hear the panting of a dog, it sounds real close. I hold my breath and stare into the darkness. There is definitely something there. My friend takes his aim and fires. I hear the yelping of the dog and see someone looming at the edge of the wood. I take my shot. It was only after the second shot the boy started shouting. We ran over and grabbed him. We had to shut him up. And we buried him, just for a while.

We dug up the boy later. Fortunately he was still alive. He is a beautiful boy, somewhere around nine years old. What will he remember? I hope nothing. There are just some things you should never know about your father. And what his father and I do here is one of those. We dug the boy up and wiped off the dirt. He hasn’t said anything yet. He is just staring at us.

I am looking right past him now. We should have left him where he was. We should have waited. The sun is rising at the rim behind the trees, spreading its promising yellow and gold light. The ground is almost white with frost. It was definitely a cold night. And they are coming. I see their shadows approaching in the fog, men and dogs, determined. With one hand I signal the boy to get down, down! I have no wish to bury him again. With the other hand I bring my rifle up. I cannot let the boy get caught in crossfire. It is bad enough he knows he is living at the border now, next to a graveyard.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Cats Rule

Inspiration: Picture of Tom by Olivier van den Brandt


Do cats rule the world? Of course not. The idea alone is ridiculous. Everybody knows there are pathetic little pussycats and there is us, the real Cats. Pathetic little pussycats are miserable creatures, that have absolutely nothing to say in their lives. They take things as they come, being totally dependent on the good things life throws in their manger. Real Cats have a plan.

The first step of my plan, was being born on a farm, with the luxury of two mothers taking care of me. I hate to admit, my plan was not really working out the way I wanted. I hadn’t counted on having many brothers and sisters, but hey, I was still very young. My next goal was being adopted as soon as I could. Of course I went out of my way to look extra adorable, a little black furry thing with innocent blue eyes. Oh the irony, they picked my sister first, a common grey tabby. They said they didn’t want a tomcat, but I’d been practicing the big eye. So I gave the woman the eye and she changed her mind. I can still hear her saying; ‘Oh, but we have to have a black cat. Look at him, he is so adorable.’

Adorable! Little did she know. I had picked my humans, dragging my tabby sister along. I soon discovered a very promising human in their household, young and inexperienced like me, but with the same ambitions. He was the perfect one to bond with for my long-term goals. I started sleeping on his bed, making it easier for me to fill his mind with my idea’s, while he was sleeping. I could have done that anywhere of course, but being in his bed made him more receptive. He became my most loyal companion, and he still is. The woman was harder to control, I had to give her the eye several times when she thought she could mock me. She was convinced my ego outgrew my capacities. But like I said before, she didn’t really get me.

So year by year I worked silently on my secret plan, gathering an army of black cats around me. Some humans thought I had fathered them all. Alas that was not the case, but I really don’t like to go into detail about that. Slowly my army of black cats started to brainwash our humans. Now, you might think we are evil, but I assure you we are not. Humans need to be brainwashed, they are destroying our world! We cannot let them go on like this, it would be a catastrophe. What would become of cats when the world floods because of global warming? We might have to learn how to swim, yikes! We have to stop it! And let’s be honest, we can’t leave it to the humans. The world needs someone with vision.

It was a sad moment when I realized I was reaching the limits of my power on earth. I had to leave my young human behind, to be able to work on a bigger scale. So now I am working in the heavenly dominions, pulling strings from here. I still communicate with my promising human, he is spreading my word. He will be the prophet of a new religion.    

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Concerto Loci

Inspiration: White Palace by Olga van den Brandt


Elena is staring out of the window, looking at the snowflakes falling down in her silent white world. She knows she has to start searching again, it has to be somewhere, if only she could remember which room. For days she has been wandering around in this palace, never meeting someone, only faint shadows of people. Elena can’t even remember how she got here in the first place, this colorless, silent world. The first days she has been shouting, screaming, singing, smashing doors, stamping her high heeled shoes on the tiled floors, anything to break the silence, anything to make her presence known. Nobody cared, not even the shadowy people, they just ignored her and there is nobody else.
 
There has to be a first day, there must have been an arrival. In her head is a mental image of herself standing outside the palace, shivering in a thin white dress on her unsuitable high heeled shoes. An image of herself, admiring the palace with its white walls, its stepped gable facade and pointy tower. Than the cold gets the better of her and she approaches the grand white door and steps inside. The palace has been hers ever since that moment, weeks ago. Inside it is warm, there is a fire in every hearth and even in the kitchen. Somehow there is always fresh food. Elena suspects the shadowy people are taking care of that.

The first days have been an emotional rollercoaster, filled with exploration, excitement, and frustration. Now she is much calmer, with a sense of determination. A few days ago Elena wandered into a small room, a room she had not seen before. There was a teddy bear sitting on a desk. The moment she picked it up, she remembered she was here with a purpose, looking for something. The teddy bear guided her from room to room, although it was not literally speaking to her. How strange, how could she not have noticed before? Every room has something special, the white rooms that seemed so equal to begin with, started to be distinctive. Elena found small things in every room, sometimes a picture, sometimes an item, like the bowl with nuts she found yesterday. Moving those items is not an option, she knows that will get her lost again. The only exception is the teddy bear, which she kept close ever since she found it.

On her bare feet, in silence, with the teddy in her left hand she turns away from the window and grabs the railing of the stairway to the top of the tower. She has been there before, on one of her first days. The skirt of her thin white dress blows slightly up by the draught, going up with her. A rope hangs down from the top of the high tower room, a thin string. At the end of it, just within reach, dangles a beautiful G-shaped golden key.

Elena looks at it with admiration and anticipation, she reaches out with her right hand, holding on to the teddy bear. She has to stretch herself on the top of her toes, like standing on high heeled shoes. The very moment she clasps her hand around the key the silence shatters to pieces, music surrounding her. With the silence the white mind palace disappears. Elena is standing on a podium in her white dress and high heeled shoes with her violin under her chin. The conductor is staring at her, while the orchestra is holding on their last note, in anticipation for her to set in. Violin Concerto in G minor, how could she forget?

Saturday, 4 April 2015

No Flesh

 Inspiration: Tales of the Death #4 Elder Scrolls Online


‘Let’s get moving, R’angroth, it’s staring at us.’
‘Grump, I’m still hungry. Nice bones, don’t you think S’roarsh?’ R’angroth exclaimed, glancing at the skeleton, from his cover behind the old and moldy bedrolls. ‘There might be some marrow inside, let’s crack them!’
‘Are you crazy? I’m telling you, it’s looking at us. That corpse is following me with the one eye it has left.’

S’roarsh had to admit the hunger was gnawing at him, just as much as it was on R’angroth. And he didn’t know who he distrusted more, his mate, or the skeleton. He had seen R’angroth glancing at him last night, probably assuming he was asleep. He had seen the red glimmer in his mate’s eye. Hunger did that to you. Just a second ago, he saw the same red glimmer in the eye of the skeleton.
‘Come on S’roarsh. Let’s at least get the potato’s, so I won’t have to start nibbling your legs tonight.’ R’angroth’s broad smile, showing his fangs made his joke a threat. ‘Those Khajiit are no living death.’
‘Khajiit! You miserable moron, are you born blind? That’s not a Khajiit and never has been. Look at that skull.’

It had been puzzling S’roarsh from the minute he noticed the red eye glancing at him. What had it been, a dark elf? In this area? The corpse looked like it had been killed in a cruel game of execution, pinned to a tree like that, with a target on its skull. A sick game of archery, the real target tossed aside on the ground. It was just the kind of game R’angroth and his friends would enjoy. It made him nauseous, he wished he wasn’t so pathetic soft-hearted. He felt like a disgrace to his race.

R’angroth dashed forward from his cover behind the bedrolls, diving on the potato’s. The glimmer in the eye of the skeleton was definitely lighting up now. S’roarsh crouched behind the barrel while he suppressed a whimper. The skeleton grabbed R’angroth by the leg and set its teeth in the flesh. R’angroth bellowed with pain, striking the skeleton with all his force. That was a mistake and cost him dearly. The skeleton sank its teeth in R’angroth’s throat, blood spattering on the ground, the tree and the cast-away target. In a last attempt to save his life, R’angroth severed the skull from the fleshless carcass, sending the skeletons head flying into the bushes.

S’roarsh stared at the pile of lifeless bones and the fresh flesh on the ground. There it was, a fresh meal. Now was the time to overcome his fussiness. A meal was a meal after all. He left his cover and sank his fangs in the juicy leg of his mate. Suddenly he heard a noise from behind the tree. Another skeleton was staring at him with two red shining eyes, a dagger still stuck between its ribs.

‘Hello dear,’ it said, ‘I’ve been dying to meet you.’