THE OUTLANDS - we watch them going in a bubble of breath held -

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TROUVAILLE

Trouvaille Le Blek has been witnessed before walking with a bag of pebbles. A drawstring bag. Or if not witnessed carrying the container (it must surely equal his own weight) then loading it, or unloading it. He is a figure in the distance. Amongst his skills, Le Blek judges the divide beyond which a witness will see only shapes mutating. But he needs a witness all the same – the other’s seeing rendered vague is a component in his operation.

Now stand again. Grasp its gathered opening in two fists. Make a brace with arms and shoulders,but lift from lower. Hold it. Release.

The beach was a mass of grey stones. A jetty, it’s railings corroded by the salt air, might once havebeen frequented by swimmers. Not quite knowing where to begin, Trouvaille Le Blek began to walk. He took 100 steps in a line, struggling to keep his balance across the uneven surface, then stopped to look around the landscape. He turned to walk the 100 steps back. Feeling uncertain, he returned to his room. He sat. He drank (water with a pinch of salt.) Made notes and drawings, pulled out his charts again although he knew them already – every looping contour of the bay’s submerged gradient. He played his recordings – the cries of sea‐birds; stared at an image in space – followed it with his eye as it drifted.viii He folded and refolded his
draw‐string bag, brushed the sand from its folds. But the feeling of an ill‐defined uncertainty remained.

Back at the beach, he took the same 100 steps. This time he walked slowly. He tripped, lost his balance, straightened his posture, puzzled over the unaccountable appeal of this place.

The following days passed the same way. He walked in a square formation, repeated it;
he walked in rectangles, triangles, circles and oblongs of different dimensions; half‐circles, diagonals. He drew a letter, inscribed a numeral; stopped and stood at intervals after a certain number of steps or after intuiting a duration. He got better at walking slowly, crafting each stride, all the while trying to focus on the
sensation of the stones, the sounds and smells of the place, the feeling of salt and wind in his face, the cries of birds, engines running in the far distance.

The days passed and he began to notice small lapses in focus. He had developed by now a technique in which he would break each step into several components, and each of these would be executed slowly, with concentration: right heel against stone, roll the sole of the foot across the stones, lift the heel and then toes, raise the left foot, move it forward, left heel against stones, and on. He had developed grace to match his skill, executing his movements whilst maintaining balance and breathing. One day he took his walk barefoot; the next he discarded the rest of his clothes. He experienced the deep interlacing of the materiality of these repeated movements, and the affective relations of stones and feet. Stone sensitised skin. His muscles responded – soft, subtle vibrations. These intensifications did not cause him to lose his focus. But he slipped into a lapse – an apartness from the world. A feeling originating in his belly that spread as an intense heat giving rise to what might have been a temporary unconsciousness, or a profound loss of awareness – he was unsure – whilst not affecting his body, which continued to repeat its movements according to the patterns now established. At first uncomfortable Le Blek began to enjoy this loss of
awareness. His periods of apartness were prolonged by graduated steps. He found himself able to retain some vestige of awareness – a third eye? – the capacity of an additional perception with which he could track shifts even within the texture of his apartness.

On his twelfth day, Le Blek had gone through his routines and was about to conclude the activity with one more walk on the stones. 700 steps straight ahead, 70 towards the sea, 700 back, 70 to his staring point, a rectangular path. Leaving his clothes and shoes by the jetty, he made his way slowly along the beach. Through the soles of his feet the stones, his steps in pace with his breathing, his focus strictly centred
upon the activity and the movement. While attempting to maintain a balance, he had slipped or fallen many times. But this time, as the stone under his foot shifted, as he attempted to re‐compensate with his weight, something happened. It was as if the imbalance of his posture had, itself, lost its balance. A slip of the slip. He
stopped to consider. What he had been doing for the last days had been nothing but an exercise, a preparation, his body passing across and against the stones. The sensations he had experienced had been caused by a conflict between his body, its movements, and the stones; between his path and the uneven surface. Perhaps the hindrance or limit was in his own focus on what now revealed itself to be a battle
between matters; perhaps the passage he had been assuming to follow from numbered shapes and figures inscribed on the earth was no passage at all. He gazed at the stones. There was a path. And there was a form of walking against it. But in the implicating disequilibrium of his balance – in the roll of his foot that stretched tendons and brought bones into proximity, there was another walking. This was not a line in resistance to the terrain, nor a blindness to its variety.

It was a twisting line.

It was a line not yet quite twisted, but neither soon to twist.

Barely perceptible slow motion’s aim deferred, this was an infinitely fractal twist, a line composed by the stones and by the body there in their mass, a line of a peculiar acrobatics, through the dips, arcing the slopes of the interwoven micro‐universes of the terrain. And if the discipline of the procedure was to be embraced – even if only for the sake of grace – there would be here a fluency of a different kind; a virtuosity.

Le Blek walked all through the evening and into the night. As the sun rose spreading a silver film across the bay, a blockhouse came into view. And scanning the ground before him, he took a measure. He saw the paths that others had formed, paths with their destinations clinging to them like bloated fruits on a branch. He saw the gathering and dispersing of the space in these lines, and he walked according to the procedure that had become his method – slow, deconstructed steps drawing a new trajectory between stones, rock formations, and sparse vegetation. Slowing still further, returning to consciousness, he found himself stopped, and staring at an object. Something there at his feet – something familiar, and foreign too in that familiarity. Le Blek looked down at a body – pale, pined away – wasted – a young body prostrate on the stones. Devoid of hair, it was translucent. There were no eyes, only craters for each orifice: no organs, no muscles, but porous grey matter.
Trouvaille Le Blek hesitated. He drew closer and knelt down, reaching out and laying his hand on the forehead. The body was hard and cold, to his astonishment, like marble. In its translucent flesh could be seen an intricate structure. Though devoid of muscular tissue, organs, veins, arteries, the body appeared to contain divisions. Only just visible, these demarcations in the blocks of matter pressed tightly against one another to form a whole. The body appeared to have chambers, to be portioned into rooms and hallways distributed across levels. And as the light struck, its internal pattern was animated as if the divisions were made by mirror glass – rooms within rooms – an entirely different field of perceptions. A hidden architecture within the body’s architecture. The stones of the beach as well as the landscape ahead of him and behind were reflected in the body’s chambers – the entire beach in the body, contained.

Le Blek looked now neither at the stretch of coast in front of him, nor at the blockhouse. He had arrived with a desire to get to know this place. He no longer had the same desire, but another – the evolution of the first: to get beneath, to penetrate the surface, the earthen element, to relax his muscles and fall back into the land’s singular point, its portal, its access to the subterranean.

Le Blek’s method, again, his voice now a distant yet intolerably distinct (cuttingly clear, crystal clear, unbearably sharp?) echo (of a code?) in the hollow of his skull: modify path, to the right, now away from the sea, traverse the rock, cushion of vegetation underfoot. Fidelity to the project. A bunker-destination would draw one in a straight line, but the land does not concur. Circle the slab. Ascend. Small changes. Small changes now a distraction. One star blinks in the hazy band above the water. A loss of balance. He falls, his focus dissipated, 80 steps, or less: 70. He shuts his eyes and holds his breath. The boundaries of his body become vague. He gasps.
Venus is a pinprick of brightness low to the horizon. Looking harder, the dim specks of other lights appear. But if you are to focus on the evening star, giving it the attention it demands, it will perform. It will stretch its arms. And with a perfect, integrated movement, will draw them in again while extending vertical limbs. Its mute signals compel further attention, to look longer, to look harder still. Not to imagine other kinds of life, but other lives, with their enigmatic communications, emerge from the bright point’s silence. Its mutating centre.

There is a moon in the sky. The sky’s dark patches. This heaven an electric void. Its vast expanse. Now a flickering light. Animated in rapture. Its movement, the horizon’s pulse. A consuming rhythm. Sudden exhaustion, a transformative potential. And there is blood.

A wound.

But the blood has already congealed. In place of the clot, something different is forming: a cloth. Cloth for clot. Hard, almost transparent. Parchment. The skin beneath the cloth, the body beneath the skin, the stones beneath the body. A reflection of the heavens on its gleaming surface. The body’s internal divisions exposed beneath. With rapidly flickering eyelids, and with a quick gesture of the hand, Le Blek rips the blood-cloth from his leg and holds it to the light. In its interior, a room, or a complex of rooms, system of passageways unpopulated, silent, cold – a universe. Le Blek puts the cloth in his mouth. He will ingest it. It has no taste. It will not dissolve. On his leg, already another cloth has formed where the first was removed. He rips again, wedges it between his teeth and cheek, using three fingers to push it into the cavity. He slaps himself hard across the face, inhales deeply, resolves to continue. But to continue now, he will have to find a different way; he no longer has the functioning of his legs. The alternative: to crawl. His pain persists. And he persists, pressing himself now to the stones as he moves, the pattern of these procedures established already – muscle-memorised in limbs that no longer operate, that pass their code to new organs of movement, coextensive with the first, and beyond comparison.

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