fiction. 1988. Melbourne

The Birth of V

Looking, you see oblique stairs. Mossy. Grand. Well worn with the footsteps of those who at some time or another made their way up from the beach.

There is only now one person taking that stone path, regularly and without a pause she enters the house, only sometimes aware of its immense beauty. Its fragility and shimmering isolation. Most of the time she just goes from the beach to the house without recognising.

But the house is something to be seen. The house is light itself - in the day its apparent whitewash seems to reflect the brightness of the sun though at night this house is a memory, nowhere to be seen, drained by darkness. As far as she knows there is nothing amiss, she never leaves the interior after sunset, and the walls seem to hold.

Swinging open at the lightest of touch the heavy doors present no barricade. Inside, all is in order.

Immense windows reaching up out of polished wood floors to their ceilings layer the ocean with opal. There are no sunbakers on the sand and no surfers ride the waves, although it could be said that these waves were made for them. There is only the sound of the crash and breeze, with the arid sky scratched on occassions by squawking gulls.

Within this massive room, this precise space, all human activity is conducted. Coffee making, sleeping and affairs of state. Even when dreaming the low beating heart of hardware provides unceasing testimony to wider horizons- impolitely reticent universes expanding elsewhere. To meticulously pinpoint where is the driving quest of the networking hardware. To know and by knowing, conquer. Or perhaps just to say hello, howdeedodee and dangle akubra hats for natives and exploding stars.

V (lets call her V), an unlikely vanquer, hasn't yet been initiated into the final outcome of the work, her routine. Judging her by the numerous wrist-watches worn she works all day. Logging, decoding and mapping radar signals collected off dishes around the planet. The advertisment that never was read: this job requires Intelligence and Counter Intelligence to sort wheat from the chaff - red herrings and imposter signals in hysterical ricochet across the interminable chasms of time.

She has historical records and video banks to assist in verification. A quiet life, she has never known another. A creature without memory or past. V could be a replicant but has already seen the film.

One phantom remains to haunt her - pleasure mixed with curiosity. But more of that later.

At present V is playing the nightly game of chess. We see a close up of her intensely concentrated clear green eyes, then pull back to take in the whole scene. At a table there is a woman sitting straight backed on a hard wooden chair dressed in a severe dark, a style in keeping with the modernity of the apartment. The single roomed apartment looking at the

ocean with a woman alone. The chess pieces are luminous and her opponent's have a volition of their own. V's green eyes are concentrated and even though she is improving, again she must concede defeat. Unseen and silent her opponent withdraws with the game.

V retires to sleep, and dream manouvres in black and white.

A watch goes off, the sun is through the window and by all accounts it is morning. The first item on every day's agenda is a swim across the bay.

Out the door, skip down the steps, an out-of-character frolic on the sand for a minute or two and then a sudden dive into the sea. She swims like a fish and perhaps talks to the dolphins, I don't know. Its possible. She still has secrets entombed in a soundless language without words or pictures, where we are the uninvited.

After the beach, coffee and back to the drawing boards. The plotting boards. Then the board lunch for one, impeccably served.

The afternoon follows, as usual, then the night. And chess where again she loses. These days go into the future as they have in the past, leaving with V no trace of time's passing. So it would seem on the surface of things, but somewhere barely detectable - around the mouth, at the fingertips and in that clear green circle of vision, some new thing is taking form. These and way she stays out in the ocean just a little longer each day, and of course the increased determination at chess are what we could call evidences, if we were looking for such things.

V is at the computers near nightfall when she hears her first distraction. Something like a sigh.

The next day she is waiting at the same time to hear it again, having been restless imagining the softness of breath the sound spoke of. But there is only hardware hum. Disappointed, but with the beginnings of something like rage, passion or erotics she plays agressively, her opponent struggling to keep the game under control. She loses again, but it is with a peculiar gleam she looks long into the night from the window before falling asleep, sighing.

In the water the next morning V senses that sighing presence again. Just a glimpse of somebody, like herself, but having no knowledge of herself or others to compare something with nothingness to she struggles to make sense of what it was she saw. Or felt, for perhaps it was only that.

At the screen that same morning she is without inspiration when the conversation begins. Initially it is just a woman's voice, singing:

' touch me, with your touch my life begins

oh my darling cling to me,

for our love is like the wind, and

wild is the wind, wild is the wind, wild is the wind...'

V has never before heard music, never had the werewithal to use her own voice, and so outside of making odd gestures of an audio register she knows nothing of the fine art of conversation. But now in her head is the animation of lovers proposing to meet after nightfall. The male voice gruff, tender, and altogether foreign imploring her to be with him. Her, that is. The woman. V listens in frozen fascination. Imperceptibly understanding their love, even though she is innocent of the experience - V is an unloved palimpsest as lonely as an eyesore.

They go as they came, without permission or apology. For a long while she is motionless, and then those green disc eyes catch on screen a series of

wave forms indicating patterns of speech, alias the conversation she had just witnessed in her private auditorium. Though by nature a scientist V is provoked into confusion. Nothing more is heard all day except the voices on playback repeat.

After a quick lunch she interrupts her routine to walk. Over the headland a desolate coast stretches empty for miles. Without the words to express it V senses some strangeness aproaching, and turns back home. The light is fading as is the house.

At chess she is distracted, playing with a splintered mind, and the opponent annhilates the game. Decimated she turns to sleep but finds no reprieve from edginess.

' ... no-where to run to baby

no-where to hide...'

Sleepless but dreaming of the words they become alive- lithe lovers bodies surrounded with a sensuous air. Moaning with death's pleasure as they surrender. V languidly touches her sleek body to their rhythm, watching them she becomes the first voyeur. Watching the woman pick up the sleek blade and plunge it through the blades of his back. Watching the blood hurtle out of his life as he falls back on the white sheets, watching as the woman takes her pleasure holding and loving his dying body, watching V discover endless hidden realms of torturous jouissance before she dissolves

She sleeps late and is woken with the shrill insistence of computers demanding attention. Saturated and framed on the screen is the man's bloodied body. It prints out automatically and is followed by an image of the woman. Her gaze bold, her open mouth full with refusal and her neck obliterated by the red words MISSING .

V reacts with a look suspended between a smile and a grimace then swims. Across the bay as always. This is no longer so much a question of morality but ethics and some kind of deranged inevitability.

Today V does no work, instead meanders about learning to sing. At one stage she believes she spots the phantom of gleaming flesh but loses sight of it dashing around a corner. Both you and I know V lives in a single roomed house without corners, but who will I be to cast the first stone?

Chess arrives unprepared for the change in current. She appears distracted as on the previous night, catching her opponent in a moment of false security, whose holographic pieces shake with disbelief when V strategically positions herself the victor. Won in the knights' moves. Endgame complete V is still, and speaks entranced, replying to guest at a civilised dinner party she has never attended:

"You see my parents were British scientists and I their only child. They travelled the world all the years of my early life - riverboats through jungles, across red laquered bridges into the floating world, via conversations with the shaman, overgrown cities , grown over buried treasure, babbling languages, anarchic animal colonies..." (We see a woman bold, her mouth open with love and defiance holding a child, carressing a child. V is carressing her own body with tenderness, and then

stops talking, as if coming out of a long dream) "...When I was only nine my mother left me standing on the shore. It was the first time I hadn't accompanied them." (The image on screen goes out of focus and into a

faint image of two people waving from a boat. The sound is like the mechanics of the workings of a home movie film camera. V's voice continues to narrate the story..) "...They went to the Antarctic and during an expedition on the ice floes, a terrible blizzard blew...." (The image goes to a thrashing whiteness, from which the two faces can be ever so faintly discerned, ghosts ) ".....and were both lost. So the story goes. Lost in the snow and ice. " (The sound under the voice has subtley shifted from camera noise to that of a projector, and as V nears the end , the sound becomes that of a film spool run out on a projector, with the tail flapping as it spins around. The two faces fade slowly, first the man's followed by the woman's, replaced by V's visage- appearing slowly and with a growing intensity until she is there properly again on the screen and at dinner) .

Since she is no longer hungry she gets up to leave, saying "checkmate" as she goes outside into the dark.

On the stairs V is sleeping. Visited again by the amorous phantom lover, the only one alive, to whom no refusal is possible. Carressing V's long-sleeping body with kisses warm on the icy air. Until V allows with another what she only so recently imagined to herself - the ocean of pleasure until she too feels the sleek knife between her blades.

Waking in her bed surrounded by flames. Exploding star. This house is no longer, this house is burning down, the hardware is fuming, and she must run to the water, down the stairs, mossy, grand. Where many have run before. To the water and into the boat waiting there. The boat named the

Beagle, or Voyager or Christina, she couldn't tell which. Too dark for details, out there on a boiling sea. Too dark for decisions best left to the knights' as she leans back on the mast to watch her house burn. Too dark

to say no on this moonless night as the hand that rocked the cradle reaches out to comfort her; to the hand that wielded the knife V now again offers her lips.

And it is without retribution or regret that when V feels the the silver blade in her own hand she plunges it deep into the heart of the woman, and holding her dying mother in her arms forever, V guides their craft across the gliding miles.

--+?+ fin +?+--