Excerpt from A BURIAL, PLASTIC (a novel in progress)

Owen Vince

— The shadow crake; and where it lays its head down - dry, where the earth is, and then wet suddenly, where it is not. Only the chattering of crows (unpleasant; even horrid), and the distant roar of the waves, which also just flounder on the sand. And that bird again, suddenly; which falls down onto the moving surface of the water. These are things which happen, in no particular order. I blow steam off the surface of my coffee. I wipe my lips with a small paper napkin.

— The car - it is mine, or once belonged to me - glides to a halt on the still wet asphalt. Broken glass is broken, again, under its tyres. The way they turn, suddenly. My breath is coming and going very quickly now; very heavily.

— I email the draft of my article to the editor, typing her email address incorrectly; my fingers numb, and thick, and imprecise from the cold. The wind lifting my hair and scarf, my heavy plastic jacket, and slamming the door of that renault closed; sharp like a sheet of iron, dropped. That is when the ground moves, suddenly; a seismic and not unpleasant shift. Screaming, but heard very far away. The settling of dust. The amorphous keening of its sirens, which plough the sullen waves. ‘Can you survive looking into the heart of a fire like that?’ I realize i am tearful, and the towers are collapsing into the sea.

— An explosion, which cut an olive tree in half, and the body of a man who stood by it, who knew nothing of olives; how they are grown, how they taste or are used in this recipe or that. His body having come into contact with the mild yellow of a quickly moving door, separated from the car of which it was a part (see above).

— Look how things become lost, under their own volition. Things—even those (especially those) which are most meaningful to us—are lost when we begin to look for them. I lay down on the wet bank and regret it almost immediately. A star drops out of the sky. Nobody says, god damn why did that happen. Nobody spits and walks around in circles and crushes their hands together in sudden knots. I look at my watch and it’s evening, 7.15, which—again—is a strange and irregular time for the demolition to take place but I don't make any admission or acknowledgement of this fact. I just sort of continue lying there, on the wet grass of the bank, beneath all of the soft bloom of the fern trees, smelling the air, thinking about nothing.

— There are private security contractors, four or five of them, guarding the site entrance. Smoking, chatting. One of them leaves the group—they wear black and grey fatigues, which fall away from the body like boxes—and i follow him, at a distance, into the wet treeline. In the ferns i take his hair in my hands, pull it hard, and push a knife into the side of his head. It is an act of almost mundane violence, and feels - really - simpler than I had expected. I let the knife fall from my hands. It falls onto the grass; handle first, followed by the blade.

— The sound of rain.

— I imagine a sword is used - that is to say, as by a terrified soldier during the dog days of the English Civil War; furiously and blindly, and without skill.

— the expansiveness of form; white net curtains, and the dirty tube of plastic which runs along its head; the colour of dirty milk. The brown carpets, seen through the serving hatch; and curtains, and the German Ceramics which gather on little brown shelves (MDF coated in linoleum’s milk chocolate). The balled-up socks, postcards, repurposed tins of paint turned into storage jars - for nuts, washers, screws, nails, pins, clips, clasps. I push them over. The tiles are black and white. Linoleum. I kick the door beneath the sink until it buckles (it takes only three strikes or so). The floor is covered now in nails, and broken pieces of wood.

— always tedious, always oppressive; the climate of futility you find, I, I find, amongst the reeds and broken-down fences. Men and women in high-vis jackets - which disfigure their bodies, gaudy little boxes - who congregate in twos and threes, smoking, drinking too-wet tea from plastic mugs. A fine dust settles over everything, even before the demolition; and the same old detritus that accumulates around any construction site. I crouch for a while alongside a small broken washing machine and a plastic chair (white, the kind you find in italy and on the island of Kos), taking a moment to sort through my little bag of things. Notebook and pencils which have smudged and damaged one another. The remnants of a rotted apple, which has coated all of it in an unpleasant ochre paste. I’m still rubbing my hands on my cardigan (red, strangely), when one of the workers eventually catches up with me. I’m at a loss for words.

— This area is out of bounds.

Owen Vince's new book, UMBER, is available for pre-orders from HVTN.