exercise: N 2.10

N exercise 2.10 – horror setting

Looping tendrils of sticky vines dangle from the low canopy, grabbing at the skin of passers-by. They write and judder on contact with flesh. Numberless small creatures make their homes in this dark canopy, nestling in the black and private crevices of ancient trees gone from life to stone. I hear the occasional call, a squawking noise or tinny screech filter through the foliage. These calls rarely go unanswered.
The ground is covered with damp plants and heavy leaves. I wade through them, taking care not to catch my skin on the plants’ unnaturally jagged edges. They’re serrated like the sawblade to which my father lost his life in the mill. They rake at my delicate neck, exposing red lines of the finest calligraphy. My blood’s exposure to the air seems to awaken something in the beasts of the forest, for their hooting grows louder, more intense. I feel the weight of their infinite gazes settling upon me, a shroud of stone weighting me to the needle-strewn floor.
The smell of sweet sap fills my nostrils, clogs my throat. Its tang is unplaceable but stirs in me memories of childhood nightmares, of thrashing in sweat-soaked sheets, shooting up in bed with a scream. The sap oozes from the mottled trunks around me, from deep, etched wounds in their bark, gashes leaking a viscous amber goo that almost glimmers in the failing light. Stumbling over some concealed obstacle, I brush against the sap and it leaves my skin tingling, burning as with sun exposure, and I feel the cells within twisting, mutating, degenerating. Scraping it off proves impossible; I try with a leaf but it only spreads the sap.
Racing from the sky, the sun abandons me. The forest is thrown into a shimmering monochrome, and my field of view diminishes. Leaves and branches crush in around me as though all of these woods were crawling to meet me, to suffocate me with love and affection. The creatures in the trees grow louder. There is no moon. I thought I knew the path.


Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.9

N exercise 2.9

1
The bunting is still in the muggy, stagnant air. Each coloured triangle is coated with a thin layer of grit, so fine as to be practically invisible. The drooping lines of festive decorations run around the perimeter of the lot, and not one of the triangles moves. They just hang, motionless.
It’s too hot even for the birds. There must be some up there, in the trees, but I haven’t seen a one all afternoon. Sometimes their singing is so loud, so jarring in its cacophonous overlapping, that I have to bring customers into the dealership itself to be heard. Today, though, there’s no sound at all. No screeching birds, no passing cars. The sidewalk is empty, baking. The brutal sun is hidden behind a sheet of smoggy grey cloud, saving us from the worst of the heat, but it makes the world grey, too. A flat, lifeless grey, hanging over everything.
At three o’clock I’m sitting in my tiny office, reclining in my chair, my arms dangling at my sides. My computer has put itself to sleep, and the chime at the door of the dealership hasn’t tinkled in days. I peer through the slats in the window, rubbing at the grit with my shirt sleeve, to see if Mr. Masabusi is out for his daily walk, even in this heat. There’s no sign of the old man or his walker with the sliced tennis balls.
Drooping back into my chair, it seems the place has somehow grown darker. It’s not for some minutes that I realize the bulb in my desk lamp has burnt out. I wonder when it happened. I’d not noticed it flickering, even once, and yet the few assorted papers scattered across my desk are in such a murky gloom as to be unreadable. I brush them aside into a rough pile at the edge of the desk. A moment later, I sweep them onto the floor, and there they stay. I recline in my chair, close my eyes.

2
The bunting flaps in the warm, friendly breeze, sparkling and giving colourful life to the perimeter of the lot. Blues and reds and whites wink at the customers browsing the cars, giving the whole place a festive vibe.
Birds and squirrels fill the vibrant green trees surrounding the lot. The birds are a riot today, each little creature chirping its heart out, calling to one another. Even the squirrels seem extra chittery today, as though sharing some exciting news happening amongst the denizens of the trees. Birds and squirrels race from tree to tree, streaks of colour and sound. Their chatter nearly drowns out the voices of the customers, and my own, but we all smile and strain to speak over the chirps, laughing about the noisy creatures.
The sun shines gentle rays on the lot throughout the day, and at three, as always, Mr. Masabusi, gripping his walker, the slit tennis balls scooting across the pavement, shuffles by. He waves at me, calls out, asks how the wife is. I tell him that she’s nearly due and he grins, maneuvers his walker over to where I’m showing a hybrid four-door to a young couple, and Mr. Masabusi interrupts us briefly to shake my hand. The couple smiles at this, and we all wave goodbye as Mr. Masabusi continues on his way.
I make several sales under the golden sun, even stay late to close a deal with the young couple, who are eager to get their new hybrid home. I baby it with a fresh coat of polish just before they drive away, and the vehicle gleams in the evening sunset. As their new red tail lights disappear over a hill, I wave, a genuine smile on my face that I couldn’t get rid of if I tried. I quickly organize the outstanding paperwork on my desk and skip out into the pleasant evening, drive home with the top down. My wife greets me with a grin.


Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.8

N exercise 2.8

1
The library on a sunny Sunday is filled with older people in no particular hurry. Most, though not all, have a book or two in front of them, or a nespaper propped open on a knee. They flip through the pages of their books, clean their glasses, check their text messages. A guy with a black bandana hanging out of the back pocket of his jeans, wearing a Roncesvalles Ave t-shirt, checks a computer, but sees something there that doesn’t agree with him, and he walks away. There is the smell of sweat, of bodies exposed to the heat outside. The air conditioning, so weak as to be the barest disturbance of the stagnant air, spreads the smells around.
A lady in a fuchsia top pops a tic-tac and starts writing with a blunt pencil inside a spiral notebook she’s got open over the other books arrayed around her – accounting stuff, maths, a calendar. She glances around herself often, but a spark of discipline seems to take her in these moments, and she snaps back to her work for a few minutes. Somewhere in the back, by the children’s area, a boy is wailing, while another child, a girl, woops and woo-hoos. A happy-looking tree in a planter stands sucking up the rays that bounce through the big east-facing bay windows. It must be bathed every morning when the sun rises. Outside, the wind is high enough to knock a potted plant onto its side, but in here, in the library, there’s not even a gentle rustling of leaves.

2
A bored but authoritative voice crackles over the loudspeakers concealed in the ceiling. It tells the remaining patrons that the library will soon be closed. The lady with the tic-tacs stacks her paperwork and books – it’s a university course she’s working on, as a mature student, it seems – and funnels it all into a patent-leather purse that she shoulders with an effort. A man in a graphic tee is sitting at a table, with his hands folded and his gaze fixed upon the middle distance. As the shadows deepen in the library, he doesn’t move. He’ll have to be asked personally by security to leave, and he’ll comply without complaint. The last librarian on the premises sits down at each computer terminal in turn and puts the machines to sleep. The rolling carts for shelving books are all empty now, ready to accept tomorrow’s load.
Later, a third-party cleaning crew will let themselves in through the back door and vacuum away the scents of body odour. The sun races west and the library is left in darkness, until the next day, when the light will shine again on the happy tree, changing its leaves from grey to green.


Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.7

N exercise 2.7 objective setting of Human vs Nature

The earth swells and falls in steep grades. The roots of young trees, coursing with vitality and strength, criss-cross the tangled paths, erupting from the soil like jagged rocks in an awful harbour. Sharp stones, too, fill the trails, made of edge and corner, points jutting up from concealing earth to snag errant ankles.
Trees rise up from the soil, reaching into the atmosphere, their vivid green canopies murmurring to one another, their heights unreachable. Dark branches caress and sway together in a lurid, cosmic dance. Birds, hidden within the boughs, chitter to one another, issuing threats, seductions. Now and then, a flash of darkness as a bird takes wing, casts its blurred shadow against the fecund backdrop. Insects, too, above, buzzing. Communicating in their incomprehensible dialect, too small to see at a glance, but crawling, covering every centimetre of the forest.
Some of the greenery is poisonous, to human and animal alike. Plain-looking plants, green stalks flashing in the sunlight, delicate white flowers atop; a Latinized scientific name, and a playful, everyday one; all belie the acids coursing through each fleshy cell of these plants, so unassuming in appearance. They’re scattered throughout this place, within the meadows, under the shade of trees, poking up among the smooth rocks of the marshy river bank. There is a cure for the poison, an antidote for the vicious symptoms, but it’s not to be found in the woods.
The white noise of a rushing river filters up through the vegetation from its valley below. There, the powerful water dominates the stones and dead trunks that have fallen into its path – it cuts the very earth over which it runs. Erodes, takes it away, particle by particle, exchanging today for tomorrow.
Shifting winds bring thick grey clouds into the sky where once there was clear blue. A chill descends and the green shadows lengthen to an inky grey-black. Roots and stones slither into darkness, concealed anew. Thunder cracks like a loosened load of rubble spilling onto the ground. The rain will come soon, the forest will be transformed.


Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.6

N exercise 2.6 – a train ride

The cabin’s lit with flat white light, day and night. It reflects back at the passengers from the black and empty windows, big picture windows for taking in the landscape when there’s landscape to take in. The train car sways back and forth, rhymthic clacking of the tracks beneath, gently lulling the exhausted patrons into a hypnotic stupor as they skim editorials, pencil in sudokus, post comments on Insta. Another train, a duplicate, rushes past in the opposite direction, impossibly close, so close that it practically scratches the paint of the side of the train. It’s here and then gone in a bewildering rush of speed, a furious corridor of power, here, then not. Each cabin is just like this one, with emergency exits laid out in the right spaces, equidistant from one another – the cabin’s unique number in a simple, sans serif font, big black letters above the doors at the front and back. Yellow emergency stripping just above eye-level at each seat. The passengers face one another in two by twos, each seat part of a quad, two facing two, and though some have elevated their bags and possessions to the level of passengers and occupied seats, most are understanding enough to push their things under their seats, crammed up in the foot well with the socks, leather, and rubber.

The train’s synthetic voice speaks the names of the stops, struggling with the pronunciations of some, and that struggle is preserved in the recording that plays every time, every run of this long train, one of many in a sprawling network of commuter transit in this most densely-populated region of the country. The pale interior of each car is a far cry from the posh appointments of a Victorian-era carriage but of course it’s much more affordable for people these days than ever it was. And no coal since these beauties, all white and cream and branded green, are all electric. Roads across the region are blocked to permit the train to run unchallenged.


Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.4

N exercise 2.4 – three places

The streets are narrow and don’t wind according to a regular grid – rather, they wind according to ancient feet, feet long gone, of men and women and work animals, their belongings trailing behind. Now the streets are gritty with dust and cracked pavement, broken ditches where sidewalks might be in another town, on the other side of the world. Squat buildings stretch to reach the sky, while plots of land are filled only with rubble, broken concrete, rebar. A policeman in a reflective vest stands on a raised concrete slab in the centre of a whirling intersection, directing traffic with flailing arms and a whistle. His white helmet glares in the bright sunlight, his whistling barely audible above the roar of the autos rushing past. Trees heavy with foliage dot the streetscape, thick green leaves with a waxy coating dropping from dusty branches. Bats live in these trees, hanging throughout the day, descending in swarms as twilight fades.
Many people have set up market stalls along the streetside, weighing with rickety iron scales bags of peanuts and oranges. The occasional butcher’s stall, replete with bloody limbs dotted with flies, sends up a viscous scent of decay that clashes in combat with the compounded stink of a thousand combustion engines. Some people wear improvised masks of coloured fabric, but most just breathe the air as-is, acclimated to the smells such that they’re no longer apparent even in the early morning light.
A beggar sits at the midpoint of an arcing concrete bridge, his left leg missing above the knee, a festering wound peeking from below his ripped-up pant leg. Deep red muscle fibres, limp and lifeless. He’s wrapped a soiled bandage, a length of off-white cloth, around the wound, stained with all hues of rust-brown splotches. His bent and knuckly hand is held feebly aloft, and he searches passers-by with his foggy gaze. Few stop to offer him a coin or two – no one offers any help.

+++

The Hogtown Vegan on Bloor has a picture of a pig on its front glass window, a fat round pig that looks like it came from a wood etching somewhere in the late middle ages – the joke being that no pig is actually served in this restaurant. The walls inside are a bright turquoise and at eye-level is a series of old records, from Paul Simon’s solo work to Warren Zevon. Just the covers, not the records themselves, though it’s possible their actually in the sleeves up there too. Along the western wall is a short banquette, which could seat a half-dozen people or so. The floor is linoleum, and each table has a stainless-steel serviette dispenser stocked with one-ply. Each table has a place setting of a one-ply serviette along with fork and butter knife. No butter served here either.
There’s a sign saying to wait for someone to seat you, as a guest – the sign is in permanent marker on white cardstock, stuck into a metal frame. Beyond the sign the records on the wall continue, and there are several four-top tables, each with the same sort of serviette dispenser and basic place settings. At the bar on the western side beyond the banquette is a water station, with pre-filled reusable water bottles and stacks of tiny plastic cups. Each item is from Ikea. The bar itself has a few bottles behind it on a glass shelf, basic rail-type stuff, as well as a small walk-in closet, and a computer for ringing up tabs. Through the hallway past the four-tops is an alcove of guest restrooms, as well as a regular suburb-type white refrigerator, and a stereo blasting out a hit from Led Zeppelin. The music filters through the restaurant but seems to be mostly for the benefit of the kitchen staff than the guests, given the band’s hard rock, and Robert Plant’s treblic moans, can scarcely be heard at the front.

+++

The many twisting roads you must take to get there are rutted, roughened, cut anew each season by 4x4s with heavy, grooved tires. You’re bounced and jostled in the 4×4 like a rider seeking thrills at an amusement park, except there is no safety cage to protect your vulnerable insides. You must brace yourself, for the trails and roads are inanimate, inert, care not for man’s machines.
The space the roads arrive at is gargantuan, a valley swallowing all vanishing points – the very horizon itself. One waist-high fence of dried lumber is all that bars you from a terrible fall, an endless fall into the dim depths of the jungle below, but beyond the fence, beyond the chasm, is a waterfall, or rather, a place where a waterfall often is. In the dry season it’s just a great void, a cascading streak of darkness off a cliff of inestimable height, plunging into a soft, flowing river below. The river is low in the dry season, barely more than a trickle heading east, but you can imagine it at its grandest, flush with eager water, nourishing the thirsty greenery this valley sustains. In the height of summer, though, the green takes on a golden tone, a the hue of the sun caught within the leaves. Green clings to each sheer cliff face, climbing up and down, the whole valley a field of vibrant green, except for the scar where the waterfall used to be – will be again. Its power mollified in summer, but indisputable.


Logan Bright