Archive, Dalkey, Ireland

24 02 2009

The title is misleading. Despite that, consider a time where so much change has happened that the past cannot be understood. Maybe the modern day historians travel looking for oral culture recordings to serve as a skein to what happened before. In such an accelerated cultural fugue, even twenty years could be the lifetime of several social paradigms. And what would it be like on a small island, where the protagonists have had the time to progress, yet the inclination to regress?


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ORAL HISTORY COLLECTION RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH SEÁN ÓG Ó MURCHÚ (SOOM) AND THE BONNER Ó RATHAILLAGH (BOR), DALKEY DIVISION, GAELIC ATECHNIC ZONE. INTERVIEWER BRENDAN BURKE-KENNEDY (BBK), DATE JULY 3, PS135, Old Reckoning 2467±15.

(sounds of a public house)

BBK: I’ve switched on the recorder, lads.

SOOM: I’ve heard recordin’ is thirsty work, Brendan.

BOR: Aye.

BBK: Don’t you worry, I’ve had a word with Mikey behind the bar already.

SOOM: Good man, Brendan. I’ll tell ye now, you’re a good man. Your father was a good man before ye.

BBK: Have you lads got any stories for me at all? I heard wild horses couldn’t shut ye up once ye got the bit between yer teeth.

BOR: Aye.

SOOM: That’s a fair point, Brendan, sure we’re as full of ould tales as Scotsman’s Bay is full of post-singularity prawns. Ah, Mikey, fair play to ye.

(Noise of glasses clinking and movement, sound of imbibing)

SOOM: Ahhh, a salutary libation indeed. Now, Brendan, did ye ever hear tell o’ the time that Dalkey village was visited by the Chupacabra of old Western lore?

BBK: I can’t say I have, Seán. Go on ahead there and tell us about it.

SOOM: Well, as every man jack knows, the Chupacabra was a gory invention o’ the Hispanic peoples that teem in fluid linguistic elegance on the far shores o’ the Black Atlantic. Many thought that the goat-sucker was merely a thing o’ superstition, a corrosive an’ benighted meme that was promulgated to keep the young folk from courtin’ in the hedgerows of damp ould Mehiko. The goat-sucker was made out to be the most demandin’ and relentless of the blood suckin’ skulkers that live behind the shadows of mankind’s dreams o’ strivin’ and revenge. Isn’t that so, Bonner?

BOR: Aye.

SOOM: Let’s see now. This was about sixty years ago, I’d say, or thereabouts. It began with Antóin Ó Muiretheartaigh’s accident. Before his accident, he was a normal young fella hangin’ around worryin’ the lassies and tryin’ to earn a few bob. Afterwards he was somethin’ else altogether. You see, one summer’s day he took an inadvertent swim in the bay, when he was tryin’ to clear off an invasion o’ the pier by the meta-limpetry you find down Coliemore way.

BBK: Meta-limpetry?

SOOM: Aye, a shower of offensive molluscs that were advanced by all them nanotechnological replicators in the bay. Nasty little feckers. Every now and then they get it into whatever passes for their heads that they would like to try breathin’ air and we have to shovel them off back into the harbour, or burn them off or somethin’ like that.

BBK: Oh, right, ok, thanks.

SOOM: Well, it turns out that his harness wasn’t so well bolted to the oul’ granite wall. It slipped and he went in head-first into the sea, up to his waist. His pals were quick, I’ll grant ye, but it was a few seconds before they could grab him and pull him out o’ the infested fluids o’ the harbour. It was just few more seconds before the boys could get the public e.m.-pulser to him to knock the replicators out of his system, but it was too late. Them little feckers had got in through his ears and nose and put their infernal modifications into his corpus collosum, pineal system and Rachman’s area and done a partial singularity transformation on his poor oul’ noggin. Terrible thing, terrible.

BOR: Aye.

(sound of imbibing)

(recorder’s note: Rachman’s Area = brain area responsible for language processing)

SOOM: So there he was, laid out comatose on the flags o’ the quay and everyone standin’ around lookin’ at him. They knew that what was there before them on the ground in Antóin’s body wasn’t the same person that was clearin’ the invadin’ genus mollusca from off o’ the pier five minutes previously. Aye, there was talk o’ burnin’, and talk o’ givin’ him back to the sea, but in the heel o’ the hunt it was a wise oul fella sittin’ there watchin’ the action that had the final say. “Antóin is gone,” he says, “he’s gone as if he’s never been. Ye’ve killed the infection with that electromagnetic pulse, so he’s no danger to ye, and you’ve got a new person lyin’ there on the ground. Give him a name when he wakes, and let’s see how this new man makes out in the world.”

Well, the widow O’Shea had a spare room goin’ in the house, so we pulled him in and popped him up into the bed. She decamped to the sister’s in Cabinteely and we took turns watchin’ over the poor unfortunate. Three days later, the boy wakes up and looks around him. Ah, you should have seen him. Them little nanite savages had done a job on his eyeballs, givin’ him two bright, swirlin’ and reflective marbles in his sockets. Very disconcerting, the way they changed colour and pattern as the light took them. He didn’t have a word in his mouth either, although we found out later that he could make sense of much o’ what was around him. After havin’ the yokes cross-wire his brain, the poor hoor was probably synaesthesic. Anyway, he spent another day stretched out on the labba, lookin’ into space, his head and his hands wavin’ about aimlessly, then he got up and walked straight out of the house and down to the quay.

(pause, sound of imbibing)

(recorder’s note, labba = bed)

SOOM: We followed him the lot of us then, I remember that as clear as day, watchin’ him walk down the slipway towards the sea. Now, you know that while the sea has diminished in its power to harm since that time, we were not long past the First Excursion and the coastline was a faintly glowin’ skin of quantum-level conversions. Antóin, or whatever was in the body that used to be his, paused just beside the water, as if he was goin’ to dive in, when some clever bucko remembered that no-one had given this creature a new name and so, doesn’t the bucko let out a shout “Your name is Jams Joyce!” Isn’t that right, Bonner?

BOR: Aye.

SOOM: Well, it was like Antóin’s body had been given an electric shock – the new Jams Joyce jumped around inside his own skin and he swivelled to face the crowd, his marbled peepers glitterin’ in the sun. I swear to you now that he was grinnin’ like a maniac, and the next thing he did was to take off at a run up the road towards Sandycove and Norris’s Tomb.

(recorder’s note: Norris’s Tomb = pre-singularity structure, possibly ancient, alleg. named for regional campaigner in the Lit. Wars)

BBK: What happened then?

SOOM: Just like the oul fella had said – we left him to get on in the world. Usually one of the lads would wander by the tomb every now and then to see if there was anythin’ goin’ on, but the only thing that happened was Jams put up a kind of a lean-to shelter agin the old stones, with a sheet of polycarbonate that he pulled down as a door in the front. He used to potter about near the shore, doin’ god knows what. People said that they saw his hands in the water, movin’ around as if he was washin’ somethin’ in the nanite soup, but them’s just tales, nothin’ can suffer the editin’ powers o’ the replicators and be unchanged, Jams was proof of that himself. It was a month later that he turned up at the Sunday market with a cart, and in the cart there were these strange objects. Sculptures, said some, impenetrable technical articles said another, charmin’ steampunk artifacts said the rest. Useless things mostly, metal, a drift of delicate germanium flowers burstin’ out o’ titanium alloy soil, or a twisted skein of exotic semiconductors extruded from a base o’ lead cobbles. Odd metal things. No-one knew where he got the materials, and he wouldn’t take money, instead we’d give him potatoes, vegetables, food that he needed to keep his human shell goin’ while somehow his transformed insides put forth this wondrous metal-bendin’ art.

(extended pause, background noise)

BBK: His works were popular then…

SOOM: Oh aye, they were popular at first. But after a while they started to change, become more abstract, fantastic swerves and curls o’ metal, more fluid. People weren’t so worried, we’ve had more’n our share of artists around here since time immemorial and let’s face it, an artist that won’t grow just isn’t an artist anymore, they’re a production line. Well, it looked like he was movin’ on from just expressin’ himself in terms o’ what he perceived around him and goin’ somewhere altogether different. It made people a little uncomfortable. Anyway. It was about then that the whole goat thing started. We had a couple of herds – Paudie Loughlin and Hammy Hamilton kept ’em.

BBK: Why did they keep goats? It seems a bit unusual in this day and age.

SOOM: Brendan, son, you can’t have an authentic farmer’s market without at least two organic goat cheese vendors. All the Germans and Dutch had left the country, airlifted durin’ the First Excursion, so we didn’t have the real deal, but we did alright. Loughlin and Hamilton were the boys. Paudie kept his herd up in the Quarry Field and it was his animals that got attacked first. Happened durin’ the night o’ the full moon. Me and the Bonner here and the lads were tearin’ the arse out of it down in Finnerty’s, oh, about two in the mornin’ I think it was, when next thing Paudie bursts in the door, lookin’ like an abattoir. I tell ye, that’s not just a figure o’ speech. The man was steeped in blood, and the steam comin’ off of him. He practically fell in the door — that dual-cybernetic barman fella they have down there, Tim-Eoghan, was over like a shot to pour brandy down the poor man’s neck. All Paudie could say was “me goats, me goats.” Ah jaysus, he was in an awful state. So a few of us took a howlt o’ some o’ Tim-Eoghan’s no-home-to-go-to shocksticks and went up the Quarry Field. Jaysus wept, it was a mess. I was like somebody had stuck Paudie’s goats in a blender. Somethin’ had got to them and just minced them. Wasn’t that what it was like, Bonner?

BOR: Aye.

SOOM: The next full moon, there was another attack, Paudie lost a couple o’ goats, and the full moon after that, Hamilton found his competitive advantage shortened in turn. We were all startin’ to get a bit concerned, so we put together a posse and staked out the Quarry Field. Unfortunately, we’d spent the afternoon hoistin’ them down at the King’s and, it bein’ a warm enough night an’ all, let’s just say we all decided to rest our eyes at around the same time.

BBK: Did anything happen?

SOOM: It was late when I was woken up by a horrible rippin’ and crackin’ noise. I gave the Bonner here the elbow and rousted him. He passed on the summons to the Butcher Mayhew, Paudie himself and Fr. O’Carroll. The tearin’ and crunchin’ was goin’ on good-o over the hedge and we popped our heads over to see what was happenin’. The full moon was bright, we could see a white blob at the other end o’ the field, gettin’ dragged about, a goat. Next thing there’s a crack and the whizz of somethin’ goin’ fast through the air. I looked around – hadn’t Paudie gone and got his paws on some class of a kinetic projectile launcher and taken a pot-shot in the general direction o’ the goat. Lachrima christi, I says to myself, we’re in the shite now.

BBK: Did he hit the beast?

SOOM: Missed it by a country mile. It rose its head up from rootin’ in the belly o’ the goat and stared at us. It had three red eyes in the middle of its face, each one glowin’ like the divil’s arse-hole. It let a roar out of it, a noise to cause god himself to make water with the fright. I know for a fact there was more than a couple o’ longjohns needin’ attention later on that evenin’. It roared again, and threw its head back like it was bayin’ at the moon, we could see glitterin’ showers of ice flakin’ off its superconductin’ dreadlocks. I remember thinkin’ that it was a wonder we could see the moon at all, it havin’ been a particularly wet and overcast summer that year, wasn’t it, Bonner?

BOR: Aye.

(recorder’s note: longjohns = undergarment worn next to skin, covering body and legs)

SOOM: Anyway, we thought we were for the mincer, the lot of us, that the goat-sucker was goin’ to lep over the bodies o’ the beasts it had killed and lay into us. But it didn’t, it let another great roar out of it, turned around and headed for the quarry wall. We could see the sparks of its ascent as it scaled the quarry, forty, fifty times faster than a man and then it disappeared over the ridge. We stood there in silence, rooted to the spot, until Fr. O’Carroll, who’s always had a bit o’ trouble with the oul’ bag, tore off a couple o’ nervous farts and brought us back to ourselves.

(pause, sound of imbibing)

(recorder’s note: bag = local term for stomach, digestive system)

BBK: So, it didn’t take a go at you or anything like that?

SOOM: No.

BBK: How many of the goats had been killed?

SOOM: Let’s see, Paudie woulda had about a dozen or so left, but some were expectin’ and they were indoors, so probably eight or ten that night. You couldn’t tell just by lookin’, the beast had hit the poor animals like a ton o’ bricks. When we went back up to the Quarry Field after the sun came up, it was carnage. There was bits everywhere and the field was slick with blood and jelly. Well, we swept up as best we could. Poor oul’ Paudie was inconsolable. He’d been very fond o’ the goats. Very fond.

BOR: Aye.

SOOM: The Butcher Mayhew offered, out o’ the goodness of his heart, to make a big rack o’ black puddin’s from the scrapin’s, but oul Paudie had to be led away and brought home for a rest. I don’t think he ever got over it, the poor hoor.

(pause, sound of imbibing)

SOOM: Anyway. It was as clear as day to all concerned that time for messin’ was over. It was time to call in the big guns. There used to be a rozzer down Dalkey, big fella, name of Fahy, who was engaged in off-shore online combat, fightin’ miscellaneous cyber-crime in Guatemala City over a virtual network connection. One o’ the boys who knew his private avatar pinged him and arranged a meetin’ round my house. We’d all heard o’ this Fahy, they said he was superhumanly fast and strong, he’d had his myelin nerve sheathin’ metallized and his bones woven with ceramic whiskers. Accordin’ to another rumour, he had a heat shunt larruped into his mid-brain and when he was thinkin’ hard, steam would come out of his ears.

(recorder’s note: rozzer = law enforcement officer)

BBK: Steam, you say. Did you meet Fahy?

SOOM: Aye, he turned up for the meetin’ in my kitchen.

BBK: What was like?

SOOM: He was a big lad alright, but normal-lookin’, bit of a ‘tache, broad face. But he took charge of our meetin’ right away. We told him about the night in the Quarry Field. He didn’t bat an eyelid, but says to us, he says, “Lads, it’s clear to me that you are dealing with a limited nanite excursion of the polymorphic symbiosis class.” That was fairly obvious to me, I have to add. There was a rock silence for a minute, until Fr. O’Carroll, god bless him, broke it. Anyway, Fahy, who was lookin’ at us all, man by man, spoke again. “But don’t worry”, he says, “it turns out I have just the medicine for you boys — it came into the station last week from the research centre down at the Teampaill Mór. Four litres of hypercompressed quantum foam, stored in shielded pinch-bottles, with adjustable delay triggers. A lovely bit of kit, gentlemen, a lovely bit of kit, and we’re honoured to have it. A sudden massive acceleration of entropy in the locality of space-time inhabited by your excursion will certainly soften its cough.” To tell you the truth, now, we were a bit nervous there with Fahy, none of us bein’ used to dealin’ with amped-up combat enthusiasts. The Butcher let a little cough out of him. “Them isn’t unapproved munitions, Fahy, at all? Are they?” he asks. Fahy looked at him with a big smile and says, “I’d say you’re runnin’ short o’ goats, Butcher, what’s next on the list?” And that settled it.

(pause, sound of imbibing)

SOOM: So, the next full moon we went up to the Quarry field again, this time with Fahy and two of Hamilton’s goats in tow. None of us had the heart to bring Paudie along. A month o’ rain had washed the field free o’ gore, so the goats settled in and began to graze. Me, the Bonner, the Butcher and Fr. O’Carroll squatted behind a brake o’ heather and Fahy stood straight up in the field about ten metres from the goats. He was wearin’ adaptive camo and some kind of fancy shear-thickenin’ fluid armour. Two dark cans of Teampaill Mór’s best instant proton decay hung on quick-release hooks at his left and right side. His hands were poised to grab the cans, release the triggers and cast them at the monster. Sure enough, we didn’t have long to wait. Only about an hour and half had passed when El Chupo vaults over the hedge at the quarry end o’ the field and bates into one o’ the poor goats. We didn’t even see Fahy move – we just saw a golden arc of sparkles leave the place where he was standin’ and fly over the head of the creature. Jaysus, I thought, he’s goin’ to miss the feckin’ thing, we’ll all be cream-crackered and the market will be chock-a-block with black puddin’s come Sunday. But just then didn’t the beast make a standing lep up into the air, like a dog goin’ for a stick, and grabbed the glowin’ grenade in its gob. The creature hung there in the air for a quarter of a second and poof – it was gone. Just gone. Along with most o’ the goat, and a couple o’ cubic metres o’ field. Not even a whiff of ionizin’ radiation or a shock wave, or nothin’. Fahy pulled off his gel mask and took a deep breath o’ fresh air. “There ye go, lads. Fun’s over. Next time you need your arses pulled out of a crack, just call Fahy on glontore.” He laughed a short laugh and walked off back to his Latin American cyberwar. I remember sayin’ to the Bonner here that there was no way was I goin’ to let myself get on the bad side of the rozzers after that little ordnance showcase. Not as long as my arse faced the ground.

BOR: Aye.

(pause, clinking sound)

(recorder’s note: on glontore = the cleaner, the person who cleans)

BBK: So that was the end of El Chupacabra?

SOOM: It was. From that night on there was no unexpected goat-worryin’ in Dalkey. Fahy had saved the day. We heard later that he had shipped off-planet.

BBK: Dalkey goes back to being a pleasant and sleepy town…

SOOM: Except… when the Sunday turned around, and no-one saw Jams Joyce at the market, people wondered where he was. We went up to Norris’s Tomb and Jams’ lean-to agin it. No sign of him, but we had a little search around, and we found a loose stone in the wall o’ the tomb, inside the lean-to. Behind it there was a little pile o’ platinum ingots, each one the size o’ your middle finger. Since El Chupacabra had arrived, two dozen goats had been killed, the last one was that night up at the quarry with Fahy. Everyone noticed that the pile had twenty-four ingots in it.

BBK: Are you saying that…

SOOM: I’m just sayin’ that to my eyes the way the beast jumped up to catch the grenade had to be a calculated action. By the way, son, have you heard of the post-singularity albatross at all?

BBK: No, Seán, I can’t say I have.

SOOM: Tell him, Bonner.

BOR: Not even it could fly on one wing.

(pause, followed by laughter)

BBK: Fair enough, lads, another pint it is.

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24 02 2009

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