Friday, February 26, 2010

Memento Mori, or The City of Hungry Ghosts

In the offices, they sat beside steaming mugs that slowly cooled and stared at computer screens, remembering e-mails, meetings, deadlines. One by one, the monitors flickered and went dark.

Outside, silent customers stood arrayed around a hot dog vendor, holding sausages, remembering chili, relish, and crisp warm bread. A man on a bench threw a handful of crumbs and remembered pigeons.

Black-clad men and women in red sat at tables, remembering wine, remembering romance. Waiters brought champagne in melting ice. They pocketed large tips.

Nobody went outside the city, where the soil piled haphazardly, and memories lay buried beyond recall.


Donna Hole said...

Can I have a little more please?

This just grabbed me.


Jim Murdoch said...

Quite lovely. One thought: would "to remembered pigeons" work better? Either way very poetic.

Scattercat said...


Sometimes they're the seeds of larger stories. I don't know if this one has enough legs for that. It's just one striking image. I always find I lose interest in afterlife-style stories once characters start talking...


Hmm. I think "to remembered pigeons" would give the pigeons too much reality. That is, there would then be pigeons present, albeit of a remembered variety. I wanted to keep the emphasis on the act of remembering, on the way the 'ghosts' are trying to force themselves to remember these things without the actual presence of the things themselves. That's why I made the odd-on-the-surface choice of having the man on the bench "throw crumbs and remember pigeons." It does seem like it comes across a titch awkwardly now. Hmm...

The sad part is that I actually think all the way through these chains of implication when composing these microfics.

Jim Murdoch said...

I realised that. What made me think about it that way was the fact that my second novel takes place within a remembered landscape, everything, the streets he walks on, the windows he looks out of are only as real as he remembers them to be. I don't overstate the fact but at one point I do talk about "remembered leaves" blowing around a park.

Scattercat said...

Great minds, I guess.

I think in this case I prefer the emphasis on the fact that there are no pigeons; I'm okay with sausages and coffee and champagne existing (if unusable) because they're inert and don't move. Pigeons would be active things that aren't the ghosts (even if motivated by the ghost bird-feeder.)

What's the novel called? I'll buy one off'f you. I need something to read 'cause we missed going to the library this week. ;-)

Jim Murdoch said...

The novel is called Stranger than Fiction. It's a sequel and you'd really be well-advised to read Living with the Truth first. You can buy the two for £12.50 - that's about $19 including post and packing - here. If you want to read a bit more about it then there're links to reviews on my website and a couple of excerpts. If the first book appeals don't read anything about the sequel. Most of the reviews include a major spolier and I'd really like it when you get to the end of Living with the Truth to go: "Now how the hell is he going to get a sequel out of this mess?"