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Erskine, by Steve Kilbey, from NSEW fanzine Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 January 1997
This was originally printed in an issue of Church fanzine North South East West (see Links).  Steve's book Earthed/Nineveh/The Ephemeron contains more writing about Erskine.


Shortly, he will be arriving.

Shortly, before the end of the 19th or 20th century, Erskine, the prestidigitator, the magician, succeeded in vanishing. That is to say, no hocus-pocus trapdoor job or three-way mirrors, no props or assistants. He was truly gone.

In the weeks leading up to this event he'd performed several small nasty experiments involving at first mice and then later on, when he had become more flaming reckless, he also caused several other animals to disappear, including a beautiful blue-eyed monkey who laconically vanished into the gloom in his claustrophobic darkroom.

We can almost see him hunched over his little desk heaped high with volume after volume, like "Spatial Inadequacy and the Shrinkage in Everything" by St. Martin le Rayon. Or Archimedes' trilogy which supposed more entrances and exits than birth and death. According to certain Carthaginian alchemists the soul inside the living body is akin to cramming the entire sky into the mouth of a small child.

And that's right, though electricity is both the cause and the effect of Erskine's vanishing, or, as he put it, "Translocation Exchange", in his dusty and recently discovered notebook. His last entry - "Shortly he will be arriving" - the ink still drying on the page, flickering in the candlelight of the arcana lab.

Hey, Erskine, what's that in that little bottle with the white filaments and the chipped off bits of Amber? But of course he doesn't turn around, but goes on plotting his arachnid graphs and the occasional glance at the glowing pink gases which light up the power tubes. So crude and sharp the knife, the shell, and the undeveloped negatives and unsatisfied externals. I suppose it was some kind of computer, if you like, only instead of addition this one was strictly subtraction. Erskine contemplated a range of commercially viable and available entity subtraction devices under the "King Minus" trademark.

But then he supercedes his monetary dream kingdoms within the rich and fertile empire of imagination, the imagination of what's beyond all of this. You see, like so many gifted and bitter men, Erskine constantly entertained the notion that he deserved a better world, a better time. Out there somewhere (he hoped) an Olympian hand stretches forth through a sky of superconductivity hauling the genii out of their disgusting little laboratories, and on up into the lilac void where all the wonderful things happen, and heavenly and slightly flanged backing vocals murmur their minor chord praise. Forever young, forever lauded by the electron female spirits who hawk their voltage into narrow electric streets. Or maybe, Erskine thinks, or maybe it's the Buddha calm sonic lakes of reverberation where the chosen sink but never fade?

Anyway, I suppose it's all mere conjecture as to how Erskine conceptualized th place to which he was going. For all we know he may have been envisaging perpetual travel. That he was seeking oblivion itself is doubtful: he put seven years and seven months work into this process, and why, if only to obliterate himself? He could do that with the bottle or the bed, or he could simply place a little purple powder beneath his tongue and the gentle gods of death would receive him painlessly into their muted realm.

But Erskine clearly believed that he was going somewhere. This we gather from his diary and from the unusual shapes of clouds these days. I have always thought Erskine's supposed destination an interesting topic and was disappointed when no more was made of this by Einstein or Winston Churchill, who was also the inventor of ice.

Definitely Erskine needed a lot of water and a major electrical storm to be able to pull off such a molecularly resistant subject as a human being through whatever dimensional opening he flashed off through, let alone the weirdly aligned spirit of the magician, and one of Erskine's calibre at that. Earlier experiments had shown small vats of salt water would not do the trick, and eventually a small brackish tributary was ruled out as well.

Erskine decided he'd prefer not to disappear in the jaws of some bunyip or imagined giant lagoon-going squid that might take him unawares while waiting for the transference to begin. No, it would have to be the open ocean itself, seething across the sand-dunes and down the darkened beach, which waited for him like a saline maternal mouth ready to swallow and forgive her special and favourite children.

For the two hours preceding his immersion in chance infinity he worked in his room drinking Belladonna tea and smoking pure opium cut with powdered Mandrake, chanting litanies to Ba'al and logarithmic haiku; and also remembering, remembering his life in a world of sight and sound laden with the

shining debris of skies and moons, lakes and cities and levelling sorrow. And then he's gone, never to return to the cupboard under the stairs whose warmth and darkness encompassed him as a boy, exploring his initial journeys into pseudo-disappearance, where he projected himself into various beyonds which he mapped and christened Shangri-La or Neo-Asia or New New South Wales, or to void worlds to which he gave the letters X and Z as names.

Some existences started off in his head, and the spirit of the Lord moved across the face of the deep. He took in new lives like water through the gills of a fish, and dreamed up ridiculous aliases for himself like Mr. opportunity or Harry Holt.

Then he's in that ocean, at the right spot under the right star. A storm at sea unravels itself, glowering over the marine city and its sleeping insects. Erskine with his mixture of occult and algebra stannding at the edge of the sand-bar, illuminated for the crowd by his beloved moon, melting into the air with a horrible resonant groan which swept out to sea and pulled down the rain which lashed this town for almost forty days before Christmas, drenching the black, red-lined cloaks of the fellow magicians and mere conjurors who descended on the place; some to mourn, some to gloat, and some just to be there.

Transcribed from the North, South, East and West fanzine by Craig Wood. Many thanks Craig !
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