Environa

In the City of Environa the maps are re-drawn on a weekly basis and new versions issued to all bona fide citizens on Monday mornings. Usually the revisions are minor – a bollard added or subtracted outside the Melbourne Building, alterations in the camber of the road on London Circuit – but sometimes they are not: on occasion, when it is has been decided that their alignment is incorrect, whole streets have been re-positioned, monuments taken up from their hallowed ground and erected elsewhere, the sky cantilevered in fealty to the incessant metamorphoses of the ley lines that bisect that long river valley. It can be confusing for visitors, of course, especially if, like us, they have neglected to upload the new version of the Map of Environa before disembarking at the Air Port or arriving via Bullet Train at the Adjoining Station. Our small flight included a team of Rope Skippers from Quean’s Freak, a private girl’s school, here for a Tournament, and also a group of Aficionados of the Language of Marbles who were attending a Symposium at AMUK; as for us, we were going to the Environa International Film Festival. The Taxi transported us swiftly and efficiently to The Hotel Beside The Lake and, despite problems with my new Hand Piece, I managed to contact the Festival Director and arrange a meeting in the Foyer of the Limelight Cinema at 6.00 that evening; but to walk there was difficult, we found ourselves stumbling at newly made corners and taking turns down concrete boulevards whose existence seemed not just provisional but unlikely. No passers by to speak of, or to, just the discreet hiss of tyres of late model automobiles over the tarry black macadam of the just completed Estrada Lisboa. Well we got there at last and, naturally, the Festival Director was late but not unpleasantly so. I spoke a few words before the screening of the film I had worked upon, The Ballad of Timely Innocence, explaining how the original conception – a cold-blooded killer, to salve his soul, adopts an orphan from a faraway country in order to give her a chance at redemption – passed through many hands until it was ameliorated to a story about the achingly poignant permutations in the same-sex relationship between a Soft Toy Fancier with an Anxiety Disorder and a down-on-their luck Luxury Car Detailer. Then we skipped out for dinner at a Thai restaurant with a group of Sensational Young Americans whose new film, Family Weekend, was the Hit of the Festival. Much later, after the Q & A, after drinks at Flanaghans, after a confrontation with a Tongan Bouncer that might have, but did not, turn ugly, back in our hotel we were visited by a Team of Secret Service Men who entered the room silently, using skeleton keys, after we had gone to sleep. I was shot with a Tranquilliser Dart that left me conscious but physically incapacitated; forced to watch while my companion was bound to a chair – gently, gently, they were not brutes – injected with Sodium Pentathol then interrogated for several hours about her knowledge of, and previous experience in, the Military; she had been recruited as a Parapsychic half a decade ago then refused to co-operate fully in their Evolving Program of Psychological Warfare; and they were still hoping, the fools, somehow to find in the depths of her mind the clue that would finally make sense of their clumsy attempt to construct a Curriculum for the Study of Telepathy: as if she would not already have armed herself against such incursions. The drug, as it tends to do, made her loquacious and seemingly cooperative with Interrogators; but I could tell that all her talk about the Devil’s Spawn, which they solemnly recorded, was simply Persiflage designed to confuse them. We didn’t get much sleep after that but, by the time morning came, felt confident enough in the new arrangement of streets – this was, after all, Friday – to make our way to the Rue de Paris where there was an Exhibition of Maps in the Upstairs Room at the Municipal Gallery: O the Immense Tillers of the Valley of the Molonglo! The Silver Bullet that Pierced the Armour of the Vampire of Glenrowan! Days of Heaven on the Shifting Sands of Summer Cloud Bay! I remembered how, during a previous visit to Environa, I pursued the Chimera of my Beloved as far as the Timber Stooks of the Federal Port at Pacific City, where she dissolved into a mist or a cloud above the Ruins of the Light House at Point Perpendicular. I remembered the Jewelled Serpent of Parish County. I remembered the Lost Thing. Most of all, perhaps, I recalled how nothing and no-one can take from us that which is most secret and yet most revealed: I mean the Iris of Our Immaculate Sight and the Pupil of Darkness through which, serially, back and forth, inwards and outwards, we are guided past Shuddering Ignorance into the Illuminations of the Chasms of Light.

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