Video & text teasers for the 31 chapters of The Platinum Raven
The Platinum Raven by Rohan Quine is a triple convulsion whereby our heroine Raven escalates herself into the Chocolate Raven and then the Platinum Raven, from London to Dubai to the tower in the hills in the desert—then back down again, forever changed.
1 A sudden white rabbit
Easing out of sleep into half-sleep, Raven remembers what she is waking into, while carefully prolonging her comfortable haze of mind a little longer. She’s lying in bed at home, with her sleeping boyfriend’s naked warmth against hers. It is early one Monday morning, not long before her alarm-clock will be going off, and bright sun is coming through the gaps around the window-blinds. Keeping her movements gentle so as not to wake him, she squirms around to face him and brushes her black hair out of her eyes.
She half-opens her eyes once more, and in doing this she becomes aware of a third presence, as there flickers up the image of a being she has not seen before—a small white rabbit curled up peacefully upon itself, right here in the rabbit-sized space between her boyfriend’s body and her own, in a state of semi-sleep like their own, its eyes half-opening and its perfectly white furry head and ears making slight movements from time to time, before its eyes close and its head and ears become still. Smiling, Raven whispers to herself in words she soon forgets, then sinks back into sleep, smiling still.
THE CHOCOLATE RAVEN
2 The most beautiful building in the world
Yes: from the middle of Dubai the tallest building in the world shoots up through the harsh dry heat, to the sky. It is the vaunting, inhuman-scaled Burj Khalifa. Visible from scores of kilometres away beyond the dunes or across the Arabian Gulf, it’s an elegantly complex, telescoping spike, of a stunning, otherworldly fabulosity—its beauty cool, mineral and icy in the undulating shimmer of the desert.
And there she is inside it, just behind the glass, staring west from a window in her 63rd-Level apartment.
But it’s no good Raven’s pretending such disdain, for she can sense that this unexpected Chocolate Raven woman is, despite her seeming shallows, a VIP guest within the residence of Raven’s own mind, and must be treated as such. What’s more, Raven is, frankly, rather hooked on her already. Hooked on her flashy surroundings, on her chocolaty hair, on her all-around chocolatiness—on the exoticness of her version of Ravenity, in contrast with Raven’s own.
3 Fronds A to P
For the rest of the day, on her break and between phonecalls and even during phonecalls, Raven’s gaze devours the Chocolate Raven, discerning more and more of her life, absorbing details through a mysterious kind of omniscience regarding her.
In these two extensive neighbourhoods the Chocolate Raven thus enjoys an endless round of well-watered and well-fed fun, which tends to occur in bars, nightclubs and restaurants, in hotel suites and palatial lobbies, at house parties in shiny marble-walled lounges, beside back-garden swimming-pools, and on private beaches on the Palm at dusk, behind a few of those thousands of not-quite-identical luxury mansions built along each side of an array of not-quite-identical Fronds running the whole exotic gamut from Frond A to Frond P.
4 Chocolate hair on white silk
She imagines this man’s viewpoint on this same wide mirror tableau: standing again at the left side of the tableau (but in only half-profile this time) will be a glamorous young woman facing right, her long chocolate hair falling dead-straight and splashing softly off her shoulder, burning dark against the smooth white silk of her top. This is the Chocolate Raven herself, of course, though he won’t know her name yet. She half-turns her head in his direction, through real space along the bar; and for him, her hair in the tableau in the mirror must therefore be splashing a little differently now upon the white silk of her shoulder, though of course she herself can no longer verify this directly in the mirror.
As soon as he gets up, however, she feels his presence again. She doesn’t look in his direction but is aware of him setting off towards her, approaching her at a measured pace, his face in the corner of her gaze growing brighter like a thousand-watt light-bulb.
Now they’re within speaking distance of each other, she can sense him pulsing like a cat through the stretch of space between them. She stands up, to ready herself, and looks up to face him.
5 The bellow on the rock-slopes
Perched high and tiny up here among the folds of this monster-building’s curves, the Chocolate Raven’s mouth gapes in an O, and a too-empowered force of noise blares out from this O, without exertion…
Was that herself? she thinks—and yes, she knows it was. She herself just produced that extraordinary, magnified bellow, which must only now be arriving over there, straight ahead where the mountains float in majesty beyond the desert sands.
Her will ejects a jet of steel that hardens to a needle and she thereby hauls herself up from her wash of fear and into a decision: if she’s powerless before the force that just came through her, and if it won’t be explained, then she will run with it. She’ll hunt for the access-points tucked away in plain view within familiar space, she will ferret out the overgrown gates and the spyholes winking in the wallpaper’s pattern, and the keyholes and hyperlinks; and through them she’ll invite, from that realm furled behind the skin of day, whatever eye-like fingers accept her invitation and poke back through at her, slanting up the bedroom air towards her in the dead of night, when mystery and horror bubble out from the mirror-glass.
THE PLATINUM RAVEN
6 Platinum hair on black silk
On the wet smooth curves of the Platinum Raven’s eyes sits an identical pair of images of the Chocolate Raven herself, ever so tiny and ever so perfect: crouching in the glare of a parked car’s headlights, just beyond the power-station complex on the desert coast, over-exposed in a light that burns her face to white, moaning in pleasure there impaled on a man in shadow, crouching with her luscious straight chocolate-coloured hair across her face, until she raises her head and the hair slides away… And now her own devastating, desert-eyed perfection meets the Chocolate Raven’s gaze full on, electrifying—animal, expressionless, an icon of ecstasy and chocolate and sweat in wailing silence in the headlights, as dust floats around her through the siren-song behind the air.
The Chocolate Raven’s glance zooms back out again, to re-embrace the bar scene in the tower once more, where beside the Platinum Raven is the other one: the Armenian boy dressed in black, a Scorpio pendant at his neck. No smile there at all, too much tension and exquisiteness and fierce vulnerability.
For him it wasn’t easy, no one-two-three. But here he is—just as if in some club, deep in a city. A sudden smile leaks through, a flush of light across his face, for an instant. Then once again, no smile. Fem in black, for this is realness. So waltz darling, deep in vogue.
—There he is, right now.
Perfection, for all time…
7 Purple and red and yellow and … on fire
Sometimes the whirl of flesh and lights and hazy sound seemed to slow for a moment to a still frame, and eyes of experience would then be caught on camera, in a face amid the swirl—a face you’d half-recognise from before, when you’d seen it on a big screen perhaps, or in a memory seen through champagne upon a terrace under heat-lamps, while the music span forever on that summer night before—wide eyes, prominent and grey, camera-frozen in a face soaked in way too much experience.
At this point the fabulousness of the denizens grew so indefatigable as to become ferocious. The dance-floor was a cat-walk, under little fluffy clouds where the skies went on forever and the clouds would catch the colours—purple and red and yellow and … on fire. And every night the anorexic models floated through, beautifully drugged-out and weak and untouchable, forever down the runways of their airport lanes, each expressionless in damage through the night-lit clouds, with their make-up flashing soft in the lights, like perfection, clad in shreds of lightest silk that concealed the needle-marks.
8 The mad-faced tower in the mountains
Vertiginous, she leans forward with her elbows on her knees, feeling she is shrinking in the width of the back seat. Ahead through the windscreen she sees, with a dread-prickle, manicured toy-sized trees shaped as fluffy grey teardrops, flanking the road where it climbs straight ahead. These toy-land trees start swelling as she watches them: top leaves writhing and twigs tight-clenched, all bathed in an odd and windless milky-yellow light. She feels as if she’s shrunk to a speck upon the seat, while the trees quiver ever upwards, as if they want to breathe: the fluffy tears of foliage have risen, so the car now climbs along a corridor of bare trunks as straight as metal bars. A rabbit springs across the road—ears in the headlights—and vanishes.
A fog churns and eddies. Feelers seem to stir in it, and now the Chocolate Raven’s scalp tightens even more, as a shape like a ram’s head starts from the fog, statuesque as a bust, flings its snout up and bleats while its eyes cut straight down the road into hers with a look of such sadness and loss and desolation that she feels she is seeing something nobody deserves to see: the Great Lie.
Streaks of pain and horror shoot around her through the air, and among this buffeting she half-hears snatches of beauty winging past her in gusts, like a distant music blown around a mountain by the wind. She sinks her head between her legs, here on the back seat, blocks her ears tightly with the sides of her knees, screws her eyes shut and screams out “DRIVE BACK NOW PLEASE…”
9 The squirly brown windows in the turret
As the orange orb widens, it shrinks around the island, which cuts it then in half—two slopes across the disc now chords moving outward to kiss its upper curve on either side and so extinguish it.
The dance and the flicker of the city grow alive, transfixed by the Burj Khalifa’s spike at its centre: darkness of energy and pulsing of violence, flickered out shaft-wise up through the air, over pink, over mauve, through to indigo and black.
As the sun rolls away around the globe to the west, the higher black weighs heavy, pushing down the lighter colours, so she sees her own reflection growing clearer against it: blonde hair platinum, splashed over brown eyes, cheekbones top-lit, lips curving up together, sensual as lovers.
Of a sudden round her torso from above her snakes a tendril, the first wisp of mirror mist. She grins. Condensing on the window, it diffuses her reflection. She brings down her left hand, and on the glass with her finger she writes out her name across the sky above Dubai—THE PLATINUM RAVEN.
For a moment then, she splits her attention into three: first the panorama, a-flicker in the distance; secondly her name squirling through the condensation (independent of the squirls in the brown itself); and thirdly the slivers of her eyes in the glass, clear again within the newly-wiped width of the letters.
10 Santa Monica Boulevard
He sat upon his hands on the parapet, right there, his feet above the hillside, aquiver and alone again and hurting with the rawness of a squirt of flesh and nerves among the concrete and steel and the plastic and the gasoline that threatened and addicted him, week after week. Blades, rocks, glass, edges; fists in the shadows of the city, cocked in wait for him, spying out of doorways at the shapes of the contents of his pockets, or to check he was alone; and the gayness of his body in the pools of the street-lights. Hatred and desire and indifference coiled and built around him, oiled to spring. A crackle lit the sky of a sudden in the west (black wires up the hillside, aerials on orange-tinged night above the canyon), but no thunder yet drowned the endless cricket-chirp.
He swung his legs up, twisted round and dropped his feet back down, facing up at the observatory. “Angels, I’m leaving you,” he sweetly spoke, and spat upon the ground. “Thanks a bunch, and have a nice night.”
He turned to the city, bowed once, then he skipped away suddenly: across the parking lot and down the hills into Hollywood; across a spell of months comprising struggle and transition; then inexorably here, to Dubai and the tower and its first night of mirror mist!
11 In the arms of the man from the garden of love
For not only is he now working here in this pleasure palace instead of on the streets of Hollywood. He is also in the arms of the man from the film-screen: the arms of the man from the garden of love: in Amber’s arms. (And he says, Oh oh oh oh oh oh, what a feeling…) Nothing now is quite the same colour as before, now the starflakes fall on Chameleonshire. Plants quiver, planets sing, hills resonate to the dance of the snail. A single yellow angelfish has noticed them and pouts, nose bumping on the glass, tail flapping in the weeds.
Yelps in the yellow dusk, car lights and neon flickers, far below their window, by the club’s front entrance. And down there one night, strangely incongruous, a little child’s voice wavered upward to their window, as frail as a thrush’s egg and cutting through the babble with a question: “What’s a thousand miles above heaven, then?” Scorpio’s waking eyes re-opened on Amber, who drew him close. The bed seemed to sway, like a cradle in the sighs of a summer wind. Reflected on the silver curtain-strips by the bedside, fountains of candle-light shimmered in the breeze from the open window, splashing onto both their naked bodies. Candles burned scattered round the room: a town of lights they awoke to find had died.
12 The pug among the struts, in the pale blue strait-jacket
More generally, however, can you all hear the thunder on the left? I hope you can. Are you ready for tonight? Amber’s ready, so is Scorpio, and even her up there upon the tower in the city. The mist tastes nicer if you’re ready for the hurricane, the quicksand, the flames in the night sky, the poison and the dry ice. The flood-water’s right beneath us, hissing up tight through the pressure-fault just below the lobby here. There’s also a grey-lit cellar downstairs, where I bid you lend Amber the keys to your skeleton: the rating will be X, but you’ll learn new things as your guts are mixed with light and sound and shot around the globe. As for me, I thought perhaps I’d stay behind the billows with my breasts pointing upward and my groin pushed out, with my right hand skyward and my left hand on my hip, eyes wide in the silver staring softly through the mirror mist unblinking (if that’s fine with you?). —There again: the thunder on the left. Did you hear it?…
He turns, clambers in between the beams, further inside the hill, through a pale weeping light where the long grass rustles. “I’m on my way!” he murmurs through his flesh, then he halts: there ahead hangs a figure in a pale blue strait-jacket, fixed to a harness on a rope within a wooden frame. Your craze was emptiness, mine was alcohol, comes a voice of sighing shingle through the outsize pug’s face, measurelessly ugly and exhausted and sad. The rope, playing out from the frame, lets the figure down a metre, then stops, so it bounces in mid-air before ascending again, as it has clearly done for years. Now a hum sings thick upon the air, as the figure chokes a sob back and spits dry sand. See the space of Siberian heart in your eyes—I think you know it shows through, sighs the voice at him, falling out tired from the rank grey muzzle to the ground.
13 Black and rust and ochre over the plain
The Platinum Raven glances up at the podium across the room, and smiles with a burst of love and pride at what she sees. High above the dance-floor, Scorpio dances among the silver mirror mist, lurid in the lights—every movement so electric, so mesmerically divine, that a crowd has stopped below him, just to wonder—as with perfect unawareness and control he taps an energy that ought to make him vaporise…
Then she bends her gaze to the DJ booth and grins with a different love. Demonic in that black-wired den up there, working both the music and the lights in the hall, Amber’s making love with destruction and violence, radiant in damage, spinning heaven on a sound-flight destined for hell. “And we’re just getting started,” she reflects.
To every self, a mirror of its own upon the vapour, every mirror made from the self it reflects. This, for example, is herself to the tenth power, carried on the music through the lens of the gas, liberated from the grind of the dragging of a body through the heaviness of weight and fatigue and breakability: her own sound, dark in a flexing of planes coloured black and rust and ochre; dry heat, unnatural as the heat within a russet-coloured light-bulb (day or night unclear, as in a dream or a painting); hellfire, lazy with the sureness of power unqualified…
14 Slinky-smooth in the mirror mist
Sweet dreams! he murmurs. Golden lightnings are his arms, as they rise, swoop, cross, sweep and quiver in a mesmerising union with the music. Bright golden rings sway glinting from his ears, sweeping up to which his neck curves delicate and graceful; around it hang a few dark strands of his hair, broken free from the rest which is tied above his head within a band that makes it issue down his back like a fountain.
The eyes… Open wide, unable to hide, and unable not to see inside the people around him, often wishing they could see no further in than people’s irises but forced to see behind their pupils and beyond—too deep for both the looked-at and the looker. Psychic eyes, naked eyes, eliciting revulsion in the few, adoration in the many, but exhausting either way. He sees them all about him now; flicks his own around, seeking anywhere they’re not; but they multiply in flicking. (So how did he contrive, until a moment ago, to look around and notice any other thing but these?) They pierce to the depths of his own gaze, and frighten him—pin his isolation down. How beautiful they are. How clear and how breakable—how burstable a window is each one.
15 Planets hanging heavy
Rails whine, wires sing. A roadscape fans out, empty and vast on a slim black bridge above a frost-lit gulf. At her in the tunnel on the left comes a car, with the face of a fly and a roar like a burst of metal laughter—stretched out and lowered, as it shoots away behind, to a swollen single bellowed word NO-O-O-O-O-O-O… After the car has gone, the word runs ahead, ringing out among the struts of the bridge across the gulf, magnified through the shrieking of the caverns in the sky to a twang like an orchid blade stabbing out of dust folds. Up from the railing of the bridge on either side spring cables a metre thick, strung far ahead upon the tips of a bridge-tower, lofty and silver in the shape of a guillotine; next to descend rather slower on the other side, dip to pick the road up and soar to a second tower tiny in the air where it pricks the horizon, framed in the bottom of the frame of the first one; then to be lost in a curvature of shadow.
A flap upon the road ahead. Reaching it, she sees it is a cat—or half a cat, the other half a furry jam squeezed on the tarmac. Caught in the headlights, glassy eyes ablaze, fur on end, paws rigid, it recalls a set of bagpipes of muscle clad in velvet. Her cockpit rises, filling up as wine bubbles out from the pedals; and the smoothness of the rising is the smoothness of a blood-let in a warm bath. Moon and stars and fires burn, cruel as an ice-blink. Huddled in the stratosphere, planets hang heavy—tucked up, as if in bed, against a bank of livid clouds. Saturn seeks her out, dead blue eyes peering up from under thin rings. Tiny blind Pluto hisses, icy-black and bat-faced. Uranus transfixes her, with mirrored contact lenses and a smile both delicate and dangerous.
16 The adventures of the dead girl
The Black Slab is sensed, like a metal bar through plaster or a tendon glimpsed through milk, by all who meet him. All in all, it opened up a new life for Amber: infernal dark cabaret of Amber disease, lemons hatched in metal corners, barking spiders, blood as thick as cheese and even worse, with a permanent erotic grinding pain within his spine and a colour in his skull beyond admission. Cutting through the city in the night, as a boy, Amber knew he was pursued through the grid of ash and stone by a single hairy human leg, knew that disfigurement lay just around the corner like a kiss, knew he’d sucked his lemon-whiskered heel dry in childhood. Time was a pump pulled behind him by the leg; pressing on against its drag with unrelenting effort, Amber struck sparks, yellow spasms in an endless procession made of charcoal and loss.
The speakers belch a bolt of thickened sound to stain the mirror mist, pushing like a worm’s head, honeycombed with loathing. The worm pulls its black scaly shaft above the dancers, turns in his direction, feels the billows with its eyes as if with tentacles of darkness down a tunnel, finds him—locks his frozen gaze into its own, until he moans… Catch you later! mouths the worm, winks and unhooks its jaw, sicking grey ropes of gristle through the air at him. Delusion! he shrieks at the worm, you’d rather see me paralysed! Words surge up his throat: You wanna see a slice of my insides, freak? Feed me razors—what’s the matter, has my face changed? The worm’s head dips now, fading as it chuckles; but its chuckle hovers on, glowing blood-red and gibbering towards him through the gas. (Oh, to hear one’s own blood-rush among the worm-ropes! Oh, to hear one’s own death-rattle, amplified; see the black fungus sun revolve; and worship…)
17 A kiss of jagged glass
Silent in the din, and very wrong, is a pudgy hand grasping the banisters beside Scorpio’s podium, rising as its hidden owner scales the steps behind.
Now she spots Amber, reaching the podium and starting up the steps.
Above him in the spotlight, Scorpio is dancing, forever and oblivious—twirling and swooping, electric in bright white, swathed in the mirror mist as if in silver silk…
The man glances down, hesitates at Amber’s onset, then continues up at frantic speed. He keeps himself steady with the pudgy hand she saw, while his other hand clutches the bottle that he broke, with a kiss of jagged glass where he smashed off its neck.
She sprints down the passage to the door above the lobby, finds her keys, slips through and pulls shut the door shut behind her.
Swiftly she climbs the spiral stairs to the turret.
She unlocks the top door, swoops across the turret room and dives for the cabinet containing the dial.
18 I see you!
The Chocolate Raven pours another glass of red, takes a sip and sets it down, braces both her elbows on the railing, holds up a pair of binoculars she has brought with her, and trains them on the tower. As she fine-tunes the focus, an unexpected seahorse shimmers in from the haze and stands sharp, its stony head lushly capped with a crest of mossy hairs where a pencil of moonlight hits it from above.
Easing the sight-line upwards minutely, she almost drops the glasses in shock, for there’s the Platinum Raven in one of the round brown windows, holding up binoculars directed straight at her. I SEE YOU! the latter mouths in silence, across the desert miles, then she winks and turns away.
Somewhere in the main hall far underneath her, in the softness of the billows, re-projected on a thousand mirrors, Scorpio dances on: silently, alone, without exertion and divinely, as if for all time.
Somewhere in the labyrinth of passages around him, Amber stalks: relentless, bent on destruction, without the possibility of failure or surrender.
Somewhere in the labyrinth behind or ahead of him, despairing in the mist far more than he’s ever done, hopelessly lost and endowed with a lethal sense of who is in pursuit of him, an unnamed man lives a nightmare.
19 Mirrors in the labyrinth
Amber stalks the silver billows, glimpsing his quarry everywhere he turns his eyes. As his pores ooze blacker than the tears of a corpse, love and hope hang respectively defined in the gas: the anatomy of love-bites and the absence of the hoped-for. His helmet of Amber-thoughts fills behind the visor with the vomit of remembrance that his dreams and those of everyone are filtered through the tar and futility of flesh, like wounds seeping through a soldier’s uniform.
Amber fantasises hanging by his tail from the ceiling, racked with week-long muscle spasms, vomiting erotically without relent and drowning when the room is filled above his snout. What a use for life this is—no destiny or meaning, just compulsion and error, pushing slops of grey at cliffs of blank. Down is the bottom line; up’s preserved for next time. Listen: every single thing passes, tires, breaks. Like the sudden grey fingers at the edges of a photocopy carelessly executed, everything distresses on reflection! Amber can’t be bothered to supply us with a proof, but he’s right, fuck his eyes! So let the show carry on, then—there might be a joke!
…And from underneath the tower comes a sigh of spitting sand.
20 Analysis of motion through CCTV
Scanning her eyes across the TV monitors in her turret room, the Platinum Raven holds their remote control and flicks through the available CCTV feeds they can display. The only feeds from the labyrinth where Amber disappeared in pursuit of the unnamed man show little more than swirls of silver, which won’t be much help unless a figure darts out from among the billows.
The combination of graceful perfection and fluid instinct in his movement is divinely charismatic. In itself his movement is abstract, or would at least be abstractly describable if the appropriate motion-analysis software were used. Watching his closed eyes while he spins and swoops, however, she knows him well enough to sense where this charisma is probably emanating from, and where the mirror mist has almost certainly sent him, within himself.
21 The Platinum Raven’s message-in-a-bottle
That will still be here when every human being rots, when this tower’s archaeology for alien crustaceans—and after them forever, till the future is the past or vice versa, she reflects. Through her head flits a memory, vivid and pathetic, of the capsule of her mirror mist she buried on the mountainside nearby, with her name in it: a tentative graffito, “I was here” upon the walls of the darkness whose enormity she now sees clearer, her message-in-a-bottle for an unknown claw in the future to find for its gallery or freak show. (Come see the fossil of the vision of humanity, the one remaining flicker of their bright imagination! Tiny silver glints in a bubble in the rock…) Her blonde hair streams across her eyes; she brushes it back to find control has fled, the black sun has swollen, sinking nearer straight above, descending now on the pinnacle, the wind howls—
She flings herself against the passage end. The chewing mass dislodges, and springs around the corner, leaping forward, building up again just short of where she’s stuck like a poster on the wall. There it stays a moment; through its snout, a shifting of internal knots of mesh suggests jerky navigations of the corner further back. Then it twitches into motion once again, nuzzles closer. She screams. Her face tight-snarled and her lips like a spout, she slams her fists on the steel wall, screwing up her eyes as the spines shiver forward to kiss her face, her skin crawls—
22 The black and red flower
A passageway some twenty metres long lies ahead, lined with cracked glazed tiles of a colour best described just as “off”—off-white, off-brown, off-green, one couldn’t say which. The air is damp, and the walls appear to crawl and glisten whenever a flashlight is pointed at them. The flashlights are not the only source of illumination, however. It’s impossible to tell where else any light might be coming from, unless it’s from some residual play of light bouncing or regressing infinitely upon itself in the remaining flux of mirror mist in the air; but there does seem to be some other source, albeit of a light that’s oddly filtered and choked, with a rotten orange tinge to it.
She peers beyond his head to the end of the passageway, where the third door stands ajar in the wall straight ahead of her…
She freezes; and feeling this, he turns in her arms and sees it too.
From underneath the door, a wide stain of dark fluid seeps down the sloping passage floor towards them.
Hand in hand, they approach. He pushes lightly on the door. It creaks, as moisture shines tiny in the bruises on the wood, where his fingernails press.
Inside, steam swirls. Drips plink quicker than before. The orange tinge hangs even thicker on the air.
23 The point of silver in the dawn
He hops up onto the coping of the balustrade, midway between the seahorses.
The Platinum Raven starts to freak out, staring aghast at what’s beyond the balustrade: that short slope of boulders, funnelling to that precipice of weeds in half a circle like a lip, around that lethal shriek of air one hundred metres sheer—
Then she decides she will just trust him in what he’s doing: after all, she knows he has the control of an acrobat and an almost alien lack of vertigo. So she stands there on the terrace, in the shadows of the Hajar Mountains, watching him in wonder as he starts to dance right there, his little pointed boots twirling deftly on the stonework; with mirror mist surging through the gaps between the balusters, out and down the shriek, to where a silver death awaits him if he trips…
The canyon below the tower lies in rocky shadow still.
Beyond it, the width of the desert spreads in subtle shades of brown and black enormity.
Beyond that, the city grid of Dubai is waking, its coloured points twinkling in the dying night.
And high above that circuit-board, one single structure is tall enough for its pinnacle to be caught by the rays spilling across the desert from behind the mountains in the east: a skyscraper’s point like no other in the world, shining silver and alone where the sky grows pale. It’s an elegantly complex, telescoping spike, of a stunning, otherworldly fabulosity—its beauty cool, mineral and icy in the sharp-edged light of the dawn.
24 Catch you later!
Leaning at her terrace rail on Level 152, the Chocolate Raven sees that the sun will soon appear, poking up above the Hajar Mountains’ outline, far ahead. She turns her head and looks above her, up towards the Pinnacle, which shines in a light that has caught it alone as yet. While she stands and watches it, this sunlight’s lower edge travels down from that point, down the metal Spire’s flank, and then it slides down the building’s skin of smooth brown glass, sinking fast towards her terrace right here. Soon this light-edge reaches her—and just as it does, she brings her gaze back down to see the sun push into view above the mountain-line before her.
The pug dog descends on its rope in the gloom, spitting sand and weeping black sticky tears. Amber undoes the buckles of its pale blue strait-jacket, opens up the pug’s chest and squeezes the sack inside. The pug squirms, dips its ugly muzzle to refasten it, and rises on the frame again, obedient in grief.
High above this, just below the two brown turret-windows, silver mist belches out, flows across the terrace past the pair at the parapet, billows through the balustrade, sinks in slow motion down the lethal shriek of air and carries on down, filling up the canyon of rocks to the brim and heading out across the desert on its way to the city here.
THE CHOCOLATE RAVEN
25 Electric aliveness and happiness, remembered
The air is heating fast, as the morning sun slides up another busy city day. The night is gone entirely. And now that it’s gone, she can see a truth that she hates and despises with a vengeance as soon as she catches sight of it.
In effect she’s seeing the nature of the same Great Lie that she half-glimpsed on the occasion when she drove to the mad-faced tower. Then she had the option of postponing apprehension, by burying her head between her knees on the back seat and wailing to the driver to drive away at high speed. Now, she doesn’t have that choice. It’s too late, for now she’s seen too clearly what nobody deserves to see.
But oh, how desperately sad and desolate the Chocolate Raven is to have been forced back down into such quotidian drudgery, when she knows that in reality there’s ALL THAT, living up there in the mountains!… Oh, why couldn’t she just live forever in that tower of wonders?
Not that she’d pretend it was the most reassuring or relaxing of places, up there. There were nightmarish elements in it, for sure, and even its wildest heights of beauty had something of the colour and poison of a nightmare somewhere beneath their surface.
But how electrically alive and happy she was, nonetheless, for as long as she was up there in that tower on the rock-slopes!
26 Scent of fucked-up dark devouring hunger
Furthermore (and most importantly, to be frank), the suite in question then became the location of her witnessing, without warning, the explosive unfoldment of a convulsion, tiny in the far distance, between four iconic figures in a tower across the desert, that was destined to re-slant her own life forever—first on account of the convulsion’s very nature, and then on account of the shocking desolation and sadness of its escape from her grasp this morning, with such an intimation of permanence in the escape. Could she ever have witnessed that from any other terrace, from any other suite, than the one on the 152nd Level? Either way, how could those events not have left Jaymi elevated in her memory, standing up there staring down at her from the still centre of an aura as strong as a whirlwind?
The fluid in her ears sings a worm-song chorus, like a stream of vermicelli squeezing underneath her scalp. As her heartbeat mounts, a light flicks on; looking up, she sees a single stained light-bulb fixed to a ceiling coloured yellow by the years. A poky little washroom sways and yawns around her, two metres square, with a tiny barred window. Turning, she jumps as her gaze eats the image, in a mirror on my left, of her emaciated frame: her cheekbones stare from under black-ringed eyes of the worst kind of orange, which consume her watching self with a lust so naked, desperate and brutal that she cries out in panic and delicious fear, running her fingers over her emaciation in horror and delight. A scent of fucked-up dark devouring hunger stabs her nostrils.
27 Through the Spire to the Pinnacle
Rising, she steps away from the hatch and rests her hands on top of the rail encircling this little space that she never thought she’d see—here, for the first and only time in her entire life of lusciously chocolaty Ravenicness, paying the Ultimate Terrace Visit to crown her entire prized collection of terrace visits—the Pinnacle!
She smiles like a child.
Beneath her, Dubai spills its molten metal light across the sand, fractured into amber grids and tracks, strips and pools and points, flowing bright with tiny cars or rearing upward in a complicated bed of little geometric towers. The crackle and the pulse of the whole city fills her ears at once: the glazed bleep of life-support machines in diapason with the honky bleep of vehicle alarms; the tick of traffic signal boxes flicking lights from red to green, and the silent tick of money flickering green on computer screens; car dispatchers’ street directions spat through radios in cabs, a million numbers fed through phones, and countless voices buzzing, screeching, purring, barking, squeaking, droning through the air or on the airwaves; towns of electric wire on struts in gravel compounds, fenced-in and humming, sprouting insulator cones; insect needles twitching on unfathomable dials; and the hum of CCTV cameras everywhere, from concrete isolation-wing corridors to sleekly polished skyscraper penthouse lobbies.
28 Whisper of Scorpio
Upon apprehending this love of hers for the spectre of a confluence, she feels a whisper of Scorpio within her. Through her feet she feels him brace himself right here, just as if his toes must grip this floor beside this open hatch. He lifts his face and scans the sky. His clothing turns glassy and transparent, cracks and falls away. This floor beneath his feet clicks powerfully and hums. Looking down, he can see that he is naked—legs thin as moonlight, lit from within so the nerves glow pink. He stands upon his toes and lifts one arm with simple grace, like a ballerina brandishing a whip.
A billion voices roar and swell around the world below and then are drowned, as music wells above him from the sky’s brightest cellar. At this, the bolts of amber bend around and coalesce, streaking up and out beyond the Palm Jumeirah’s curve, where they stab and leap and dance until a face flickers up across sky above the Gulf. The face is a human’s of a colour unidentified, loving and malefic, of a beauty that is cruel in its epicene perfection—bewitching, androgynous, a male so richly and gracefully feminine, a female simply and childishly masculine, fused in the golden eyes and contours of his own face, singing (though its lips are closed), See how bright the Dark burns—kiss the beauty in the nightmare—hear the moan of sex reversed, playing just like grief.
29 Flash of Amber in Scorpio
A reek of streaming blood smiles out from his face, as his eyes burn scarlet like a pair of lasers cutting through the dry ice. The creatures stare at Scorpio, enraptured. “D’you find free will unnerving?” he grates. “Now be honest.” And he vomits up a black scream of tendrils of sound, wrapping round one another like a mass of worms and weevils.
“But look,” he whispers, seeing that a new figure flickers up beside him. “It’s the Pug Among the Struts! Gather round and see what this man has done on every single day since he was twelve, either just for kicks or for a living, never ask which! Let me show you. Are you ready, Pug Among the Struts?”
Acquiescing, Scorpio discerns the other’s name: “D’you scent the damage in me, Amber? If not, let me know, so I can slant Dubai to light us up better from below. But if so, any theories as to origin?”
“Yes, because you’re sexier damaged, little boy-girl eagle! Beauty is convulsive, or else not at all. Don’t you find the worm in the rose makes a luscious bruise? Ask the boy with scarlet eyes.”
30 Two Ravens on the freeway
From high above the Palm Jebel Ali, down they swoop; and in a trice the Chocolate Raven thus appears in the passenger-seat beside the Platinum Raven, on the highway through the desert heading south to Abu Dhabi.
The Ravens look into each other’s eyes. Unsmiling. Taking information in. “Oh—the eyes,” murmurs the Chocolate one. “The eyes again…”
The Platinum one’s gaze narrows. “We know each other,” she accuses. She returns her attention to the highway ahead, then shoots a glance back at her new companion. “Have we met?”
Gigantic spokes slash the sky. Gears grind bass somewhere underneath, horns blare, lights flash, cars elongate into shrieking pipes and tubes. Her mouth like a horn kisses hers and sucks her in, fingers sunk in spumes of fountain flesh, her flashing eyes and hair that clings in mouths’ and bodies’ mingling. The sky is burning, a sea of flame (the clouds all scatter, now they ride the outside lane) while the moon upon the waters of the Gulf swings and shines below.
31 The hair in the corridor
One star winks between the horns of the moon; then the loop-the-loop dissolves, Raven’s phone alarm rings, and the conference room returns, to enclose her in the Shard again.
She stops in her tracks, staring after him.
Gingerly, her hands approach her hair…
The above teasers of the 31 chapters of The Platinum Raven are also in the Vimeo playlist “The Platinum Raven—samples of the 31 chapters”:
1i, 1ii, 2i, 2ii, 3i, 3ii, 4i, 4ii, 5i, 5ii, 6i, 6ii, 7i, 7ii, 8i, 8ii, 9i, 9ii, 10i, 10ii, 11i, 11ii, 12i, 12ii,13i, 13ii, 14i, 14ii, 15i, 15ii, 16i, 16ii, 17i, 17ii, 18i, 18ii, 19i, 19ii, 20i, 20ii, 21i, 21ii, 22i, 22ii, 23i, 23ii, 24i, 24ii, 25i, 25ii, 26i, 26ii, 27i, 27ii, 28i, 28ii, 29i, 29ii, 30i, 30ii, 31i and 31ii.
And in the YouTube playlist “The Platinum Raven—samples of the 31 chapters”:
1i, 1ii, 2i, 2ii, 3i, 3ii, 4i, 4ii, 5i, 5ii, 6i, 6ii, 7i, 7ii, 8i, 8ii, 9i, 9ii, 10i, 10ii, 11i, 11ii, 12i, 12ii,13i, 13ii, 14i, 14ii, 15i, 15ii, 16i, 16ii, 17i, 17ii, 18i, 18ii, 19i, 19ii, 20i, 20ii, 21i, 21ii, 22i, 22ii, 23i, 23ii, 24i, 24ii, 25i, 25ii, 26i, 26ii, 27i, 27ii, 28i, 28ii, 29i, 29ii, 30i, 30ii, 31i and 31ii.
Table of Contents of The Platinum Raven
1. A sudden white rabbit
THE CHOCOLATE RAVEN
2. The most beautiful building in the world
3. Fronds A to P
4. Chocolate hair on white silk
5. The bellow on the rock-slopes
THE PLATINUM RAVEN
6. Platinum hair on black silk
7. Purple and red and yellow and … on fire
8. The mad-faced tower in the mountains
9. The squirly brown windows in the turret
10. Santa Monica Boulevard
11. In the arms of the man from the garden of love
12. The pug among the struts, in the pale blue strait-jacket
13. Black and rust and ochre over the plain
14. Slinky-smooth in the mirror mist
15. Planets hanging heavy
16. The adventures of the dead girl
17. A kiss of jagged glass
18. I see you!
19. Mirrors in the labyrinth
20. Analysis of motion through CCTV
21. The Platinum Raven’s message-in-a-bottle
22. The black and red flower
23. The point of silver in the dawn
24. Catch you later!
THE CHOCOLATE RAVEN
25. Electric aliveness and happiness, remembered
26. Scent of fucked-up dark devouring hunger
27. Through the Spire to the Pinnacle
28. Whisper of Scorpio
29. Flash of Amber in Scorpio
30. Two Ravens on the freeway
31. The hair in the corridor