Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another Day

Having created this blog last week, and looking at it now as the cultural artifact that it will undoubtedly become, I'm conscious of its pomposity, the almost ludicrous pretension that underlies my words. Everything I said was true enough, but the way I said it seems to turn Doug Ormsham into a fictional construct -- a sort of noirish loner burdened by opposition and by doubt and now making a vain attempt to bully himself into a state of conviction and self-justified ambition.

Well, damn it, that's what the truth is like. Or rather that's what any attempt to record truth inevitable requires: a fictionalisation of the chaos of reality that allows our limited minds to grasp the complex and imponderable depths that inform it.

On Saturday, I sat in my makeshift study, surrounded by books and files, sound tapes and film reels, old fading photographs and newspaper cuttings -- all marked with the coded symbols of the esoteric filing system that Hugo Drakenswode assigned to them. To coordinate these is a daunting task and for a long time I found myself unable to see the possibility of coherence anywhere in the random scraps of absurdity that they represent.

Outside my window I could see cars in the distance, a young boy riding a skateboard, one of my neighbours -- Mrs Meštrović, I believe is her name, a Croatian immigrant fully integrated into a society that was, 20 years ago, alien to her -- standing, tea in hand, staring at her roses. All these are evidence of a life that simply does not embrace the realities that Drakenswode persistently uncovered. It is world to which I used to belong, but one I have been forced to abandon. In that world people are part of a communal society that offers them support, both monetary and emotional. Once no longer connected to such a supportive network one easily feels as though one is drifting inexorably toward an abyss, doomed in fact to plunge into it and be lost forever.

I came upon a photographic image that has apparently been doing the rounds of the internet of late, showing a gigantic snake in the Baleh river in Borneo.

Reportedly this photograph was taken from a helicopter by an unnamed member of a team monitoring flood conditions in Borneo. In this age of digital fakery, it is, of course, easily dismissed -- in this case with good reason. To connect the giant serpent in the picture with a local legend -- the Nabau, "a dragon-like, shape-shifting sea serpent" -- seems in the "real" world to be a somewhat fatuous attempt to give resonance and legitimacy to what is unlikely to be more than a smirking hoax. As such it serves not to enlighten but to obscure the realities of what does, in fact, lurk in the hidden corners of the world.

And yet...

I found this brief entry in one of my great-grandfather Hugo Drakenswode's archives:

Nabau, giant snake -- Dennison told me he caught such a creature some decade ago and when I showed appropriate skepticism took me down into his cellars, where he uncovered the most enormous snake skin I have ever seen. Perhaps 50 feet in length and yet only a partial item. Extrapolating from it to a full creature I would guess its owner must have been some 200 feet long. Dennison insisted it was not a fully grown specimen. It shimmered, even then, so long after life had been taken from it. I asked Dennison about its origins. He was evasive as to why he had been in Borneo and could not adequately explain how he came to have only a quarter of the full thing. I left thinking that the Baleh river might be a place I should visit.

The photograph may be fake, but need the reality be a falsification as well?

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