Hollow by Dorcas Pelling

A while ago I started a project to team up with individual writers who would each like to write a piece of work, using one of my artworks as a starting point. I wanted them to write from any angle and in any style they would like. I am happy the share this first piece of writing with you.

Hollow by Dorcas Pelling

Eleanor Bedlow, Hollow, oil pencil drawing on somerset paper, 56.5 x 76.5cm, 2013

The boatman waits, unseen but I feel him. I know he is there, drifting around the deepest part of the lake. If I am still at night I can hear his oars scooping through the waters, his small craft has an empty space reserved for my body. Sometimes he hums, sometimes he whistles, sometimes he simply shouts out’ As long as it takes!’. His voice is calm, honeyed, he misses me, but I fear being desired in such a way. There is little left here, but I am not ready for an infinite commitment. I am holding on. I am ignoring the inevitable. I am pretending I am still swollen and vital with life.Tiny ripples spiral out from depth to shore as a carp raises it’s whiskers through the surface to sense what it misses from the night, from the land. The boatman considers grabbing at it, pulling it as it flails for breath to his vessel to keep him company till he carries me to the ether.

I came here years ago. Broken. Splintered. I tumbled down the banks of the hollow. I lay at the spiky point of a wooden heart and had to choose which path to take. Crawling along the central match-stick bridge upon hands and knees, my fingernails scratching a weak imprint, making my mark on a bridge after I had failed to make any marks upon life.

When I reached the shack, empty, forgotten and rotted my jaw slackened and a terrible swell of sounds came. Voices spewed that were not my own, they were my ancestors all rushing out upon my tongue and lips, racing for freedom in the air before me; reverberating against the chalk banks, collecting in the moss and judging. ‘So this is what becomes of us’. Their illustrious names all ended with me, barren and broken. ‘You had promise’ they continued. ‘Jump’ a solitary voice. ‘Finish it, you embarrassment’. The first night I slept in a ball by the window to the left of the door that was drunk on its hinges. I covered myself in a thin viel of despair and I dreamt of the colour I had once fooled myself into believing had shaded my days. Dreams came – torrential, smashed down over me, snapped my bones and mangled my heart. I saw my mother craddling me, a scent of pine, a half blind fairy in a tattered cream dress winking ludely impaled atop a christmas tree. My brothers and sisters pawed at me, kissed my head whispered of gold, frankfurters and mirth as they tickled at my jazz-trumpeter cheeks .I am cooing. I am all rolls of fat and gurgles. I am wide, limpet pools of hazel and the subtle fug of milk. My father rasped, black old lungs like a cave of coal spitting globules of viscous gunge against the fireplace.

I am an infant, I am afraid! I am terrified! I am lying in a heap of leaves as a dark figure and a straining, snarling dog pass over me in the enchanted forest where the light falls through branches in an amber tangle. I am bereft, I am joyous, I am in agony as in my infancy I imagine the universe and death and the pain of others and I realise I have no control.

I am a lopsided teenager pretending I am enjoying being groped by a rower, pretending I like kissing him, his fat tongue in my mouth, the taste of taramasalata making me want to gag. My body responds perfunctionally but I am repulsed, I am a lie, I am filled with an emptiness and it is growing in me, ripening and shifting my organs to parts of my body where they should not be. My heart is stuck in my ankles, my brain in my lower back, my liver has shifted behind the nail of my right thumb, it throbs. I am holding a gun, it is trained on her. She is bent over digging up weeds. I watch her through the sight. My finger caressing the trigger, so easy just to squeeze, pay her back for the secrets she makes me keep. I am teenage angst. I am grief, I am in agony. I want her to be blasted open. I let her off.

We are shouting, flecks of spit striking one another, she has a look of despair, she is not winning, I am bigger, I no longer care, my respect has gone, I laugh at her as she cries, I relish her agony. I push her, she breaks down, her resolve disintegrates in salt and water. As she runs from me, face in hands, sobbing, my smile fades, the victory is hollow. I am hollow.

I pull back the covers from my fathers body, he is naked from the waist down. I stand and stare at my fathers cock. This is the last thing I shall see of him. My guts are elasticated, knotted and taut, fraying at the edges. I writhe by a hissing fire as petals of dog-roses spiral down upon me, their sweet scent engulfs me and roots me to the spot. I can see my grandmother smiling widely, enjoying outliving the bastard who spawned me.

I am in a room, underneath a blonde woman, too afraid to remove my jeans, believing that the world is filled with promise, that she is something spectacular that if I am inside of her I too shall become spectacular. We undulate against one another. I smell Chinese oranges. I feed her ginger wine and old blues. She flickers in the candle light on a squalid mattress in the basement of a hell-hole where magic seems briefly possible. There is a corridor where no one enters and if they do they can never return. There is a roof where it seems all the curious elements of life can be joyously observed from a safe distance and there are voices that call each of us to the edge and dare us to fly. “Jump”! “You can fly” . Old sneakers shuffle forward, balance unsteady, Icarus get’s closer to the sun. Wings, silky and loud above the pavement shufflers are singeing and catching light, an acrid whiff of burning feathers causes the sky to protest and heavy rains to fall as a blur plummets past windows of smart apartments. I watched helpless from the roof as the blur crashed full force and dashed brains against bonnet and windshield of a passing Mercedes by Holborn. I thought I watched. It was all a blur. The darkness came. Then all was hollow.


Dorcas Pelling has been a freelance writer for over a decade contributing features, reviews, columns and interviews for magazines including The Erotic Review, LOTL, Grove Magazine, Canary (Conde Naste), The Evening Standard, Time Out Sydney amongst others. She is also the author of How To Be Irresistible: A Guide to Seduction (Pavilion Publishing) and The Dark Arts (Pigeon Hole Publishing)