The Rings Of Saturn – Chapter 5

Last week Emmanuel told of the first tentative steps he was taking with his work with Bosques. Work is proving difficult, so Emmanuel walks through the heart of the city of Madrid at night to try and capture some of the darkness missing from the work.



Slept in the studio last night. Bosques found me asleep in a bed and duvet made of rags and blankets. Woke me with one of his claws shaking me surprisingly firmly by the shoulder.

“When did you do this, Emmanuel?” he said.

Took me a little while and a couple of coffees to give him a satisfactory answer. Told him about my soirée. Seemed impressed. 

“You have it, there is something there.”

I looked again at what I’d thrown together last night. Weirdest thing, old girl. Bloody reds and indigos framed those phallic skyscrapers, their faint edges glowing, but they were jagged and imperfect, unlike their real life counterparts. In the foreground there was the life of the old; I’d even whizzed up a few figures, like love-children of Gauguin and Lowry. Didn’t remember painting anything; recalled doing a few sketches, but no paint. Looked again at the studio. Paints all over the place. Must have been flitting in and out of sleep. Was dog tired, after all.

Anyway, Bosques liked it. Rather a lot. Wants to show it off to a few friends tomorrow night at dinner. Said no, it’s not ready, but he insists. 

“It won’t be an exhibition,” he said. “Just a – what you would say, a, ah – proof of concept. To show to a few trusted colleagues. To see if I’m doing the right thing.”

That took me aback. The right thing? The right thing in taking me on? For a second I thought about giving him a piece of my bloody mind, but held back; thought about what I wrote yesterday. Purpose. He’s given me purpose. Not to be taken lightly. Buttoned my tongue.

Spent a few hours trying to sketch some more ideas. Realise that only a part of my job is actually the technical bit of drawing and painting, which Bosques, the sly old fox, insists I have. Not perfect, but good enough, and I’ll get better. The bigger part of this job is having someone who can interpret what the hell is going on inside his head. Not easy. Language barrier is one thing, but language and subjectivity barrier is double hard. Sometimes it’s like trying to extract Shakespeare from a nanny goat. In Swahili. Not even sure which of us is the goat. Spent the morning trying to capture his ideas; he’s got printed notes, mostly in Spanish, which he used some speech-to-text software to write, so I sketched breezily, taking direction from him. 

Sometimes he shouts and waves his pincers up and down like a mad crab, other times he dances around, cajoling, encouraging, clawing at his long, white hair like some sort of gadfly in a sanitorium. What he really wants is someone to understand his themes. I think he’s scared of being replaced: by the world, by youth, by the inferior, by time. I asked again why not get one of his acolytes to do this job; surely they would understand his thought processes better than I.

“There are only two states of mind worth a damn,” he said. “An old fool whose time is short, and a nihilistic youth who has no respect for it. The abyss stares at us all, but only those two types of people know it. Not these pampered young ones who dream big and whose lives are filled with romance. Think back to Goya’s black paintings. Why do they fascinate so? Because he was at the end of his life, filled with bitterness and sadness, at himself, at his body, at Spain. Like Beethoven’s Große Fugue.”

I wondered if there was anything in the fact that both Goya and Ludvig Van had gone deaf prematurely. Must have pissed off Ludvig something rotten. Thought to tell Bosques that I didn’t fancy dying quite as much as I had done a couple of weeks ago, but what if he then cast me off? Is that why he wants me around? Because I’m as close to falling off the perch as he is? In which case, I ought to stay alive to support him, but he’d turf me out. Not your everyday predicament, Em. Focuses the mind, I tell you. Would I be catapulted back into abject despair, or free? I no longer know. Perhaps you could visit, Em. Could do with your company some time.

Remember when we spent an evening in Greenwich Park with two bottles of red and only one glass?

Neither do I.

Madrid’s music calls me.

I miss you, you awful old sow. 

Emmanuel x


Chapter 6

Published by Dan Jones

I'm a science fiction writer and podcaster. My debut novel Man O’War was published in 2018 by Snowbooks, and I’ve had a few short stories published here and there. I also host Chronscast, the official podcast of SFF Chronicles, the world's largest science-fiction and fantasy community. Away from writing I work for the UK Space Agency on a programme of space robotics for advanced satellite and planetary exploration technologies. All of which comes in rather handy when coming up with new ideas for science fiction stories.

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