Residency: Scribus 12
26 September – 7 November 2013
As a child, Cat Volant, real name Catherine Garcia, (USA), always wondered why “big adult chapter books” never included any pictures. Being talented in both writing and visual arts, she combines both skills to create books of quality in both media.
During her 6 weeks working in Manchester she has been constructing the first draft of her latest novel. Each chapter of the book is to include a full colour illustration, as well as black and white illustrations interspersed throughout. Volant feels that simply because a book is meant for adults it does not mean pictures are an unnecessary distraction. She does not aim to create a comic book or graphic novel, but to invent a new type of book that actively implements illustration as an essential form of story-telling. The final production will include illustrations in a pragmatic yet beautiful way, each one holding a clue to solving the puzzle of the book, and revealing another dimension to the plot, character, setting, that cannot be explained in words alone. The reader will not use the illustrations as merely dismissive, decorative relief, but as a key aspect of the novel. Subtract them from the novel, and the story will be rendered incomplete and less comprehensive. Volant wishes to pioneer a new genre that hovers between a comic book and a novel, a type of book rich in visual and literary art that stimulates the mind and soul of the reader, where each page is a compelling read; each illustration fusing with traditional novel form to reveal moments which are intense and suspenseful.
The story (title as yet unknown) is based on the theme of leaving society and starting a new life apart from this world’s societal constructs. Is it possible? Is it desirable? And why would someone do such a thing? The main character fakes his or her own death in order to have no records, no more paper trail, no more recognition from government, country, family, friends. Additionally, the gender of the character will remain androgynous and mysterious, possibly to be revealed in the final chapter of the book. Volant does not aim to create a character defined by gender identity, but someone futuristic who combines both masculine and feminine qualities.
A Sword With No Point
by Cat Volant
Closing my eyes, I surveyed the grey countryside. Where was I going? I couldn’t recall how I had ended up isolated, trapped in such an alien land with no flashing technicolor imagery of past, present or future. All lay silently, unmoving and void of promise. With intense effort, I concentrated enough to observe a tiny violet wildflower blooming in the dead muck. Was it just an illusion? For as gloriously as it bloomed, a pinhole of blackness opened beneath it and consumed all molecules of its existence. But I couldn’t keep focus enough to figure it out. I set towards a vague signpost in the distance. Need to get out of here. I knew something was wrong, but the morbid landscape exuded a natural air. I felt like a placid sense of belonging.
Suddenly, a mountainous figure materialized before me. A circlet of plastic, artificial thorns crowned its head. It opened a cavernous mouth. I could not see inside its hollow black depths. “No point.” A rumbly, murmuring voice settled on my bones and coated my arteries like a sickly sad fat, blocking all normal passageways to my heart, halting all synapses to my brain.
The beast pointedly interrupted before I could recover from the sudden paralysis and retaliate. “No Point. There’s no point.”
Changing my tactic, I attempted a step forward. Maybe I could circumvent this thing and continue my way to the signpost. But the ground sucked my feet in like cement glue. Even wiggling a toe against the dark gravity of the earth hurt.
“No point. Lay here. Motionless. Thoughtless. No point. It hurts, doesn’t it? No point.”
A cancerous, leeching pain filled my body like turgid water sinking a hollow ship. Capsizing. The urge to listen and lay down, following what this disturbing creature said, crashed against my hull and a magnetic undertow of apathy began to greedily pull on my ankles, legs, torso, neck– head! Going under?
But there was a last flicker of sun in the sky, piercing through the suffocating yet oddly comforting mist. “Who . . . What are you. Why are you doing this.” My voice echoed, unrecognizable and dull.
The creature did nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
I don’t know how long I stood there, immobile as a Greek statue, unchanging and lifeless. Centuries trickled by, and yet did not. I could not sense time here. Unyielding marble.
Water rose from the ground. I love the ocean. But this was not the ocean. Reaching out a finger to feel a foamy wave, it touched nothing. Nothing. I sensed nothing, and felt nothing.
The hideous creature spoke again. “Take this sword. No point. There’s no point on it, so there’s no point in ending your life with it. No points to a point.”
Could I feel something again? Relief from this dead end, this Mexican stand-off? Red ribbons swirled off into the not-water water and the gashes on my arm painted a pretty pattern on my white flesh. Like proud warpaint.
A small child’s voice whispered to me. “Yes, yes there is a point, try to remember me.” It was me! Mussed curly hair, curious eyes, a face quick to laugh and exuberant in expression. I embodied a zombie, a cadaver, and I cried watching my old self tug happily on my clothing, seeking my stagnant attention. Let go of the sword.
“NO POINT,” boomed the infectious creature-thing. Scanning the unremarkable countryside, the signpost was no longer in sight. I let the sword cut gracefully into the layer cake of my chest, soul, and heart. Fake sugar. There was no point. I couldn’t even feel the water in this world.
The first fellow human face since centuries had or had not swept by gazed gently at me. “How are you feelin?” The human inquired. I cringed, realizing this being was not human after all, but another alien creature whose ways felt unnatural to me. Looking down at my hands, I observed that here in this basic human world, suddenly I was the one who is an alien.
My reflection revealed the creature from the misty, dead land. We are one and the same.
“Good thing your neighbor saw you and called 911.” The voice, hidden behind blinding whiteness and thick glasses, resonated with a sickly familiarity. “How long had you been feeling suicidal?” The voice snaked purposefully through my eardrums.
“A long time,” I replied. The signpost read “NO POINT” in glaring, apathetic black letters.
The human smiled and maternally touched my hand. “NO POINT,” the sign still proclaimed. But I was able to focus a century-long second upon the small colorful flower blooming beneath it.