The following is a synopsis and compositional analysis of the novel Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce, which was published in 2012 amidst the Occupy Protests and the hysteria of the Mayan ‘end of the world.’ There is also a Review of the novel by philosopher and DJ Roostah.
‘From the re-incarnation of a Dadaist Poet fixated on an Edwardian Pornographic photo to the end of British Civilisation in an Apocalyptic Earthquake, this novel sprawls across the devastated landscape of the ‘teens of this century. The seedy underworld and the seedy overworld clash in a kaleidoscope of sex and violence leaving only the ‘feral children’ to make their own world from the wreckage.’
—- Robert Gilham
Of the Feral Children: A Mayan Farce (2012)
Of the Feral Children tells the story of a diverse collection of outcasts whose lives will penetrate into the very core of the cataclysmic events of 2012. As a strange mirror of the comic hysteria of contemporary popular culture, Of the Feral Children works loosely to the ominous time-frame of the Mayan prophecy. As a surrealist comedy, it conjures forth, at its climax, its own unexpected vision of – and ‘reasons’ for – the dreaded Apocalypse. ‘The End of the World’ itself will be re-cast as an event of liberation, and not annihilation.
The landscape of the novel is ordinary life in the 21st century with all of its profanity, sex and violence – and in light of all of the serious issues of the day: sex slavery, war, poverty, revolution, climate change, hacking scandals, drugs, etc. – but all under the ominous and surreal cloud of the ever-encroaching end of the world, and the mythological tapestry that is the background to this Apocalypse.
With respect to the title of the novel, this word – ‘feral’ – was spoken for our generation by Prime Minister David Cameron after the first student fees protest in London. Since that time, the word has consistently emerged in the media discussion of ongoing unrest, especially in the context of the nation-wide riots. The novel itself is a comedic and subversive response to Cameron’s use of this term – and an attempt to humanise the feral children. To this extent, the novel deals with the specific idea of the feral, of wildness – of not merely allegedly bad behaviour, but of a radical break with traditional culture, ideologies and ways of life.
The novel is divided into two parts, ‘Part 1: The Conjuration’, which introduces the main characters in their own respective chapters, Ch. 1-6), and ‘Part 2: Events’, which unfolds the significant plotlines that follow from these characters, brewed in the maelstrom of destiny. The narrative emerges in ‘The Conjuration’ from diverse perspectives, interaction among the squat mates, issuing forth, with ‘Events’, in two dominant subplots (Ch. 7-10) which merge into the final three Apocalyptic chapters.
Short Description of Characters
Hugo, mute (Dadaist) narrator, lover of Blue
Blue, stripper, arsonist and consort of Hugo
Ian, freelance hacker, GTA fanatic, lover of Sophia
Jesse, anarchist troublemaker, one of the masqued, feral rioters on the streets
Sophia, Goth, former architecture student, maker of Shinto shrines, and Ian’s lover
Aire, poet, activist, involved in the Occupy movement, friend and caretaker of Jesse
Luce, a more peripheral character, a 10 year old squatter, one of the feral children who have been ‘squatting the squat’ since the riots. She plays a decisive, though previously concealed, role at the climax of the last chapter.
Thread 1: Hugo and Blue
In the wake of a childhood drowning, Hugo can only speak in the Dadaist poetry of his namesake Hugo Ball. He wears a chalkboard around his neck, talks to others by scratching out messages. Part of an emerging social group, the ‘Chalkboarders’, he and his kind are regarded by the ‘official’ culture as yet further symptoms of ferality, of the breakdown of law, order and taste.
This is the story of Hugo’s Odyssean efforts to retrieve his own voice – and to bring about a new world – yet, it begins and ends with a mystical ‘experience’ he had with a girl in an old pornographic photograph. Convinced that the new squat mate, Blue, is somehow the girl in the photograph, Hugo becomes increasingly and dangerously enmeshed in her troubled life as a stripper in an illegal sex club, The Underground. After weeks of more and more brutal treatment, and the revelation of the back story of Blue’s reasons for stripping and her multiple rapes, Hugo decides to accompany her to retrieve her last paycheque. But, they are attacked instead, Hugo is raped as well, as both are humiliated with rolled up five pound notes as they are thrown out into the back alley. Infuriated by the last straw, Blue and Hugo concoct a plan of revenge.
Taking the five pound notes, they buy two petrol cans and proceed to burn down The Underground, but with the unexpected result that the attack inaugurates a strange sexual arousal and awakening in Blue. Not satisfied with her revenge, Blue coaxes Hugo to engage in a war with the illegal sex clubs, burning one a night for eight days. The pace of their revenge takes its toll upon Hugo, as he not only begins to question the justice of their actions, but is exhausted from sex and the violent nightmares plaguing Blue – which she herself does not remember as she wakes each day refreshed and ready for more violence. After a desperate appeal from Hugo, Blue collapses in despair, and so begins a hiatus, until the earthquake erupts in London ten days later.
Thread 2: Jesse and Aire
Jesse and Aire were involved separately in the emerging protest movements across the country, until Jesse happened upon Aire’s poetry reading at Parliament Square. After heavy praise, Aire gives his poem to Jesse as the latter runs out into the night with his fellow rioters. After an altercation with a vehicle of the Royal family, and a severe groin injury from his zipper, Jesse returns home to find all of his flatmates dead from an overdose of dodgy heroin. Shattered by this event, Jesse contacts Aire whose number is on the poem, and moves into the squat. Their friendship escalates as they attend protests, riots together, teach the 10 year old squatters about political philosophy, history, culture…. During the big London riot, Jesse and Aire acquired a large flatscreen television as Aire read his poetry to the swarming crowds.
The peak of their activity came with the months long occupation of Trafalgar Square in which Jesse and Aire played their respective parts, Jesse as agitator and folk hero, and Aire as a poet and activist. Both had defended the occupation on the first night when thugs attacked protesters with clubs. The climax of this thread occurs with the toppling of Nelson’s Column as a symbol of tyranny. Amid the cover of the crowd, Jesse ascends the column with a harness, one he had seen used by an aboriginal man climbing a tree in search of honey. Jesse ascends the column, amidst rubber bullets and water cannons, reaching the apex. He throws down the ropes to those below who pull the column until its cracks and collapses. Jesse rides the column down as did Slim Pickins in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, but whose injuries leave him in a coma. Jesse remains in a coma for nine months, until the London earthquake. During this time, he is tended to by Aire, who pushes him around in a wheelchair, feeding him through a straw, and other personal care. They are in the square in Brixton, eating and feeding the pigeons when the earthquake erupts.
Thread 3: Ian and Sophia
Ian and Sophia are better described as supporting characters, though each discloses indispensible features to the story, participates in important conversations, and facilitates action, especially in the final three chapters.
Ian works (or had worked until the scandal) as a freelance hacker, a form of employment which netted him a small fortune, much of which he used to deck out the squat, electricity, broadband, etc. He spends the vast majority of his time playing GTA (Grand Theft Auto) San Andreas, which serves as a form of escape and rebellion, and which will teach him necessary skills once the earthquake occurs. Ian rarely involves himself in the many conversations and festivities in the common room of the squat, beyond the occasional shout out, trip to the loo or to the kitchen. His relationship with Sophia is mostly sexual, involving S/M activities in which Sophia usually plays the dominant role.
Sophia is a Goth, former architecture student, who constantly reminds everyone of Ruskin’s adage that architecture is the basis of collective memory – this adage will have an explosive significance in the final chapter of the novel. Sophia spends her days making jewellery and building small Shinto shrines, in which, she fancies, dwell spirits of victims of oppression, war, and poverty. She is a regular conversant in the common room and, like everyone else in the squat, drinks to excess. At night, she often dreams of Jesse, immersed in a darkened realm of spirits, seeking to escape into the light. Sophia will play a significant role in the final three chapters, where it will be disclosed that her recurrent dreams of Jesse are perhaps rooted in her secret relationship with him before his accident.
Thread 4: The Feral Children
While everyone in the novel is feral in his or her own way, the feral children refers specifically to the makeshift group of ten year olds – possessed by the spirits of the victims of Empire – who are ‘squatting the squat’ (a reference to media outcries over 10 year old rioters). The feral children live in the squat on an everyday basis, undertaking an inexplicable task, the purpose of which will only bevrevealed in the Apocalyptic climax of the novel.
Luce, one of the feral children, and perhaps their leader, often utters cryptic clues to the ‘official’ squatters, and will eventually disclose to them the primordial task that must be undertaken to bring about the end of this world – and the reasons for this action. Hugo, who it will be revealed must undertake this action, will remain oblivious to the Apocalyptic dimension of his task, as it will signify for him only the resurrection of his murdered love through the retrieval of his voice.
Twisting the Threads Together
The watershed event which shifts the novel into the pathway of its eventual climax is the earthquake of London. The event takes place in the context of a reflection by the narrator upon a series of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disasters in which he opens up the possibility of a mythological explanation of contemporary events – in this case, the myth of Poseidon, the god of the sea who is at once that of earthquakes. The rising seas, as the water infiltrates the crevices of earth, provoke an earthquake, and in its aftermath, the tsunami.
The earthquake takes place while the narrator’s focus is upon Jesse and Aire as they have lunch in Brixton Square. The quake, which opens a chasm stretching all the way down Brixton Road, wakes Jesse as his spirit, earlier intimated in dreams, escapes from Cum Hau (Hades), through the chasm, and re-enters his body. Aire helps Jesse back to the squat, undamaged except for a missing roof, where they sleep upon the futon in the rain. Ian and Sophia return with looted supplies, only to find that Jesse is awake. This event has enormous significance as it reveals that Sophia is in love with Jesse, and inaugurates their surreal conversation concerning spirits, the realm of the dead, and the anger of Cum Hau (Hades) at the obscene and overwhelming levels of unnecessary deaths – as he suffocates in spirits. They further muse that he must be angry with his utter lack of acknowledgement as the keeper of all souls at death. In response to this strange coupling and conversation, Ian at first focuses upon gathering supplies, but is soon killed during a pedestrian riot by a fire extinguisher thrown from a building. The conversation between Jesse and Sophia begins to take on a life of its own, coalescing with the cryptic statements of the feral children regarding the task of the end of the world.
Hugo and Blue emerge from their room days after the earthquake, unaware that it had even occurred. Enlivened by the utter chaos on the streets, and remembering her former bloodlust, Blue invites Hugo to return to their first act for a picnic – but it is clear that she has other ideas as she puts Molotov cocktails into the picnic basket. She is convinced that the exploitation she suffered would now be worse than ever. They return to the burnt out terrain of The Underground, only to find that it is inhabited by the vengeful spirits of those killed in the fire, most notably, that of the controller, the owner of the club. Once again, Blue and Hugo are attacked, ending with Blue’s dismemberment in a pit of poisonous snakes, and her removal by the spirits into a chasm in the earth. The controller mocks Hugo, and chases him away, humiliated, before vanishing into thin air. Hugo races through the streets in anguish and desperation, recalling the surreal conversation of Jesse and Sophia, and the tales of Aire concerning his own failed shamanic voyage to the underworld.
Hugo returns to the flat, seeking to express his desire to rescue Blue from the underworld. In a strange synchronicity, Jesse and Sophia have already been made aware of the task by the feral children, one that at once will fulfil Hugo’s desire to rescue Blue, but will also initiate the end of the world with the release of all of the spirits from Cum Hau (Hades) onto the earth. They will coalesce into a vortex which will swallow the architecture of tyranny, of un-needful death, in the symbols of the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster. Cum Hau (Hades) cannot, however, unleash the spirits on his own, but requires someone on the outside to unlock the vault. Hugo’s great love for Blue makes him the prime candidate for this act – which involves the shamanic Mayan potion San Pedro cactus and the singing of a song, something that would seem to be impossible for the mute, Dadaist narrator. The precise details of the ritual were located in a notebook which Aire used as his mouse pad on his desk.
With the making and the ingestion of the potion, Jesse and Sophia accompany Hugo in a lorry ride to the Tower of London, built upon the ‘very mouth of Hell’. Hugo, by this point, has already entered into a hallucinogenic trance and is experiencing intimations of the dimension of the underworld. In this state, he encounters Cum Hau (Hades), who accepts the terms – but demands that Hugo open the door. It will be his song that will open the door of the vault of Cum Hau (Hades).
Prior to his song, however, the feral children make an unexpected and sudden appearance, revealing their task and the meaning of their work in the squat. Luce reveals to Sophia that this central area of London – the seat of political power – is in fact designed according to the original Mayan calendar, stolen from the Spanish with the fall of the Armada. The design, with its related architecture, acts as a lock which holds the souls intact in Cum Hau (Hades), keeping the lord of the underworld so busy that he never has time to take the souls of the rich and powerful – or to destroy a civilisation that is in a state of hubris. The task of the feral children, Luce explains, is to protect Hugo as he opens the door by mapping out the ancient city plan, affixing protective amulets all along its design – the Calendars they had made with sand & cement – – they took the stone, pressed it into wet sand, poured in cement’…
Hugo struggles to compose himself as he begins to sing the song, merely a hum at first, but emerging with words, in the retrieval of his voice. As the door opens, a host of spirits surges out as a vast dark vortex, while at the same time, Hugo slips into the vault to search for his lover in the underworld. After many distractions and false turns, he finds Blue, and holding onto her, they begin to slide back up into the open. But, as they slide out, the vortex of spirits rages outside, swallowing the monuments of needless suffering and death. As Blue and Hugo gush onto the pavement, the spirits simultaneously pull the monuments of despair into Hell. Hugo and Blue lie clutching each other, covered in ectoplasm – but, before they can speak, the spirits, having performed their task, erupt from the chasm, to return to the trees, rivers and animals of nature that were their original abodes.
Hugo, having retrieved his voice, expresses his love for Blue, who confesses to him that she at first only used him – but now expresses her love and gratitude to him for her very life, to having given birth to her. He holds her in his arms, but confesses that he was only a midwife, and that her mother is still the Earth.
Celtic erotic gestures of
magic, flesh & alternative
ways of living & dying….
(not to mention thinking,
which one must learn
upon the streets)
wild here, not before
at least as Arthurian cobwebs
they run in the night, steal, destroy
They have their own language games –
They no longer need to listen to us –
family, tribe, nation, state, etc…
– or – even that of the good libertine –
it is all dead – all that remains is
eternal resistance beyond good
& evil… my breath tickles
this abyss of her flesh
He was blunt – ‘You’ll never
be one of us, & that is most of us…’
I answer with a Taoist silence,
understanding this utter truth as I
beckon the coming catastrophe,
one that already engulfs us….
where wyrd wild ways
rage rabid red riverrun
boiling bloody bogus bones
I am not this, not this, not this
Jungle book bestiary
I am neither Tarzan nor Jane
I am simply your dreams
of wildness – I am Cheetah –
surging amid this event –
you flash in the middle
of a sentence – an act… this
wild ecstatic life –