Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 13
Winter, 2013

Featured Novel Excerpt
New Works

Benjamin Robinson

Black Noise

On 1st of June 2009, Günter Swab shot himself in the head in his Zurich chalet. Born in 1933 in Northern Germany Swab was the eldest son of industrialist Siegfried Swab and Krupp-heiress Heidi Schwartz. By the late nineteen-seventies Günter had sold all his shares in the family telecommunications business, Reiniger & Swab, and his personal fortune was estimated at several hundred million German marks. Renowned as an international playboy, Günter Swab withdrew from public life in the nineteen-eighties and was rumoured to be working on a new interactive audio recovery and playback system. Described on its first page as having been 'interpreted from the original German using the Swab method of integrated concurrent conversion', the following is a transcript of the note book found in the pocket of Swab's dressing gown at the time of his death. The audio cassette, which was discovered in a portable recorder in Swab's bedroom, referred to in the transcript was analysed during the inquest into Swab's death and found to have never been recorded upon.

Each time I listen I hear something different. Whispers sometimes. All at once sometimes many voices. And always Mama at the end, telling me to go quiet.
It is Papa. His voice is muffled. He is speaking to Mama, warning her of great danger. On the other side is the sound of an engine roaring.
Papa is in high spirits. The money is pouring in. He cannot salt it away fast enough. About the new machine they have finally contacted him. On the other side they discuss technical details, with examples of envisaged difficulties: wavering, flutter and hiss, interspersed with much enunciating of the impossibility of defeat.
I am with my boyhood friend Jürgen and we are playing roughhouse. Jürgen is my prisoner. I am tormenting him. With delight I scream when he plays dead. When he springs to life we both laugh heartily. The other side is filled with the sound of Papa's machine, throbbing noisily. By the end of the tape the noise is so loud I must cover my ears. Then Papa's machine goes silent and Mama tells me to be quiet. Mama's voice is filled with sadness.
When they come everything will be taken from us: our money and our possessions. Behind us everything must be left. Only that which is in our hearts will survive, Mama says. Papa is drunk. He says I am to blame for all our woes. He hits me and to the ground I fall with a thud. I wait to hear myself get up but there is only silence. On the other side are the foghorns and Mama telling me to go quiet.
I fell to sleep. I have not left the house in days, nor sunlight seen. I keep the curtains drawn and close by my side the machine. I am living on my wits now, immersed in the calculations, night and day.
They say they are coming to rescue me. Mama tells to me I must do as they say. Papa is gone, she says, and is not coming back. You must trust yourself and be brave. What about you, I whisper, but Mama does not answer. To myself I hum on the other side until I hear once again Mama's voice telling me to be quiet.
Outside all is dark. Through the noise I see the forest, row after row of emaciated trunks, skeletons huddled against the dawn. I can hear the wind in the trees and feet marching through the undergrowth. Over the dead bodies they march. They are going over to the other side, a voice whispers. When I turn the tape I can hear them beating their way through the trees with sticks, the skeletons shattering into a snowstorm. Mama shouts I should be ashamed of myself, I am a disgusting little pig for spying on people like that. I say I am sorry and she tells me crossly to be quiet.
To the lake I awoke with much snow on the hills. Mama by my side is crying. My prospects the doctors say are not good. If I do not do as they say I will a bad recovery make. My health is suffering and to my kidneys and liver I am doing much damage. Where is Papa I ask, but Mama does not answer. There is nothing on the other side until near the end when I hear someone scream, a slow piercing cry like an animal caught in a trap. When Mama tells me to go quiet I fall headfirst into a dark chamber.
We are hiding underground. Our voices are hollow and the air is stale and dry. With a great work they have entrusted me. I must cross the Alps and see it through. I must carry on until it is brought to fruition. Soon my feet I will be warming at a roaring fire. You are not out of the woods yet, Mama warms. On the other side Papa's machine is in full flight, roaring into the night, the furnaces crackling with voices. Be quiet, Mama shouts at them, and they go quiet.
I have I think reached a turning point. Outside it is full brightness, a blinding, soundless white. I have been all night listening to the machine, wave after wave of sound wrapping around me. Slowly the dawn pierces the darkness and I shut off the machine before Mama can say be quiet.
Mama is screaming that there is something wrong. Have you gone deaf, she says, can you not hear? More than ever I listen. She says my face is covered in blood. Where did the blood came from, she asks. I saw Papa, I tell her. His legs were torn off and on his stumps he was resting. Jürgen was laughing and I screamed at him to stop. At the end of side one Mama is in the laughter joining, which continued on the other side with much clinking of glasses and toasts to Papa's demise. I scream to Mama, obscenities and curses, until my eyes fill with tears. Say goodbye to Papa, Mama says, and I bury my head in my hands.
It has been many months since I listened to the tape full through. It is a noose now, wrapping itself around my neck and choking me. At the very end I hear a baby cry and a voice soothing its sobs with a lullaby. It is the voice of a fräulein, soft spoken and full of hope. At the sound of the singing the noose begins to loosen and I am able to breathe again. After the sobs stop the tape runs to its end. I wait for Mama's voice but it never comes.
It is beginning to make sense to me now, why it is I hear each time something different. Whispers sometimes. All at once sometimes many voices. And at the end Mama telling me to go quiet. I will sleep and in the morning be fresh and alert. It is coming together quite nicely, as Papa used to say. Soon the final stages of development will be reached. The components will be joined and the circuit completed. When I heard Papa's voice I was frightened at first. But now it is a beacon, guiding me into the waves. Tomorrow in the Black Forest he is taking me hunting. Through the trees he has whispered that he is already there, waiting in the woods. Tomorrow the prototype will be tested. We must kill a fat hog, Papa said, to celebrate, but you must be up early: and you must leave before dawn. Papa has laid out my hunting jacket at the foot of my bed. And with my gun he has left some bullets in preparation for our reunion.

Benjamin Robinson was born in 1964 in Northern Ireland. His work moves between various inter-related disciplines and genres, combining images with text, and autobiographical and critical writing with various forms of fiction. His work has been recently published in: Suffer Eternal Vol. 1 (anthology, Horrified Press); and online at Paraphilia Magazine, Paper Visual Art Journal, 3:am Magazine, Puerto Del Bloga, and Recirca. He lives in Dublin with his wife and son.