RIVER DEEP, QUASAR HIGH
First there’s the problem with the wife, the ex-girlfriend,
and the potential girlfriend. But even more pressing is the
predicament of finding yourself a prisoner in your own chest,
now that’s when things really start getting strange…
I raise the upper bleary eyelid. Then I open the lower… then the third eyelid.
A second eye forms. This one nictates at the feeler’s most flexible end. It raises and lowers experimentally. The silence is the silence of midnight in the deepest Atlantic. So still I hear the air crackle where ancient baleful horrors crawl and slither.
I’m lodged within a purple room. Within my own chest. I’m a vaguely glutinous sphere with the texture and consistency of snot. No-one deserves this. I’m a mean motor-scooter and a bad go-getter, but I DON’T DESERVE THIS. Even Sadie – my wife, wouldn’t wish this on me, surely?
Such bizarreness shoves time backwards in awkward lunges to where it began. To right and left there are sheer ramparts of crumple-edged metal. Sleeping beasts compressed in upon each other. Rows of piled-up imploded cars with eyes that watch, following my every move. Compelling me to slouch self-consciously and walk an after-midnight gauntlet that goes the length of this junk-yard aisle under the reach of night. Feet crunch on windscreen diamonds, embedding them into grit. Nothing organic grows, only tall spindles of the kind of white nettle that must grow in the deepest Luna craters of the moon’s night-side. And even it threads up through seat-springs and fly-specked radiator grilles in limp unhealthy tendrils that have no roots or points of origin in real soil, but seem to have fibres of steel wire that grow from batteries or headlights, shock absorbers or carburettors, pistons or brake drums.
The empty body-shells are ghosted by the sibilant whisper of corrosion. While the legless ribcages of mammoths with bare cylinder-heads for skulls are eerily animated first by the moon, then by the ripple of sudden light-bursts sushing along from the over-hung slip-road embankment. Spokes of light slipping over car husk and car husk and car husk, illuminating each in turn, from the speed-shifting strobe of sped-past cars going with long-drawn-out hisses of sorrow. It’s as if they all know what’s going to happen to me. I can’t see their movement, but can sense it. Can feel ball-joints swivel, rack and pinions realigning, tyreless front wheels inching round to follow each pace of progress as I walk towards my Den. They wait. They know and anticipate that dread inevitability with silent glee. Already things begin to take on the tingle of strangeness. Strange – even for me, whose very life is outré.
Soon there’ll be a roar of light so bright it’s been polished. Reality trembling, hovering between positive and negative, a sensation like a splash of acid to the retina… and I’m here. In… something, inside my own chest. There should be the huge tidal wheezing of industrial-strength ventilation systems, the clamorous pulse of heartbeat through a dinosaurian rib-cage, a leisure-park marina of blood-surge and squishy flesh-ooze noises slurping and sucking through a metropolis of sewer-size infrastructural conduits and capillaries. But there’s nothing. Nothing beyond the sweetest electro-power hum so low it’s nearly subliminal ultrasound.
In the outside world – in the autowrecker yard?, I must be walking, breathing, eating, belching, scratching, excreting. But simultaneously I’m here in this thing that’s smooth and spherical, in my chest. And I’m smooth and almost spherical too, except when I form things – eyes, ganglia, genitals. There are other spheres here with me, but they’re not the same. My transparency reveals organs throbbing beneath the ‘skin’, organs that resemble weeping pustules, cat-food scrawls of entrails where odd moistures blink up and down tubes. Different colours flicker along networks of neural filaments. Sometimes there are tiny internal explosions of light too, popping like miniature shopping precincts of faulty striplights. The other globes hung in this spherical empurpled room, this satelloid, this interspacial dimension ship, they aren’t like that. Some are transparent. Others cloudy with dripping grey fog. One or two are opaque. They float in mid-air constellations.
Naturally – in this form, I have no mouth. I don’t deserve this.
In my Den the unclear shapes and shadows on the TV screen are laughing. The wall begins to ripple, slowly, gently, and in silence, as if grazed by a wind of light. The room already seems distant and moon-far away even though I might still be sitting there. Goose-pimples of nameless fear trip my spine…
This is how it begins. NOW !
I’m watching ‘Manhattan Cable’ on TV, in my Den at the back of the autowreck yard. Sneak home-movies smuggled in packages onto late-night screens for gonzo-eyed insomniacs. In blurry hand-held camcorder tremble there’s a subway stair-head (Grand Central Station?). It’s shoved brutally into green-shift colour distortion. Two Warhol Factory reject transvestites unexpectedly confront two predatory black Born-Again Christians hungry for the souls of the damned.
This is all relevant. Women and aliens. I’ve experienced both. Women are weirder. There are three women in my life - my evil wife Sadie, my former lover Amanda (Mandy), my prospective conquest Carolyn. Three relationships so maddeningly incomplete it makes my teeth twitch in their sockets.
My Den is probably the oddest room in the solar system. A monk’s retreat. A tinker’s warren. An assembly plant. A beast’s lair. The security and refuge that a cave represents to a Cromagnon. A Byzantine despot’s sanctum. It’s anything I want it to be. And – although my wants multiply without limit, tonight I’d have settled for a little late-night TV – for this edition of ‘Manhattan Cable’ which I never get to see clear through to its end. The Gay clothes-horses play flamboyantly to the lens, “homophobia is a form of racism” they quote in unison from some post-‘Christopher Street’ bumper sticker. “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” chant the P.B.B.A.’s (Predatory Black Born Again’s). A lack of dialogue ensues with both bizarro’s mouthing-out verbal lines preprogrammed from mutually incomprehensible texts. I’m not taking sides. I’m just watching. Both are slyly aware of the audience beyond the screen. Both have no other possible point of contact. Existing now in the same early 21st Century Megacity, but as distant from each other as two nebulae.
The situation with women is like ‘Manhattan Cable’. Aliens you understand. They have tentacles and scales, or hooves and eyes on stalks. But you understand what they want. They’ve come for Earth’s uranium deposits. They’re here to steal our pure water. They investigate us like we investigate germ-cultures on slides. They play with time and the fabric of quarks, but they have objectives we can relate to and hence thwart. They are vulnerable. They are controlled by an orbiting electronic brain, which – when it’s short-circuited, they can no longer function. Or they all die from the flu germ leaving their War-Machines to rust over the ruins of London. Rainfall melting them into glutinous pools of vomit.
But not so women. Like the transvestites versus P.B.B.A.’s mismatch their ultimate objectives are utterly incompatible with mine. We are pulsars separated by an expanding universe of incomprehension. And they have no vulnerability. They operate on the fact of my need for them which is greater and in every way different to their utilisation of me. For example – I’m in the ‘Railway Tavern’. To the best of my scant knowledge there’s no rail artefacts in miles so why it’s a ‘Railway’ tavern I can’t guestimate. The Science Fiction group in the ‘SF’ alcove consists of, to my immediate right, a beard and a speech impediment scrutinising the ‘Evening Post’ with exaggerated care. He’s ignoring everything else out of existence. I slide the nail of my index finger between the layers of the triangular beer-mat so that its uppermost veneer is gradually loosened. Across the table the over-weight American in the over-large Aztec-print top is describing quite calmly and reasonably how Say-damn Huss-ayn should be suspended upside-down by the testicles. At the termination of each carefully argued line she smiles artificially to demonstrate the purely impartial basis of her argument. The other woman smiles more-or-less in sync and so far hasn’t contributed.
He lowers the ‘Post’ long enough to fill his pipe. I seize the window of opportunity, which might be as transitory as a splash, and blurt “which SF writers do you read?” He fills the bowl with a nest of fibres. I prompt “Aldiss? I sometimes don’t read anything by him for eighteen months, then each book I come back to him on, he’s spinning out in some new direction.” He folds the ‘Post’. Unfolds it. “We don’t HAVE to talk Science Fiction, you know. In fact, sometimes we don’t even mention Science Fiction.” He explains it in the weary manner of one repeatedly telling a particularly stupid five-year old that ‘D’ is for dog, dinosaur, dyslexia, diarrhoea or dysfunction. “The origin of the group was probably a shared interest in SF… probably, originally. Mostly now the main purpose is fannish…” He waits. I wait for more. “…Yes, that’s about it.” He resumes reading.
The American woman has somehow connected into the social ramifications of rape. There are beautiful monochrome photographs of Jazz musicians in the alcoves. I count Coltrane, Roland Kirk, Bird, Miles Davis. A chalkboard says ‘THURSDAY: COUNTRY MUSIC NIGHT’. Burgers are available at £2.95. There are also pies. Tonight is Friday. I’m thinking of Carolyn. She’s not here yet. People drift from outside in sudden explosions of cold air and the smell of night blackness. Each time it happens I can’t help looking. He’s reading the ‘Evening Post’ again. Exhaling a toxic wheeze of blue smoke. I prise the surface from the slightly beer-damp beer-mat gradually upwards. Upside-down I read his newspaper about a man frightened of burglary who buys a Rottweiler for protection. Two nights later he’s burgled. They ransack his room, steal his TV, DVD, CD, while the dog watches and does nothing. It sounds like the start of a joke…
She’s explaining in detail how Rapists should be suspended upside-down by the testicles. Music submerges in a background wash of other people’s conversations. Other people’s love affairs. Outside, across the strip, there’s a huge dark car-park where my Nissan squats. The seats already reclined to horizontal. The upper veneer separates. The man trades in the Rottweiler for an Alsatian. Two days later he moves its food-dish, and it attacks him. Rips his throat out. He bleeds to death…
“Is there a phone?” I ask abruptly.
He angles the ‘Post’ down. He notices the deconstructed beer-mat. Indicates with his finger across the lounge towards the snacks and by the CD jukebox.
They watch as I get up and go. Holding the receiver there’s music in the interstices between the ‘phone burrs. It must come from someone’s crossed line? An 0898? But who’d willingly pay-‘phone such bland elevator music? Gonzo-eyed insomniacs? Carolyn’s voice cuts across, “hello”. I say “I’m here. The ‘Railway’”. A silence. Perhap’s she’s scrutinising the ‘Evening Post’ too? “We didn’t say DEFINITELY” she ventures at length. “Yes, but you said you’d be here and I assumed you wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see you…” “But you didn’t ring to confirm, we didn’t make definite arrangements.” I say “but it’s all I’ve been thinking of all week. All I’ve been looking forward to. I thought you felt the same.” “Well… I don’t really like SF.” “But I just used that as a convenient excuse, an alibi to get out of the house. We don’t STAY here. I… I could come round and pick you up.” “No. That’s not a good idea. I’ve got friends round…”
My jacket is scrunched up around the chair to the immediate left of the beard and speech impediment. Before I can leave I must retrieve. Sod-a-duck
“Are we boring you?” he says, putting down the newspaper and taking a sudden interest. Although he’s smiling, I notice his eyes don’t smile. “Do we not live up to your expectations?”
Aztec-top looks as though she’d like to suspend me upside-down. Her smile appears like a fissure in a glacier.
“No, naw, it’s not that. It’s just that I was expecting to meet someone here, and she’s stood me up. I think I’ve tried to trade in a Rottweiler for a throat-ripping Alsatian…”
I open one bleary eyelid. Then the other. Then the third eyelid.
I have a nest of short feelers. On the tip of one of them is an eye. Another extends experimentally towards the nearest suspended globe. A globe that glows slightly with the merest hint of luminance. I watch closely with the eyeball feeler. Attenuating the other so that it’s coiled as tightly and as thin as possible. Then I twitch it wormlike to strike at the globe. Nothing. No reaction. I fatten the feeler to a more substantial thickness, and flick with greater force. The vaguest suggestion of warmth, but nothing more. I make a fist and strike it hard. The globe drops abruptly, hits the floor and explodes, shattering into a million incandescent fragments. Shrapnel bursting around me, bouncing and ricocheting off every plane of wall and floor in vicious trajectories.
The globe fell, but the hole within it remains suspended. A perfect hole in mid-air. Looking into it is like looking into a front-loading washing-machine on full spin loaded with a detergent of pure lightning. And it’s expanding. The effect is a little disconcerting. Inside the maelstrom something is moving that is not maelstrom. An imperceptibly thin quiver of a line that might be horizon. And beneath it, a humpback. It becomes more distinct as the swelling continues. The glistening vortex below the quiver is molten, surging torrents of magma and tides of liquid metals. The upper part a riot of superheated gas storms, through which the vast arc of a sunspot-spotted sun blares. And the hump is flip-flop heaving itself from a pool of shimmering lead. A sparking tortoise-shell that looks like reticulated sapphire, with a crocodile beak that snaps and barks. Explosions and fountains of incandescence all around.
The thing is now only half submerged, half hauled up onto something solid. It pauses, biding its time. A cacophony of lightning drenches everything to a swimming mess of light-waves. As they clear, the creature – for it is a creature, reforms. It’s looking back out to the ‘sea’ from which it’s emerged. Following its line of attention there’s a second hump made of ruby. The swelling continues until almost all else is eclipsed. A series of sharp retorts ripple along its back. Five harpoons eject trailing filaments of thin fibre. Despite the roar three of the harpoons find their mark. The second hump is impaled in triplicate. It’s all so close now there’s nothing else. Vertiginously it’s like I’m falling into the closest planet of the Canopus system where they’re murdering each other. The head is all crocodile beak, projecting without any visible perception organs, from the sapphire hump. I’m drawn into the scene. Shocks and jolts of energy are pulsing up and down the filaments reciprocally from one hump to the other. It’s coming up through my senses, curling my toes, my guts are all aquiver, my throat dry and retchy. A blinding cascade of lights like magnesium blitz – but this time internal. They’re not murdering. They’re mating!
The light separates out into melting bands that dribble and fade. The hole vista blacks out. The purple cabin refocuses. The walls run with phantom tears that dissolve into nothing. The hole in the air is small and dark, but expanding again. Motes still dance across my retina in aftershock, but slowly things subside back to what passes for normality here. There’s something that moves like wind in the hole, but a cold mournful sadness of a wind soughing over grey mountains of grit and scree targeted with dull rings of lichen. There are also forests of spikes that curve upwards like hugely magnified hairs on the back of a giant hand. A lime-green Saturn dominates the sky, although it’s probably not Saturn but a similar planet in a foreign star-system. As it expands there’s a thin row of somethings winding up one steep slope and over the next. Watching more closely, the line extends even beyond that, towards the mountains at the dark horizon and on to infinity. Probably the line completely encircles the planet, or moon, or dimensional plane, asteroid or whatever. The line is made up of cones that move slowly, one after another, snail-like on a single slime-foot that’s only occasionally glimpsed.
As I watch there’s a skittering, a vibrating. One of the cones winks away incredibly quickly, to re-appear within the stalk-forest. But the line continues. Two more cones skitter, vibrate, and relocate to form an odd forest group. As they scrabble and tick into a three-tall interlock of cones a second and third group in similar formations appear beside them. Meanwhile, the eternal column continues with no visible gaps, all cones equally spaced and moving at identical speed. There are three configurations of three cones apiece in a lattice of green spike shadows cast by the not-Saturn. The vista expands until it blanks out all else, until the sad wind is a tactile thing on my skin and the coolness of the forest shade chills me. A burst of sparks, flickering and darting from one cone-trio to the next like electrical arcs leaping contacts, a slowly complexifying blizzard of sparks whizzing and darting with the speed of thought. So close I’m inside the strange mating ritual of triple-sexed copulating cones as they mount the countdown to conal ecstasy that bursts in kinetic pulses like gigawatt short-circuits.
The hole thing blacks out… and begins again…
A swarming Sargasso of viridian threads swirling in a canopy of layered clouds a thousand miles above a vast flat world with a shifting constellation of sixteen visible moons that orbit at varying speeds and in conflicting directions. Different patterns of differently-shaded threads drawn by the warring lunar gravities into choreographies with other threads following other moons. Meeting. Mingling. Entwining. Then separating.
It goes on.
I move slowly across the purple room. I begin to shatter other spheres, starting with an opaque one, then one that’s cloudy with dripping grey fog. One by one the group of spheres is blown to flinders and the room fills with swelling novae’s of brightness…
The motorway is a system of spider’s webs unravelling along grids of white lines. It cuts north and south for hundreds of miles. It is a self-supporting eco-system with parasitic organisms feeding along its length. Providing food. Fuel. And the dung-beetle trucks that crawl out every so often to haul off the cracked chitin shells left by auto-wrecks. My Den in the corroded junk-scape of the yard is quite possibly the oddest room in four planets. A drape of overalls hangs on the wall between alloy wheels. It is creased into what resembles ribs on a flayed skin. Another slouches empty over a swivel chair like a deflated manikin. It is tie-dyed with gear imprints. Freshly sprayed convex panels are distorting mirrors. The air tainted with cellulose. The remaining air is part sump-oil and part perspiration, mixed with just enough oxygen to sustain life. I remember the chair, smudged stainless steel, swinging to accommodate me.
I relax down and thumb on the TV… and suddenly I’m in internal exile. I’m imprisoned in my own body. I’m like one of those elements of nanotechnology, a molecule-size machine that drifts along the bloodstream effecting repairs to the bio-system. Except that my purpose here isn’t exactly clear, yet. In this situation it’s easy to be lulled into primary colours. Such bizarreness shoves time backwards in awkward lunges to a warmer world where drizzles of soft sadness moisten the soul. The alternative is this terror, this purple room where ancient baleful horrors pulse and slither, this gimpy ice lizard of fear crawling in my gut, coiling tighter and ever-tighter around my intestines.
I don’t make things complicated. They just get complicated on their own. But I know that the immediate mess of my past has some relevance to it all. And it’s important for me to understand how it all started.
Sadie – my Rottweiler wife, began shelf-stacking at Gatebury’s. Yard profits were poor – temporary market fluctuations, I’m certain, so she did three nights a week on the 7pm to 10pm shift in a crisp light-blue uniform with her own carton-opener on its yellow plastic belt-coil. At first I meet the evenings alone with carefully disguised glee. Instead of the unrelenting wall-to-wall mush of TV soaps and game-shows I could punch the stereo decibel-high, watch trash-brain videos with a sprawl of lager cans and feet-up on the coffee-table. But once I’d done all that, and done it again, the house began to loom huge and empty. So I began sneaking out to Thursdays at the ‘Railway Tavern’ ‘COUNTRY MUSIC NIGHT’. I don’t like C&W, but then again, neither does anyone else there. It’s an excuse to wear stupid Stetsons, confederate flags on denims, and belts with spread-eagle clasp buckles. The photographs of jazz musicians in the alcoves don’t fit (Wednesday night is jazz night), but there again, the ‘railway’ on the pub-sign is equally misleading. So local groups with names like the Sidewinders or the Texans are largely ignored as they do bad Yorkshire-dialect Waylon Jennings to an audience more preoccupied with strutting and marital infidelity.
And that’s where I meet Amanda. She’s with a friend called Michael who has serious gender problems. Cowboy or Cowgirl? – he leaves his options open. So I buy her drinks while Mandy and I trade problems. It’s pure cornball country schmaltz. We confide in each other. We comfort each other. And she is very good at comforting. I tell her how Sadie’s geriatric father owns the yard, and although I get to control the day-to-day operation of the haul-them-in and smash-them-up, I’m not allowed to expand or innovate. Together they’ve driven me up a cul-de-sac, a-same-ing when I should be-a changing. Sadie severely restricts me, rations me and keeps my sex-life on hold, while her father blocks out any hope of my business ambitions or career advancement. She looks at me with Bambi eyes and tells me of her failed marriage and her husband who has vanished to – she thinks, somewhere in Wales. And of her inconclusive relationship with Michael.
Her eyes caress me like cool liquid tongues. Her life, it seems, is also at an impasse. So we empathise in the car-park in the back of my Nissan, the seats reclined to horizontal, her triangular dart of pubic hair forming an arrow encouraging and directing my attentions down and in. And then in my Den at the yard, and then pulled into a dark copse of trees off M-way Exit 69… and it’s so good I can’t believe my luck. But so perfect an arrangement is too exquisite to last. When the anonymous ‘phone call tips Sadie off I run the precipice-edge of losing the yard. So we suspend loving until things die down, with long breathy highly-charged ‘phone conversations to punctuate the enforced separation. I should have guessed long before I did. I already suspected who’d made that anonymous tip-off. But at last, just as I’m about ready to resume serious comforting and fornication where we’d left off, her voice over the wire is saying “isn’t it wonderful? Michael has resolved his sexual identity hang-ups, and we’ve decided to live together!”
Which is where my interest in SF… and Carolyn, begins in earnest.
Three women. Three relationships so maddeningly incomplete it makes my teeth twitch in their sockets. Sadie, my wife. Amanda, my ex. And Carolyn – my prospective conquest.
The movement of what I call my foot – for want of a more accurate term, make the oddest sounds on this purple floor. The air is sweating. Brightness flecks before my eyes like tadpoles. My breath is probably radioactive. Novae throb and fluctuate with an orgy of copulating life-forms snatched from a million trans-galactic and inter-dimensional planes. A small spiral galaxy eddies an inch from the wall curvature. A sea-horse drifts past, grazing on random star clusters. A chaos of brightness drizzles from the air in shimmers of dematerialisation. I’m an octopod with the consistency of snot. My single foot makes warm glutinous contact with the floor. There is a purulent smell. My entrails slip and slither independently within the transparency of what passes for my body. They coil in tight about each other like dark birds of prey attacking their victim, then sucking and slurping away into new configurations, sometimes piss-yellow, sometimes as red as the lattice of blood-webs in a hung-over eye.
The ‘phone is purring.
I reach for it automatically, without realising I’m back. The chair swings almost imperceptibly, as if from the recoil of my return. It’s evening. The sky beyond is purple. Flies leave visible vapour trails as they vibrate irritably. Impurities drift in from the slip-road embankment in an invisible silt of lead pollution and exhaust fumes that never ends. Sometimes it dry-ices the setting sun into a toxic nimbus of chromatic quintessence that can be breath-catching. My epiphany quadrupled by the sudden rush of awareness that I’ve escaped. I’m back in my own body.
I cup the receiver, noting my hand trembling ever-so slightly, with aftershock. “Yeh?” My voice shakes too.
A liquid pause. “Darling? I’m so glad we made it again.”
“Just had to bell you to tell you. Until this morning I’d forgotten just how incredible it can be with you. I can’t help the way I feel, I can’t wait for the next time, my love.”
Some time later, I’m security-bolting the yard, my shadow multiplied by sodium vapour lamps. My internal sidekick – my insidekick, is gone. Back to whatever hole in space-time it materialised from. Either I precipitated its hasty exit by deliberately trashing its control-globe, or else its mission was complete anyway. Or a skewed fusion of the several. Sadie will be mad. Twenty-four hours have elapsed while I’ve been out of my head. Literally. I walk with long shadows, oblivious to dog-turds and garbage. Working it all into place. I don’t resent the transdimensional snot-ball which traded bodies with me while its ship was parked in my chest. But I’m puzzled.
The lights are low as I enter. I cross the circular carpet which lies on the square landing, within the oblong entrance hall. Sadie is waiting. A woman d’un certain age, her nipples perked up with arousal, liquid fire surging through her thighs. “Do you know what I think?” she sighs.
“No. But I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
“I think we should go back to bed and suck each other’s brains out again, like we did this afternoon.” Her eyes blaze phosphorescence like suns shot through with starry promise and stellar romance. Her lips are slightly parted.
Woman is the alien species. In this or any other dimension, be it river deep or quasar high. In my imagination reflections of the copulating images in the spheres swim and pulse. This is my theory, for what it’s worth – aliens you understand, they have objectives you can relate to, male to male, across galaxies or sub and macro-atomic continuities. Maleness unites us in our mutual incomprehension of femaleness. The purple room and its amoeba-octopoid pilot is an alien sex-probe collecting mating patterns across all planes of space-time in an attempt to understand it all. Now, my image is trapped in one of those spheres as the ship punches holes in the fabric of reality to its next weird assignation. To temporarily occupy its next target body in the act of sexual congress. An image of me and Amanda. Another of me and Sadie. I can’t be angry. The snotball used my body more skilfully than I’ve done. It’s given me a chance. I empathise with its quest.
She’s upstairs waiting, in a heat of erotic anticipation. Then the ‘phone purrs.
I cup the receiver – “yeh?”
Another liquid pause. “This is Carolyn. You were so good this evening. I was a fool to myself to mess you around and make you wait so long. I need you. I can’t wait for the next time, Darling. Make it soon…”
(When newly minted I shunted this manuscript around various Science Fiction magazines, seeking a print-home. Got a wonderful response from one editor to the effect that, yes, he likes the story - but not the title, wouldn't it be better as 'Ocean Deep, Quasar High'? I wrote back that, although he may well be right, the title was intended to be a pun on the Ike & Tina Turner Phil Spector record, so further changes to it wouldn't work. He wrote back... 'I think Phil Spector got it wrong too'! After which I didn't bother further...)